About the Book
Book: Beautiful In His Sight
Author: April W. Gardner
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: May 11, 2019
It’s 1917, and Halifax is at war. Silas Quinn, street sweeper and army reject, remains on the home front, shunning God and society as religiously as they shun him. But the night he stumbles across a half-frozen prostitute, his eyes blink open, and his greater purpose is born: preserve and protect.
There’d been a day when shop girl Helen Fraser was desperate enough to believe a few nights in a brothel would cure her troubles. By some miracle, Major Jack Gordon deemed her worth saving, but Helen knows her meticulously recreated identity cannot last. What she doesn’t expect is for its destruction to come about, not by an old john or one of the madam’s goons, but by a force great enough to flatten a city and bury her alive.
Set against the backdrop of the Halifax Explosion, Beautiful in His Sight is a Christian historical romance that explores unequivocal grace and identity in Christ.
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About the Author
APRIL W GARDNER writes history with a Christian perspective and a little imagination. She is a copyeditor, military wife, and homeschooling mother of two who lives in Texas. She writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our Southeastern Native Tribes. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.
April loves to hear from her readers at: email@example.com
More from April
The Story Behind the Story
My novels are never purely fiction. They are stories constructed around truth, around some segment of the past that’s both stunning and stunningly forgotten. My latest novel, Beautiful in His Sight, is set during the Halifax Explosion, a WW1 event little known in most of the world. For those in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in December of 1917, it literally shattered their world.
That’s the setting we find my characters Silas and Helen struggling to survive, but—as in every good romance—love (and God’s grace!) brings them through.
The Story Behind the Setting
By December 1917, Halifax had passed tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors through its railyard and onto the naval vessels in its harbor. With the military came the prostitutes who migrated in droves to the slums. It’s reported that some days, the only passengers disembarking from the trains were women in short skirts. Slumdom’s seams overflowed with carnality, public drunkenness, and solicitations. Prostitution wasn’t the only job to be had for women. With so many men wearing army green, ladies of the proper class and training stepped behind registers and bookkeeping desks and kept Halifax running.
This is the world in which we find our female lead, Helen Fraser, a reformed prostitute desperately trying to start over as a salesclerk.
The Story Behind the Explosion
As Silas, the story’s male lead, puts it, the explosion was “a tragic accident, a miscommunication between passing ships.” In short, it was a dozen small decisions that accumulated to one very horrific event. The collision and blast released the equivalent energy of 2.9 kilotons of TNT and instantly obliterated everything within a half-mile radius. The munitions vessel that exploded, the Mont Blanc, rained iron shrapnel all over Halifax. Its 1,160-ton anchor landed 2.5 miles away where it can still be found today.
The numbers: Over 2,000 deaths. Over 1,000 injuries. Almost 300 blinded.
The Story Behind the Name
The name Helen Fraser (female lead) is an honoring nod to Helen Clark, a courageous young woman who survived the explosion. This is her story.
Helen Clark, age eight, was beginning her school day at St. Joseph’s when she felt something disturbing. “Like thunder was taking place alongside of you,” she later said, “instead of up in the sky.” She looked to the window and gaped at the glass bowing inward. She flung her arms over her face and ducked an instant before it blew in. Then, in her words, “The ceiling above gave way at one corner and down two sides of the room, hanging like the flap of a great envelope and spilling out children from the room above.”
A nun grabbed her arm and said, “My heavenly God, the Germans have arrived! Get down on your knees girls.” In lieu of prayer, Helen wrenched away and jumped out the second-story window, narrowly missing the debris that, in the next moment, struck and killed the nun. A snow mound broke Helen’s fall. Suddenly very tired, she laid down right there, feeling no cold or pain, and went to sleep.
Eventually, two men approached to see if she was dead. Though she couldn’t speak, she managed to get to her feet. They straightened the bow on the top of her head and told her to go home if she had one to go to. The blood crusted over her eyes limited her vision, but she shambled along best she could, recognizing nothing. She knew her street only by the change to cobblestones under her feet, and her grandmother recognized her only by the bow in her hair.
Quick-thinking and bold, little Helen avoided both death and blindness, and I’m honored to name my heroine after her.
April Gardner took a real event, the December 1917 decimation of Halifax, Nova Scotia by an explosion, and turned it into a historical fiction novel which shows how such an even affected the lives of the people in the area. She created believable characters and situations but I felt as though the plot moved very slowly at times. I am not sure what could have been done differently but the book is very long – a 9+ hours read on my Kindle, and there were times it didn’t bother me to put it down. I like a book that compels me to keep reading, Beautiful in His Sight did not do that.
The story April Gardner weaves in Beautiful in His Sight is a beautiful one. A man redeeming a prostitute from her life in Slumdom. A discouraged man finding encouragement and his way back to God through helping/guarding this same young lady. This young lady finding her way to God and redemption from her past sins through temporary blindness and needing to rely on those around her, who happen to be fallen Christians on their own journey back to God. There is so much to like about the story.
I will not be adding Beautiful in His Sight to my K-12 Christian school library. While tastefully done, the details of some of Helen’s life as a prostitute are not appropriate for the audience, even the high schoolers.
I want to thank Celebrate Lit Tours for the complimentary e-copy of Beautiful in His Sight. This is my honest review.
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To celebrate her tour, April is giving away a grand prize package of a $25 Starbucks gift card and a signed copy of her book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.