Desert Isle Keeper
Sons of Thunder
So many Inspirational romances seem to forget that the purpose of the Gospel is redemption that it is almost shocking to find one that remembers. Made up of characters that would fit smoothly into any of the New Testament books, this story is about second and third chances, the power of forgiveness and that amazing thing called grace.
When a violent tragedy turns their brother’s wedding into a nightmare, Markos and Dino Stavros flee Greece for America, taking their friend Sophia and her Grandfather with them. Hoping for a new life, they are completely unprepared for what they find in early 1930’s Chicago. Working in an area the mobsters have turned into a war zone, the three quickly learn that the only people they can depend on are each other. But a life of peace is not to be found easily; violence dogs them from the nightclubs of Chicago back to the war torn shores of Greece. Where is God when all the world is crumbling around you? Can he exist in the midst of a suffering so deep you can’t catch even a glimmer of light?
The great thing about this book is that it answers a resounding “yes” in probably the least amount of pages I have ever seen devoted to religion in an Inspirational. Subtly woven into the plot, the story of God’s love and redemption are played out quietly in the lives of three very realistic people. Definitely more sinners than saints, Dino, Markos, and Sophia show what actual humans act like when faced with life’s adversities. It also shows how faith can turn our greatest liabilities into our greatest assets. The very nature of the characters themselves – and how they choose to deal with that nature – are what will lead them to either their salvation or their damnation.
Markos is the great protector. But when the only means of defense he seems able to find are his own two fists, he lets them loose with a passion. His anger and rage at the senseless abuse of those around him drive him, but what happens when in trying to save he often destroys? Is it right that he puts the needs of those he loves over that of those he couldn’t care less about? To the point where he takes from those others that which is most precious?
Dino had always been the good boy, sweet tempered, smart, always toeing the line. Now he just wants to get ahead and leave the violent problems of poverty behind him. Is that so wrong? But as he realizes that all his new found success is built on lies and deceptions he begins to wonder if it is worth it. When he sees someone from his forgotten past he begins to appreciate that he has lost almost as much as he has gained. Is the cost of success the very essence of who you are? Can a smaller price be paid for such a large gift?
Sophia is a good representative of a working class woman for this time frame. When she is in Greece, she works at the Stavros family restaurant. When she is in America, the book takes her through various jobs from night club singer to dish washer. She is a strong woman, but it is a quiet sort of strength. The strongest vibe you get from her is that she is a survivor; she does what she needs to when she needs to, and represses personal desires and ambitions along the way to do that. However, she also has at times a passionate and impulsive nature; that, coupled with her beauty has always seemed to be poison to her. More than once her looks have drawn the wrong sort of attention and her impulsiveness has continued to tie her to the Stavros family, even when they only bring trouble to her door step. She has a bit of a melancholy nature also. It seems to her that trouble is always around the corner, from the death of her parents, to her grandparents and then the violence she faces with the Stavros. As a result, she is someone always looking for that moment when the next tragedy will strike. Sometimes she can’t help but think of herself as the harbinger of that trouble. Can she accept that good things can happen, even in the midst of terror and tragedy?
Markos, Dino and Sofia live in real poverty in this book. The problems of that are not sugar-coated, and the author shows how sometimes the practical decision we make can have some disastrous results if they aren’t coupled with integrity. But she also showed how people are not just evil, how desperation can lead you to places you never thought of, how sin can sometimes equal physical survival if not necessarily spiritual well being. I liked that God did not answer every prayer and smooth every path. That happens sometimes in Inspirationals, and it can be really annoying because it does not coincide with life in the real world.
I also loved the total lack of judgment in this book. Like David and Moses, Markos has a quick temper and a problem with violence. Like Mary Magdalen, Sophia has led a less than pure life to get along. God works in both their lives to bring about better situations, but there is no finger pointing or condemnation along the way. The changes and redemptive factors occur within them and through faith, not by someone chasing them down and telling them they are bound for hell. I especially liked that Sophia is deemed a worthy wife and mother, in spite of all she has lived through. In more than one romance, even not of the Inspirational variety, a heroine is thought to be dirt if she has been with other than Her True Love. It’s good that we are getting away from that.
As an added bonus, the people in this book are Greek Orthodox. So often it seems the “acceptable” churches are only fundamentalists or Amish, which is simply a different type of fundamental. It is good that people see that all Christian churches contain well, Christians.
For some, the tough situations these characters find themselves in and their lack of perfect Christian behavior would make this book a poor read. I would argue that if you’ve read the Bible you have read worse. For others, the religious themes might be too much. I would encourage both groups to approach this with an open mind. You might just be surprised by what you find.
A sweeping saga of an era of that now has few survivors, this tale of love and redemption encompasses what can happen when you open your heart to forgiveness and your mind to accepting the unexpected.