Friday Reads: Review & Interview with A.M. Heath {plus a giveaway!}

*This post contains affiliate links for your convenience and to help support this blog.

Hello, friends! Welcome to another Friday Reads! 🙂

Today, I have the very great pleasure of sharing this space with my author-friend A.M. Heath… and her newest release, Out of the Ashes, which happens to be one of my favorite books of this year thus far. First, we’ll have an overview of this Civil War/Reconstruction novel, followed by my thoughts on it ~ Then we’ll pour a cup of tea {or coffee, if you prefer!} and chat with A.M. a bit ~ Last, but not least, is the giveaway! 🙂

The book:

Sometimes peace is won through battle.

Haunted by the memories he can’t escape, Ralph Williams wants to be left alone to lick his wounds. He doesn’t understand why he’s forced into the company of the one woman he least desires. Can God bring him healing through such uncomfortable circumstances?

Frank Harper thought he had left the war and its turmoil behind, but the home to which he has returned is anything but peaceful. When racial tensions arise in Maple Grove, Frank finds himself on a battlefield once more. He’s desperate for peace, but at what cost?

When George Chandler heads off to wed his beloved bride, things don’t go as expected. Just as George starts to get comfortable with what he believes is God’s new plan for his life, history threatens to repeat itself. Will he fight for the woman he’s come to love, or will he let her go?

The War Between the States has destroyed more than just a nation. In four years, it has damaged bodies and wounded souls until the people think that nothing is left. Will they find the healing they so desperately need from the God that loves them?

My thoughts:

Out of all three {thus far – two more are coming!} Ancient Words novels, this one was my favorite – which is saying something, since I really liked the other two, as well. In this third book in the series, A.M. Heath brings satisfactory closure to the storylines of characters who left my heart aching for them in the last book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings.

There are so many things to adore about Out of the Ashes, but just a few of them are:

  • The seamless way the history is woven into the fictional story.
  • The clear yet unforced Christian themes thoroughly woven throughout, not just “tacked on” ~ I love how A.M. does this in every novel, and this one is no exception: The title comes from the overall theme that God does and will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • The well-developed supporting characters ~ each one rich and full in motive and background.
  • The multiple storylines that ended up intertwining at the end and throughout.

A.M. Heath is gifted at bringing flawed characters to life… By the end of these first three books, I felt as if I truly knew the characters, as if they had really lived. (Actually, when I came across a nonfiction history book about the area they lived in recently, I immediately thought, That’s where the Harpers lived! as if they might appear in the pages of the book!) If you love historical fiction, especially Civil War fiction, this series is a wonderful one to read. It is also great for high school age kids, in my opinion. While there is a good amount of “romance” in the storyline of some (not all) of the characters, it is carefully and organically included and steeped in the context of the story. The Ancient Words series effectively and creatively blows the dust off the historical account of the Civil War. At the same time, it convincingly helps us to see God’s hand at work in the midst of individual tragedy during that time.

From what I understand, Out of the Ashes brings the main historical section of the Ancient Words quintet to a close, and the first three can (at this point, in my opinion) be read as their own series ~ though I am, of course, anticipating the release of the final two books eventually! 🙂

Recommended for:

Young adult (14+) and adult readers, both men and women. The Ancient Words series would be a great literary complement to history classes and homeschooling. This series also makes wonderful gift for unbelievers who love historical fiction – The Gospel is very clear throughout all 3 books, yet, as I’ve noted above, not “heavy-handed.”

Now, would you like to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee (or coffee milk, for you Rhode Islanders!), and we’ll visit with the author of Out of the Ashes?

How did you come to write fiction?

A.M. HEATH:

For my part, it was an accident. Lol I started a campfire story game with a group of friends online. The idea was to tell part of the story and take turns, creating something quirky and fun. But oddly enough, there were only 3 ladies involved in the story even though there were well over 20 active women in the group. And in time, it was clear that the story we had crafted was anything but quirky. It was actually pretty good. And I was hooked. I began plotting out the direction I would steer the story in and the characters became a part of me in a way that fiction authors can relate to. In time, the Lord broadened my horizons and my ideas.

That is fascinating! And how did the idea for Ashes come to you?

There were two different legs of this idea. The first was the fact that Ralph’s story wasn’t complete at the end of In the Shadow of Thy Wings. He needed a happy ending. I had an ending in mind, but at the time I was planning to publish it as part of a spin-off series, but one of my critiquers recommended that I bump it up and write it next. So I did!
As for Ralph, his story came through my own experiences. My oldest son occasionally sleep walks. It’s amazing how they can move and talk and yet not know what they’re doing or remember it afterward. Then there’s my youngest son who was prone to nightmares whenever he was sick. He used to call out for me in his sleep but when I went to him, he wouldn’t respond. He had no idea I was there because he wasn’t awake at all. And lastly, there is my husband who grits his teeth in his sleep. I used to nudge him to get him to stop, but one night, I learned that I had only to lay my hand on him and he’d stop immediately. One particular week, all three of my men were active in their sleep and I was mulling these things over in my mind when the idea of a haunted soldier in need of a gentle hand came about. And I knew just the haunted soldier for the role too. 😉

I’m one very glad reader that you didn’t wait to give poor ol’ Ralph his happy ending! 🙂 Now, can you let us know a bit about what your goal is for the series?

The overarching goal of the series is to draw people to Christ. For those who know Him to grow closer to Him during their seasons of struggle. But also for those who don’t truly know Him at all to become saved. The first, fourth, and fifth books are more evangelical, while the second and third feature lessons on trusting God with your fear and pain.

That’s something that I love about this series: There is food for both believers and unbelievers in it.

What was your favorite part of Ashes to write?

The epilogue!! I have walked the trenches with these characters in a very special way. As you can relate to, having just finished a continuous series yourself, I have watched them struggle with God and come out on the other side. It was a blessing to me to sit back and type out the epilogue showing a complete healing for this family. Fun Fact: Where Can I Flee begins with a prologue from Olen Harper’s perspective. In this prologue, Olen is shaking his fist at God over his wife’s grave. It seemed fitting that I should end it from his perspective, only this time with joy in his heart. His circumstances didn’t change because his wife remained dead, but his attitude toward God had changed and that made all the difference. He could now look around and count the blesses where as before he could only count the injustices as he saw them.

What do we have to look forward to in the next two books of the series?

PLENTY! Although I plan to take a break before finishing the series, I’m looking forward to continuing the tale in Maple Grove. In the last two books of the series, we’re going to fast forward 150 years. It’ll be 2012 the next time we revisit Maple Grove. Allie Redman is the “main” main character of the remaining books. She finds and reads the letters written by Claire and Frank during the war and Claire’s message to Frank will impact Allie. Allie will also get a hold of Rachel Chandler’s diary and Rachel’s lesson on forgiveness will touch Allie’s life in the 5th book.

I can’t wait! But I must! 🙂 But back to the 1860s for now: Was there anything that surprised you when you researched for this series?

There were so many, many, many surprises. One of the things that surprised me was how the Lord had expanded my mind and enabled me to learn about things that I didn’t think was possible. I spent a lot of time reading first-hand accounts via letters, journals, and such. There were so many strange but true tidbits I had come across. But one of the most remarkable things was proof of a spiritual revival that took place in Bragg’s army while they camped out right here in my county. Bragg, himself, was reaffirmed at one of the churches in my hometown. As a Christian, it comforted my heart to know that God was moving in the hearts of these men who many of them would die within the following two years. But it was a fun fact that tied local history into what I was already doing in my book.

In future writing endeavors, do you see yourself coming back to the Civil War era?

ABSOLUTELY!! I think the 1860s would probably be my pet era. I love how you don’t need to create drama because the war itself brings it onto the page. I love that you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. War fiction, in general, doesn’t always “play by the rules” of Christian fiction and I find it refreshing. Fellow Civil War fans will be happy to know that I have a rather large Civil War series in development. Only the Lord knows when we’ll see any of these come into publication, but, at the moment, I’m planning to begin them after the Ancient Words Series is complete. Keep in mind that I’m about to venture off with a brand new series so it’ll be some years before Ancient Words is complete. But the upcoming Civil War series is 100% stand alone and will focus on the different aspects of the war: slavery, plantation life, nursing, spies, smuggling medicine, and carpet bagging to name a few.

Well, I simply must ask, for those of us who grieved at the untimely death of a certain character… {*spoiler alert for those who haven’t read Where Can I Flee} will Eddie come back from the dead in the sequel?

LOL Sadly, no. He won’t be. But I have some new charming heroes coming up that know a thing or two about being noble. While no one could replace Eddie Chandler, hopefully, you’ll find some more leading men to appreciate. 😉

Quick Answers from the author:

1. Book you’re reading right now?

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin. Now here’s a grand example of a war fiction author that doesn’t “play by the rules.”

2. Favorite fiction book you’ve read?

Hmmm. You said this would be quick but you didn’t promise it’d be easy. 😉 That’s such a hard question. I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and Persuasion has always been a favorite of mine. Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer also comes to mind. I read it twice in a year’s time so I’m pretty sure it qualifies.

3. You can go back to any time period and any place. Where would you go?

Oooo. Another toughie. Well, being a Civil War novelist, I’d really love to go back during that time, but I know this wouldn’t be an easy visit. On the upside, it’d be great for research! Lol

4. A Scripture verse close to your heart?

Proverbs 4:14 “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.” As a new Christian, this verse had taught me a lot about separating myself from sinful activities that I had once enjoyed.

Find A.M. Heath and chat with her {She loves chatting with readers!} at these places online:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AMHeathfanpage/
Blog: https://amheathblog.wordpress.com/

She’s also on Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest {check out her Civil War boards!}, but she’s most often found on her blog or FB. 🙂

In celebration of the release of Out of the Ashes, A.M. Heath is hosting a giveaway! 🙂 Please click the picture below to learn more and enter:

If you would like to purchase the books in this tremendously uplifting series, here are the links that will bring you right to them:

Book 1: Where Can I Flee?

Book 2: In the Shadow of Thy Wings

Book 3: Out of the Ashes

That’s it for today, friends! 🙂 Have a lovely and blessed weekend in Christ our Lord!
Grace and peace,
Alicia Ruggieri

***

I may happily link this post up at:

Literacy Musing Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Modest Monday, Mommy Moments, Tuesdays with a Twist, Messy Marriage, UNITE, RaRa LinkupTestimony Tuesday, Tuesday TalkHomemaking Link-up, Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, The Homemaking Party, Porch Stories, Christian Blogger Link-up, Coffee for Your Heart, Women with Intention, Oh My Heartsie Girl, Amanda’s Books and More, Tell His Story, Grace at Home, Heart Encouragement, Encouraging Hearts and Home, Booknificent Thursday, Friendship Friday, Faith-Filled Friday, Counting My Blessings, Fresh Market Friday, Sitting Among FriendsNo Rules Weekend Blog Party

4 Comments, RSS

  1. Anita Heath August 4, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much for the warm review and the chance to chat with you! That means a lot to me!

  2. Pam Lunsford August 5, 2017 @ 6:48 pm

    Alicia, that was a great interview!! I’ve loved this series also and miss all these characters.
    Anita, I really liked how you started the first book with Olen so mad at God and how he changed throughout the series. It was perfect to end with Olen in the third book. You’re books made me look at my Christian life a lot and I pray a lot also.
    I can’t wait for your next series.

    • Anita Heath August 14, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

      Wow!! Thank you, Pam!! That means a lot to me. It really, really does!

  3. Tina at Mommynificent August 9, 2017 @ 3:26 am

    I love this type of series! I spent much of high school reading Gilbert Morris’ books and the way you’ve described these reminds me of those! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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