Heart of Mercy
By Sharlene MacLaren
Whitaker House, 2014
Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age, and at 16, lost her father to a brutal killing sparked by a family feud spanning several generations. Yet, Mercy never doubts the presence and provision of her Heavenly Father. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, leaving their two young sons as orphans, Mercy offers to be their guardian. It seems simple enough, until the judge mandates that the boys be placed with a married couple.
Samuel Connors is a man adrift. Despite the success of the blacksmith business he inherited from his father, he senses a void unaffected by material rewards. His mother keeps nagging him to find a wife, but the only woman who comes to mind is Mercy Evans, and what would she want with the man whose father murdered hers?
Mercy is determined to do whatever it takes to win custody of the Watson boys, but marry a mortal enemy of the Evans family? Only God could give her the heart and courage to go through with it.
Heart of Mercy, the first book in Sharlene MacLaren's Tennessee Dreams series, is a delightful and inspiring historical romance that focuses on the long-running feud between the Connors and Evans families of Paris, Tennessee in 1890. I've always enjoyed Sharlene's writing, and Heart of Mercy continues that pleasure. The effects of bitterness on several family members is portrayed in a compelling way, as well as the theme of forgiveness.
Sam Connors and Mercy Evans are at the heart of the story, risking the ire of their families to unite in a marriage of convenience for the sake of two young boys. Sam, a blacksmith with an unforgiving mother who stokes the flames of the feud, struggles with unforgiveness himself. Mercy, so appropriately named, reflects on her family's hatred: "How ironic that on the outside, they all wanted to be looked upon as virtuous, but on the inside, they seethed with bitterness at their enemies." Sam and Mercy are well-developed characters and I enjoyed the chemistry between them. Sharlene puts a different spin on the normal marriage of convenience storyline and effectively uses it to move these two families toward a peaceful resolution.
The sub-plot that deals with the relationship between Sam and his mother, Flora, adds much to the story. And one of my favorite parts is toward the end when Mercy shares her favorite Scriptures with Flora.
Sharlene writes with gentle humor, which gives relief to the bitterness of the feud. Spiritual themes are ever present, and in a way that blends naturally with the storyline. Sam's family background had given him a false view of Christianity and it's good to see him grow through the witness of Mercy and others who chose to harbor no animosity. One good takeaway for readers, and one that spoke to me, is the way Mercy trusted God and prayed for Sam, rather than "preaching" at him.
Historical romance fans will enjoy Heart of Mercy's character depth, spiritual themes, and tender romance. This series continues with Threads of Joy (July 2014) and Gift of Grace (January 2015).
"I try to weave my Christian faith into each of my stories, and so it’s my desire that, while entertaining, my novels will also carry a message of God’s divine love and forgiveness. He wants to have a relationship with each of us, so I pray that people will come away from my books with a clearer knowledge of that eternal hope."
Visit Sharlene's website and the FIRST Tour to learn more about Sharlene and her writing.
Thank you to FIRST Tours and Whitaker House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.