District Attorney Mitchell Sanderson wanted for nothing and lost everything in a tragic accident. A dogged worker, Mitch’s conviction rate earned him respect and trust. Now up for re-election, Mitch’s law-and-order persona makes him a shoo-in candidate. But when faith, conscience and love of a troubled refugee ripple the smooth waters of his existence, can Mitch risk everything for love?
Magdalena Serida fought her way out of the terrors of a government-quelled insurgent uprising in Chechnya. The church-sponsored refugee knows the horrors of war first-hand. Now in America with her five-year-old sister, Lena is uncertain who to trust. Her Christian faith has maintained her through the loss of her family, but when Mitch Sanderson shows interest, Lena longs to take a chance. Should she open herself up to this man of law and order, a man who imprisons women like her? Or slip quietly back into the shadowed fringe of anonymity?
But choices slip away when Mitch’s friend spews half-truths about Lena, rumors that cost Mitch his new love and possibly the election. Can he find his way to a faith deep enough to love again, and to offer Lena the refuge of his heart?
Earlier today, I participated in a cover reveal for my dear friend Pepper Basham’s upcoming Penned In Time series novel The Thorn Keeper. When I reviewed the first book in that series, The Thorn Bearer, I described it like this:
It isn’t often that I finish a fictional book and pause to reflect on it in silence for several minutes, but I did in this case. Even after I finished the last word, this story resonated throughout my spirit for a good long while.
I feel the same way about Refuge of the Heart.
It’s not all about books in my life. Almost all 🙂 but not completely. When I’m not reading or blogging or spending time with my family, I stand in front of a room of adults from all over the world and teach them English. I myself know mostly just English, like a true American, so it can get quite entertaining in my class as I try to communicate new vocabulary and grammar. But oh.. it’s so much more than words and structure and pronunciation. It’s about hugging someone who maybe has never been hugged before. It’s about laughing until your sides hurt one minute and then having your breath stolen away by the purest friendship the next minute. Teaching English as a Second Language has – without question – completely changed my life.
And so, as I read Ruth Logan Herne’s exquisitely beautiful Refuge of the Heart, I laughed and cried and grinned and sobbed with Magdalena from Chechnya. Ruth so perfectly captured the voice of an educated immigrant, the inflections and the frustrations (idioms!), the struggle and the dignity. It was easy for me to see and hear Lena in my mind as I read. Because to me, Lena is more than just a tiny but fierce character.
She is my friend from China who got out of my car to watch me pump gas because “I must learn.” That same friend now teaches Chinese in a local elementary school and wins awards left and right. I see her determination in Lena.
She is my friend from Ukraine who told me just this past Monday that she discovered a new reason to love me that day. Her new reason? I had come into class with a bag on each arm, in her words “like Ukrainian woman in Soviet Union”. Sweet laughter shared together! She is this same dear Ukrainian friend who asked me one day if I ever forgot that I wasn’t talking to Internationals and spoke to Americans in my slow (ESL teacher) voice. “Maybe,” she said with a wink, “they think you have not much skills.” I nearly had to sit down on the curb from laughing at her probably very accurate assessment! I could hear Lena saying something like that to Mitch 😉
She is my friend from Uzbekistan who said that she liked my new haircut because I had a pretty elbow, while swiping her hand across her forehead. More delightfully-shared laughter. She is this same friend who asked me to help her understand the Bible while she received her first chemotherapy treatment. As we read the Sermon on the Mount together, she looked up at me and nodded. “This means I have to forgive my ex-husband, yes?” Her abusive ex-husband. I’d heard her story, had cried with her over it, and I was struck temporarily mute in the face of her childlike faith. “Yes,” I managed to croak, my throat tight with emotion, “Yes it does.” To me, Lena has her face.
She is my friend from Iraq who shared her story with me one day as I drove her home from English class. Her family lived in Baghdad. Her husband opened the door of their home one day and a bomb exploded, killing him instantly and injuring her son-in-law and destroying their house. Yet she loves to dance – to Shakira and Beyonce, no less. We have dance parties on the way home sometimes, and I’m sure other motorists are highly entertained. I wanted to have that kind of dance party with Lena and Anna.
Refuge of the Heart is a romance but it’s so much more. (And oh, the romance is so incredibly sweet and tender. The way Mitch deliberately pursues Lena and his unabashed affection for Anna… simply swoonable!)
It is a story that will reach into your heart and squeeze until you feel you can’t breathe from the emotion.
“God knows you, Lena Serida… He cherishes you. How he wishes you could cherish yourself.”
It is a story filled with warmth and humor and smiles in spite of the heaviness of loss that both Lena and Mitch have known.
“Clean up?” Lena toted an armload of boxes as they descended the stairs.
“Doll up. Put on the dog. Dress to the nines. All dressed up like you are tonight.”
“This language gives me pain.”
The look on her face made him laugh.
It is a story that will open your eyes to the world around you – including the world at your backdoor.
…he had trouble envisioning the horror that had overtaken the small Russian republic in its militant quest for independence… But he could see the conflict now, simply by reading one woman’s eyes.
It is a story of hope, of redemption, of courage, of survival.
She would make a place for herself in this vast country, this home of the free and the brave. And maybe someday she’d feel free. Feel brave.
Bottom Line: Have some tissues handy when you read this book. But be prepared to smile a lot too! Ruth Logan Herne’s writing style is perfection, as are her characters. This story – and Mitch, Lena, and Anna – have thoroughly captivated me and they will stay in my heart for a long time to come. Highly recommended for any and every one! Refuge of the Heart is a book you just simply must read!! If I could make it a requirement for all my blog followers, I would 😉
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)