Book Review: Maggie’s Mission by Rachel Muller

Maggie's MissionABOUT THE BOOK:

A buried vow and a broken past meet face to face on enemy territory… Lieutenant Maggie Johnson has had to overcome many obstacles in her life, including her parents’ disapproval of her enlistment in the Army Nurse Corps and the sudden death of her GI boyfriend, Danny Russo. A sudden blow that forced her to leave behind a promise once made. But Germany introduces more hurdles that hinder her life. Like Army nurse lieutenant, Peggy Blizzard—a woman as cold as her name. While trying to avoid a war breaking out within her own barracks, Maggie pushes through Germany’s harsh winter, and Peggy’s cold shoulder, and aims to do her job—saving lives. But when tragedy strikes the field hospital, it’s Maggie’s life that needs saving instead. Maggie’s harrowing rescue will haunt her for months to come when a ruggedly handsome soldier comes to her aid and resembles the face of a man she once loved . . . a man who is dead. Is war playing mind games with Maggie, or is she facing the ghosts of her past?

Find Maggie’s Mission on Amazon.


REVIEW:

Certain books and authors resonate deeply with readers so that when a new book is published by a certain author that reader does not even question the content of the novel. Maggie’s Mission was one such book for me because I whole-heartedly enjoy author Rachel Muller’s stories and company. Last summer Muller’s debut novel, Letters from Grace, was my favorite novel of 2014. By the time I finished this best-selling novel, Maggie’s Mission could not come soon enough for my avid reading tastes. While I found Letters from Grace to be the better of Muller’s two published novels, Maggie’s Mission is an enjoyable story that deftly draws readers into the European theater with rich historical detail, deep relationships between characters, and a background of faith that strongly exemplifies lessons readers can take into their own lives.

Maggie’s Mission is primarily set within the European theater, with the rich details of that time and place shining brightly as one of the strongest aspects of Muller’s novel. As a combat nurse, Maggie’s experiences in Germany in the field hospitals are breathtaking to experience. Muller imagines the smells, sights, sounds, and emotions these nurses go through with sensitivity and thorough care for the veterans who bravely fought for our country. I am not one who searches out any sort of entertainment that showcases medical distress, but I truly did enjoy Muller’s hospital scenes in spite of the horrific trauma that went on in those field hospitals. She describes with detail the tasks Army doctors and nurses performed in the theater without overt graphics. I appreciated reading these scenes because it gave me a chance to fully comprehend the stress, pain, and complications of wartime medicine.

Friendship and romance are at the core of Maggie’s Mission, and the relationships that comprise this novel form the backbone of Muller’s story. Throughout the story Maggie’s triumphs and struggles with her fellow Army nurses provide life lessons of friendships that readers can emulate and learn from in real ways. Muller has a knack for filling her novels with relationships that are thought-provoking and deep. In Maggie’s Mission we see the main character remain firmly rooted in her friendship with Grace, from Muller’s first novel, and cross boundaries with Peggy Blizzard, a surprisingly refreshing character who teaches Maggie about loving like Jesus. My favorite part of reading Maggie’s Mission was watching Maggie’s friendships deepen and unfold in the European theater. The drama and danger these women experienced while depending upon each other is rather remarkable to imagine.

Romance in Maggie’s Mission centers around the lost loves so many men and women experienced because of the horrors of war. Maggie grieves the loss of her boyfriend, Daniel Russo, through much of the novel while simultaneously attempting to move on with life with another man. I did not feel much of a connection to either man as a romantic lead, but nevertheless reading Maggie, Danny, and Walter’s romance brought me back to a time when life and love were tumultuous at best.

Maggie’s Mission is an addition to Muller’s Love and War series that I recommend for anyone who enjoys World War Two fiction. This is Christian fiction that will move readers deeply with its emphasis on the strengths of relationships and faith. I am definitely looking forward to Muller’s third novel in the series, Philip’s War, as this story will focus on the challenges of soldiers returning home from war. Muller’s love for War World Two history and the people who experienced all that went on during that time is evident in the tone she sets with her writing. I am certain that the pain, heartaches, and ultimately love that brought veterans and their wives and families through this time will drive Philip’s War in a beautiful way.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Muller_HeadshotObsessed with World War II since the tender age of 17, Rachel has been studying The Greatest Generation for 13 years and composing stories of love and war for three years. Her first project, Letters from Grace, claimed a spot in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest in 2012 and semi-finaled in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, 2014. Letters from Grace, book 1 in the Love & War series, released September, 2014. She resides in Central Maryland with her husband and four children. Readers can learn more about Rachel at her website or find her on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.
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A New Diamond Shines: Interview with Author Rachelle Rea

I’ve talked a lot on my blog in the last month about how opportunities to connect with upcoming authors is one 11391557_1051272451551292_11676093034241292_nof the greatest joys I’ve had since becoming involved in the Christian publishing industry. Today I have the pleasure of again sharing with you one such author: Rachelle Rea, editor, writer, and author extraordinnaire for WhiteFire Publishing.

Rachelle’s debut novel, The Sound of Diamonds, is soon to be published by WhiteFire Publishing. As we await anxiously for June 15th to arrive, check out my interview with Rachelle to learn more about her YA novel, her inspiration for The Sound of Diamonds, and her writing. And don’t forget, you can pre-order The Sound of Diamonds on Amazon!


AWWW: Welcome Rachelle! Thanks for joining me on A Way With Words. I’m so excited to have you here to talk about your writing and your upcoming novel. I’m reading The Sound of Diamonds right now, and I’ll tell you that so far I’m in love with your novel. Gwyneth and Dirk have so many obstacles against them, and you’re just driving their stories in such an exciting way! I don’t want to stop turning the pages of my Kindle.

RR: Thanks so much for having me today, Marisa!

AWWW: The Sound of Diamonds is set during the Reformation-era England. When did you first become interested in the Reformation era, and what do you feel continues to call you to setting stories in this time period? What is the background to why you wrote The Sound of Diamonds?

RR: When I was in middle and high school, I think the librarians saw me coming. I checked out that same red-cover biography of Queen Elizabeth I so many times, I’m sure they probably rolled their eyes. Elizabeth I is my favorite historical figure and I devoured every biography my library had (especially that large one with the red cover!). I’ve always been really interested in the Reformation and Elizabethan era, so I started Diamonds with that interest and curiosity. 🙂

AWWW: That’s great! I also find British history fascinating, especially the Elizabethan time period. I’ll have to try to find that red-covered biography of Elizabeth I!

Speaking of England, we talked already about the Reformation-era, but what draws you to England itself? I personally am a huge Anglophile, and love all things related to Great Britain, the royals, Downton Abbey, the Harry Potter series, etc. Is there anything in particular that you love about England or Great Britain?

RR: Oh, all that! Well, almost, LOL. I enjoy Downton Abbey, but I have yet to watch Harry Potter (I know, I know! Maybe someday. 😉 ). I enjoy reading about Will and Kate, and I’d like to visit England one day. But I’ll never be able to visit the England of Elizabeth I’s first time, so in the meantime traveling back to that place and time on the pages of (my) books will suffice!

AWWW: We share many of the same dreams! For those of us who do yearn to travel to times past, we can live vicariously through historical fiction novels. I’m so excited to add The Sound of Diamonds to my list. 

Historical fiction is one of the most popular genres within the CBA and ABA markets. What do you enjoy about both writing and reading historical fiction? Are there any authors of historical fiction that you looked up to when writing The Sound of Diamonds or whose work you enjoy reading?

RR: It is popular! And rightly so. It’s amazing. Authors work so hard to blend history and storytelling in a way that is still compelling and entertaining. I adore the genre and love the works of Lisa Bergren, Melanie Dobson, Laura Frantz, Roseanna White (and not just because she’s my editor), and Dawn Crandall. I highly recommend them! If you’re looking for an era that sweeps you away without forgetting that Story trumps detailing what people once used to brush their teeth with, you can’t go wrong with that list. 🙂

AWWW: I literally laughed aloud at your detail in that answer! You are so right–those details are what make historical fiction novels come alive.

If you were to write another historical fiction novel, what other settings and time periods would you consider?

RR: I’d love to write a Revolutionary War novel. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand something in between the Reformation and the Revolution, something akin to the time period where MaryLu Tyndall’s amazing Legacy of the King’s Pirates books are set. But I will definitely be revisiting the Elizabethan era someday. 😉

AWWW: Oooh, MaryLu Tyndall is such an amazing author!  No matter what time period you set your books in, I’m sure they will be fantastic.

The CBA market—Christian Booksellers Association, for those who may not know the acronym—tends to focus upon novels that do not break down its characters’ faiths into denominations. In fact, most Christian fiction tends to lean towards a general evangelical or Protestant-focused faith background. Were you concerned that the topic of the Reformation or characters of a Catholic background would raise some concerns with industry professionals or with readers?

RR: I think I had moments wondering what people would think of it all after I had written Diamonds. Since, as you said, we seem to have settled a bit into a comfort zone. And there’s nothing wrong with those zones—and neither is there anything wrong with those who write from other perspectives. While I was writing, though, what was important to me was telling the story that demanded to be told. I considered that this novel might be published someday, but I anticipated that was years away; I didn’t concern myself with that as much as with finishing the first draft before college classes began again! 🙂

AWWW: You took a good perspective on those possibilities. Diamonds was clearly a story close to your heart, and as authors many times God puts a story close to your heart for a purpose. If He’s calling you to tell a particular story there must be a good reason for it.

The Sound of Diamonds is set during a time in which religion and faith was foundational to peoples’ lives. You write novels with faith as the characters’ cornerstones and for sites that directly acknowledge faith. What can you tell us of your faith, relationship with Jesus Christ, and the impact that that has on your writing?

RR:  My faith has everything to do with my writing. I wouldn’t have any words without Jesus giving them to me, first of all; and secondly I’d never have the courage to share them without Him taking the hand of this shy little blonde mess and telling me it’s okay to be daring. The story of Diamonds is very much about hope; He is where my hope is and always will be. Because of that I have a story to tell over and over again through different characters, in different settings, on page after page. 🙂

AWWW: Beautifully said, Rachelle. That is why I truly believe you are going to touch many lives through your writing.

You studied communications in college, but your career since graduating has been mainly writing based. Why did you choose to study communication instead of English writing or English literature?

RR: I wanted to study Journalism because a writer I admire (Shannon Kubiak Primicerio) studied that in college; I was like thirteen and I decided I’d just follow in her footsteps. Plus, an English degree seemed to require a lot of reading, but Communication classes seemed reading and writing-based. At least where I was at the time. I wanted to not just read in college but to write, too. So, purely selfish reasons. 🙂

AWWW: Haha, well, I don’t know if I’d call that selfish–it seems practical to me–but for whatever reason, I’m glad you took the path you did because it brought your books to the world!

In addition to writing fiction, you’re also a fiction editor and known for your blogging and writing for sites such as Kindred Grace. Give us an overview of your writing and editing background: how did you get started in your editing career, how long have you been writing, and what sorts of writing do you enjoy most?

RR: I like to get around, yes, LOL. I enjoy helping writers say what they want to say, and I sort of stumbled into editing freelance by just hanging out my shingle and collecting a few clients. I love it. 🙂 And I began blogging before I began noveling! I really am blessed to have the opportunity to write for Kindred Grace. Nonfiction is fun; I go through stages of enjoying writing lots of nonfiction and wanting to write nothing but Story. It’s a delicate balance. 🙂

AWWW: That’s great! You have endless opportunities since you’re skilled with writing both non-fiction and fiction.  

What writers and authors have you worked closely with and have influenced either your writing or your writing career? Do you have any advice from your mentors that you could share with aspiring writers?

RR: This just may be my favorite question because I have so many people to thank! Stephanie Morrill, for being the founder of Go Teen Writers and first telling me I had voice. Anne Mateer, for telling me I struck her as a writer who wouldn’t quit. Erica Vetsch, for first telling me I was ready. Joanne Bischof, for commenting on a blog years ago, a comment that blossomed into a friendship around some amazing books of hers. Roseanna White, for taking a chance on me. Dawn Crandall, whom I fell into touch with right when I was eager for some new-novelist advice.

Some advice I’d share: It’s possible. Each one of these ladies and so many others looked me in the eye, so to speak, and told me I could do it. Use the mirror if you must, but find someone to tell you you’ve got this. It makes a difference.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

11295851_1051272448217959_1515458105337505338_nRachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. As a freelance editor, she enjoys mentoring fellow authors in the craft. A homeschool graduate and retired gymnast, she wrote the Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

10919398_966124270066111_5102199316063508510_oHer only chance of getting home is trusting the man she hates.

With the protestant Elizabeth on the throne of England and her family in shambles, Catholic maiden Gwyneth seeks refuge in the Low Countries of Holland, hoping to soothe her aching soul. But when the Iconoclastic Fury descends and bloodshed overtakes her haven, she has no choice but to trust the rogue who arrives, promising to see her safely home to her uncle’s castle. She doesn’t dare to trust him…and yet doesn’t dare to refuse her one chance to preserve her own life and those of the nuns she rescues from the burning convent.

Dirk Godfrey is determined to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk knows he has only one chance at redemption, and it lies with the lovely Gwyneth, who hates him for the crimes she thinks he committed. He must see her to safety, prove to the world that he is innocent, prove that her poor eyesight is not the only thing that has blinded her but what is he to do when those goals clash?

The home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, the saint and the sinner must either dare to hold to hope…or be overcome.