Welcome! Today is all about a delightful novella collection from Barbour Publishing, The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by authors Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof. With five separate stories, this collection is tethered with a common theme of hope and an antique bronze bottle that travels around the globe and through the centuries, appearing in each story.
Join the journey as one word etched in Latin on an ancient bronze bottle travels through the centuries to reach five young women who are struggling to maintain their faith in God and love. An Irish princess, a Scottish story weaver, a Post-Colonial nurse, a cotton mill worker, and a maid who nearly drowned each receive a message from the bottle just when they need their hope restored. But will the bottle also bring them each to a man whose love will endure?
Each story has a unique setting and voice, but a common theme of hope can be found in them all. Sometimes it’s a hope to survive, a hope for a second chance, a hope for love and belonging, or a hope that trusts in God for a better future.
The entire collection was delightful and encouraging. Each had a sweet romance, sometimes with a surprise or two thrown it. Each told a different story of family or culture, presenting its era and setting with bright clarity and detail. All of it was threaded with the theme of hope and connected with a seemingly small item, a brass bottle. I thought it was representative of the hope we do share — in faith and trust in God — that might seem small but has a mighty strength and endurance when tested.
Prologue 834 AD & The Distant Tide • 1170 Ireland • by Heather Day Gilbert
- The origin story of the bottle is very well told and connects closely to the characters in Heather’s story.
- I enjoyed the setting and conflict: a northern Irish kingdom during medieval times with threats from Vikings and Northmen. This is a period I’ve not read (or heard much about) in the Christian fiction genre. I do know that Heather has penned a Viking series I’m now interested in!
- This story surprised me in a few ways – what I would have predicted about a certain character’s response and attitude was completely turned around in a very good way.
A Song in the Night • 1715 Scotland • by Amanda Dykes
- A bit of a secret propels this story and adds dramatic suspense to the plot. The way the main characters are established allows them to “speak for themselves”, in a way, and reveal their hearts and pasts slowly.
- I loved the simultaneous journies of this story, a physical one across borders and to a new destination (Scotland to England), a new experience for the characters, and an emotional one from brokenness to restoration.
- Also, I was really impressed with the lyrical writing style of Amanda and the way she incorporated Scottish culture and language into the story. Yay for discovering new authors!
The Forgotten Hope • 1798 New York • by Maureen Lang
- This story’s spot in the lineup of the collection provides contrast and a fresh perspective. The setting, post-Revolutionary America, is appropriately different and tenuous for a young lady aspiring to follow her father’s career path in doctoring.
- This story had a coming-of-age, young adult feel to it.
- The two main characters, Abigail and Cal, complement each other very well. At times, I thought Abigail was a little immature in her behavior, but after finishing the story I can see that Cal’s more serious demeanor was a good fit for her. They encourage each other to be compassionate toward others and hopeful of a life beyond the sorrow of their pasts.
A River Between Us • 1864 Georgia • by Jocelyn Green
- Jocelyn has a style that is vivid and immersive emotionally and in a sensory way. I felt like I was there, experiencing the danger of a battlefield or the uncertainty of the future through Cora Mae’s eyes. I was rooting for Ethan, the hero of this story, who demonstrated integrity and honor on multiple occasions.
- To me, this story is about learning to see the heart of people beyond outward appearances or seemingly opposite sides. In this case, it’s a very human look at both sides of the Civil War, how both sides sacrificed and experienced pain, and how the hope for peace can be a driving force in caring for others.
The Swelling Sea & Epilogue • 1890 California • by Joanne Bischof
- What a setting! The Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, CA just at its beginning as a travel destination for the high class. I’ve added a new destination to my dream travel list.
- Joanne has an exquisite way of presenting a story. Whether through a personality or physical trait, her characters often exhibit a unique characteristic which further challenges their journey and enlightens the reader to a new side of human nature. In this case, Rosie and Jonas separately face a part of their past that is holding them back. Theirs is a story of finding the freedom to seek joy, to hope for happiness.
- Reading this novella would help you to fully experience what I mean, but I have to say I ADORED the way certain aspects of this story reminded me of the importance of an unabashed, childlike faith. And, how our imperfections might just be a tool to teach us that we are not alone, that other people are placed in our lives for help and encouragement.
I was a little sad to come to the end of the journey with this bottle, but I know it’s not the end of its encouraging message of hope. These stories are ones that resonate. I hope you have the opportunity to experience this little collection some time!
Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. This is my honest review.