Review: In Pursuit of Love, by Rebecca Bender

This is not my usual form of book review. 

I think I first heard of Rebecca Bender last year, and it was in relation to her work  on the subject of human trafficking. Earlier this year, Trades of Hope began supporting her Elevate Academy. It’s the largest online resource for trafficking survivors. I’ll explain more later. But, as a result of hearing from her in the TOH environment, I bought her book In Pursuit of Love.

book selfieAbout the Book

Through her own gripping story of escape from human trafficking, Rebecca Bender reveals the inner workings of the underground world of modern-day slavery and helps us learn how we can be a catalyst for change where we live.

Born and raised in a small Oregon town, all-American girl Rebecca Bender was a varsity athlete and honor roll student with a promising future. Then a predator pretending to be her boyfriend lured her into a web of lies that sent her down a path she never imagined possible.

For nearly six years, Rebecca was sold across the underground world of sex trafficking in Las Vegas. She was branded, beaten, told when to sleep and what to wear, and traded between traffickers. Forced into a dark sisterhood, Rebecca formed bonds with her trafficker and three other women, creating a false sense of family. During that time, God began revealing himself to her. And in the midst of her exploitation, she found the hope she needed to survive.

After a federal raid, Rebecca escaped. Her life was forever changed as she felt the embrace of her heavenly Father guiding her to healing and wholeness. Rebecca soon began to use her own experiences to change the lives of others as she went back into the darkest places she had known–assisting FBI, VICE, and law enforcement across the country in some of their most difficult cases.

Through Rebecca’s incredible story of redemption, we remember that our past does not have to determine our destiny.

My Review

Here’s the one thing that struck me hardest:

I could’ve passed Rebecca on the street.

Between 2002 and 2005, I lived in northeast Arizona. If I wanted to hit up a shopping mall, my nearest one was in Las Vegas. When I was flying somewhere, I flew out of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. I stayed in hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, and wandered through hotels mentioned in Rebecca’s book. While walking along the Strip, my husband and I dodged the men trying to push flyers into my hands, flyers that mostly advertised “Girls! Girls! Girls” and gentlemen’s clubs.

If I didn’t walk past Rebecca, I walked past someone either promoting her “services” or another woman in her position.

I didn’t know. Continue reading

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Review: The Librarian of Saint-Malo, by Mario Escobar (with giveaway link)

The Librarian of Saint-Malo
by Mario Escobar

Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 384 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary



Through letters with a famous author, one French librarian tells her love story and describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village.

Saint-Malo, France: August 1939. Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts, but just after they marry, Antoine is called up to fight against Germany. As the war rages, Jocelyn focuses on comforting and encouraging the local population by recommending books from her beloved library in Saint-Malo. She herself finds hope in her letters to a famous author.

After the French capitulation, the Nazis occupy the town and turn it into a fortress to control the north of French Brittany. Residents try passive resistance, but the German commander ruthlessly purges part of the city’s libraries to destroy any potentially subversive writings. At great risk to herself, Jocelyn manages to hide some of the books while waiting to receive news from Antoine, who has been taken to a German prison camp.

What unfolds in her letters is Jocelyn’s description of her mission: to protect the people of Saint-Malo and the books they hold so dear. With prose both sweeping and romantic, Mario Escobar brings to life the occupied city and re-creates the history of those who sacrificed all to care for the people they loved.

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My Review

Here’s an interesting perspective: we have a Spanish man, writing from the viewpoint of a French woman, in a book translated into English. Can it work? Are all the nuances correctly perceived?

The Librarian of Saint-Malo, inspired by true events, was originally published in Spanish in 2020. It is – as far as I can tell – the fourth of Mario Escobar’s novels to be translated into English and published by Thomas Nelson. For the most part this is an epistolary novel, written in the first person, and occasionally referencing the recipient. It’s also a novel that needs to come with a Kleenex warning. Continue reading

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Review: Dusk’s Darkest Shores, by Carolyn Miller (w/giveaway link)

book coverOverview

How can a meek wallflower help a returning war hero whose dreams are plunged into darkness?

Mary Bloomfield has no illusions. Her chances for matrimony have long since passed her by. Still, her circumstances are pleasant enough, especially now that she has found purpose in assisting her father with his medical practice in England’s beautiful Lake District. Even without love, it’s a peaceful life.

That is until Adam Edgerton returns to the sleepy district. This decorated war hero did not arrive home to acclaim and rest, but to a new battle against the repercussions of an insidious disease. Mary’s caring nature cannot stand to see someone suffer–but how can she help this man see any brightness in his future when he’s plunged into melancholic darkness, his dreams laid waste by his condition?

Adam wants no charity, but he’s also no coward. If this gentle woman can work hard, how can he do less? Together they struggle to find a way forward for him. Frustration and antipathy slowly develop into friendship and esteem. Then a summer storm atop a mountain peak leads to scandal–and both Mary and Adam must search the depths of their closed hearts for answers if they hope to find any future path with happiness at its end.

Best-selling author Carolyn Miller is back with a fresh series that will not only thrill readers eager for more of her work, but bring in new fans looking for beautiful writing, fascinating research, deftly woven love stories, and real faith lived out in the Regency period.


Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, as part of a Read with Audra blog tour, the opinions below are my own.

Carolyn Miller returns to Regency era England with a new series set in the northwestern region of the country; a location not known for its society happenings. Don’t expect fancy costume balls or cameos from royalty within the pages of the first Regency Wallflowers novel. Yes, there’s mention of a titled landowner and, yes, Mary’s doctoring father went to Edinburgh for his education, but the men in this book must work for a living. Farming is the name of the game here. Continue reading

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Review: The Secretary, by Catherine Hokin

book coverOverview

The Tower House. Down a secluded path, hidden by overgrown vines, the crumbling villa echoes with memories. Of the family who laughed and sang there, until the Nazis tore them from their home. And of the next woman to walk its empty rooms, whose courage in the face of evil could alter the course of history…

Germany 1940. As secretary to the leader of the SS, Magda spends her days sending party invitations to high-ranking Nazis, and her evenings distributing pamphlets for the resistance. But Magda is leading a dangerous double life, smuggling secrets out of the office. It’s a deadly game, and eventual exposure is a certainty, but Magda is driven by a need to keep the man she secretly loves safe as he fights against the Nazis…

Forty years later. Nina’s heart pounds as she steps into an uncertain future carrying a forged passport, a few bank notes, and a scribbled address for The Tower House taken from an intricate drawing she found hidden in her grandmother’s wardrobe. Separated from her family and betrayed by her country, Nina’s last hope is to trace her family’s history in the ruins of the past her grandmother ran from. But, when she finally finds the abandoned house, she opens the door to a forgotten story, and to secrets which will change everything: past, present, and future…


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

Catherine Hokin’s new novel takes readers to 20th century Berlin, where two women opposed the government at great risk to themselves, albeit in different ways.

There’s a strong sense of foreboding from the start of The Secretary. The opening pages describe mysterious ceremonies at the home of Heinrich Himmler, where a young woman is presented with a house which once belonged to a Jewish family. She has no choice but to accept the dubious honor, even as she participates in a dangerous game to undermine the very government for which she works. Fast forward and we see her granddaughter vocally questioning the diktats of the East German government. In doing so, she risks imprisonment or worse. Is it better to disobey secretly (as Magda does) or publicly? Continue reading

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Review: Jewel of the Nile, by Tessa Afshar

book coverOverview

Whispered secrets about her parents’ past take on new urgency for Chariline as she pays one last visit to the land of her forefathers, the ancient kingdom of Cush.

Raised as an orphan by her aunt, Chariline has only been told a few pieces of her parents’ tragic love story. Her beautiful dark skin is proof that her father was Cushite, but she knows nothing else. While visiting her grandfather before his retirement as the Roman official in the queen’s court, Chariline overhears that her father is still alive, and discovering his identity becomes her obsession. Both her grandfather and the queen have reasons for keeping this secret, however, and forbid her quest. So when her only clues lead to Rome, Chariline sneaks on the ship of a merchant trusted by friends.

Theo is shocked to discover a stowaway on board his vessel and determines to be rid of her as soon as possible. But drawn in by Chariline’s story, he feels honor-bound to see her safely to shore, especially when it appears someone may be willing to kill for the truth she seeks.

In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters—including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic advance copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It’s AD31, and a newly married couple is attempting to escape their pursuers across the River Nile. It’s a desperate effort, and there’s no help available. He is Cushite, she is Roman. This cannot end well, and it’s no spoiler to state that it does not. The husband and wife are soon parted. Chapter one commences 25 years later. A roman official is coming to the end of his term in Cush. His mixed-race daughter knows this means time is running out to discover the identity of her father. Her aunt will not help her, and a trusted friend advises her to leave well enough alone. But she is a Christian woman, and her friends are the daughters of Philip the Evangelist. They pray with her and, believing she has been given an answer, she sneaks aboard a vessel bound for Rome. Continue reading

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