I’m a big believer that literature has the potential to evangelize. Stories told well can leave an indelible mark on our imagination and give us a whole new vocabulary for our hopes in God.
With that lofty purpose in mind, if you or a young person you love (13 and up) is looking for a romance novel that glorifies purity and justifies faith—especially in times of uncertainty and suffering—I highly recommend Julia’s Gifts: Great War–Great Love, Book 1, by Ellen Gable.
I’ve been a fan of Gable’s period romance novels for years, starting with In Name Only and then its sequel, A Subtle Grace. Each of her stories is passionately pure of heart, as the author brings her heroines through trying—and sometimes tragic—circumstances to satisfying, believable resolutions full of the joy of their Catholic faith.
Her latest book is the first in a new series and introduces Julia Murphy, a naïve, provincial American girl, who starts buying gifts for the man she will one day meet and marry–before she has any idea who he is. She simply trusts that one day her “beloved” will appear.
Set during World War I, Julia and her best friend volunteer to join the war effort in France, by serving in a medical unit near the front lines. Assigned as aids to the nurses, the girls find themselves working long, backbreaking shifts among the wounded and the sick, and—in the midst of grave dangers–finding the strength to tend suffering soldiers with compassion and courage.
And, yes, Julia meets someone very interesting, a man who may become worthy of her love–with the help of her gifts.
Rather than spoil it for you, let me just say that this novel expresses something I have discovered in my own life: that God wastes nothing, and that if we step out in faith, not only will he use us and use the naïve and feckless choices we make to do enormous good and bring blessings—even miracles—to others, but he will surpass our hopes and bring us to spiritual maturity, in the process.
For its beauty, for its charm, for its power to speak truth to its readers through another delightful adventure, I highly recommend Julia’s Gifts.
As a special preview, author Ellen Gable answered the question I know you’re all wondering about:
Can you tell us about the next two books of the series?
Yes. Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in life when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die. She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K. They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her. Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.
Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor. She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him. Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.
UPDATE: Here’s an article by Catherine Gilmore about teaching virtue to young girls through book clubs, and it includes more on Julia’s Gifts and other beautiful stories!
Ellen Gable is an award-winning author, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. However, the roles she loves the most are being wife to her husband and mother to their five sons, ages 18-30. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband of 35 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.
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