DEAD SEA RISING spans contemporary Manhattan, New York City to 200 BC, Ur of the Chaldees with seamless procession. Included are some scenes from the Vietnam War—another well laid facet to this story. This first novel for a new series by Jerry B. Jenkins delighted me. Jenkins master story-telling kept me questioning and flipping pages, while pure regret followed when I put the novel down to take care of life-in-general. A friend of mine looked at my copy of Dead Sea Rising and stated, “Oh, a bathroom book!” Of course, I asked the intelligent question, “Hugh?” She replied that the short chapters are easily finished when one is in the bathroom! Well, I learned something there! These short chapters keep the tension and curiosity thrumming the whole way through the story.
I enjoy the mix of ancient and then modern-day events. The various personalities and how they ‘play’ together on the page had me flipping emotions from concern, laughter, curiosity, and more. I love the professionalism that Jenkins used to create this memorable tale, for instance: historical and archaeology research was aided by Craig A. Evans, BA, MA, MDiv, PhD, Dhabil and John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins, Houston Theological Seminary. These men brought an authenticity to Ur and the characters of that time period. I would have to say that Terah was the most entertaining character in this novel as well as the most alarming. His wife, Belessunu showed such strength of character! Of course, Nimrod the self-proclaimed god, was an absolute jerk. I know, I’ve never said that in a book review before but the man earned it!
I enjoyed the contemporary characters too. Nicole Berman and the quirky NYPD Detective Sergeant George Wojciechowski were excellent! Even though I’ve finished the novel, I’m now playing the audio version with matched enthusiasm! I’m looking forward to the next in this series and in my opinion, book 2 will not come soon enough!
It is not just that Sandra writes with skill and imagination. And it isn’t just that she leads her readers into the Victorian time period with realistic yet exquisite flair. This writer has a unique voice that captivated me immediately. I am a fan from the very first page and she held me securely till the last exquisite word planted her very satisfying ending.
The story-telling drops off the page as vibrant characters—those quite likeable and those not so much—intermingle to lead this reader on a journey raptured with intrigue, mystery, and heart-felt desire to know more. Who can one trust? Will Miss Eleanor Sheffield discern the false from the genuine concerning the most important relationships and individuals surrounding her? Much responsibility is laid upon this fine lady’s shoulders and the hero who’d been silent for so long is questionable to say the least. Especially when someone with influence—not dampened by the grave—reveals information that must be considered.
Re-read- most definitely- most desirably. Lady of A Thousand Treasures is a novel this reader will crave to read. I understand without question that the mood to experience Sandra’s books will drop upon me and I will have to seek the treasured tales hidden within her pages.
If you enjoy historical fiction, which includes actual people and plants your feet in the time period so naturally that you don’t know that you’ve been transported, then your will appreciate this first of THE VICTORIAN LADIES SERIES.
QUESTIONS FOR SANDRA:
Your novel is lush with historic atmosphere, yet what you paint with words only accents the story and adorns your characters. What was your favorite scene to embellish with historic props?
Anything having to do with the house. I love those old stately homes in England, with their secret rooms and corridors, the back stairs and the front stairs, the creaking hallways and the walls hung chock-a-block with pictures. It’s such a pleasure to bring my readers to those houses!
I appreciate your main character, Miss Eleanor Sheffield. How did you decide on her personality? What is the very best quality about Miss Eleanor and the hero, Henry?
I love that Ellie had many difficulties thrust upon her, and yet did not allow herself to become a victim. Victorian women had major constraints, and the heroines in my books cannot just solve their problems as you or I might—but I love them the more for that; they are forced to cleverly use the tools at hand. Truthfully, all of us, then and now, are constrained in some way from the full self-determination we would prefer, and perhaps that is one way we identify with them. And yet ... the human spirit, a strong woman's spirit, faces those challenges head-on, tries to think through what she wants, and then plots a way toward it. When roadblocks occur, she finds a way over, around, or through. That was true a thousand years ago, and it is still true, now.
Also—we must all be risk-takers to gain what we want: love, respect, a meaningful life, and personal fulfillment. Today's readers certainly have that in common with yesterday's women, my historical heroines. Ellie had to learn to do all of that and to trust herself. When she did, life unfolded for her!
Harry is a man after my own heart. I often find that, in novels, readers want the heroine to have to grow, but they expect the hero to be nearly perfect from the start. But that’s not a real man! Harry had to learn to leave behind trying to please everyone and prove himself and allow himself to be the strong, loving man that he is. No approval required!
How did you choose the Sheffield Brother’s evaluator of antiquities business?
My husband and I are devoted fans of British television and film, and we are especially partial to the early seasons of Jeeves and Wooster. In one episode, the older men are after one another’s silver collections, stooping to all manner of shenanigans to acquire them. Wodehouse uses humor, as always (the lowly silver cow creamer!) to wryly remark on an upper-class habit, the collecting of things and envy of others’ possessions.
I do admire the many collections the British have amassed over the years, though. Some are in country houses, as in my book and the Wodehouse episode, but some are in tiny cabinets of the middle class, and others consist of large numbers of pieces that have been donated to museums. I have always loved the V & A just for its sheer size, and I loved learning a wee bit about its predecessor, the South Kensington, and how some collections came to partially populate museums.
I think that we are all collectors of sorts. I moved recently, and one of my friends noted how many baking pans I had collected—Bundt pans in 10-inch, 9-inch, 8-inch, and 6-inch sizes, for example. Why? Baking is a way I provide affection to my family, and therefore it wasn’t so much about hoarding as what those pans meant to me. Jewelry, tea sets, artwork, even pennies and empty perfume bottles all carry an emotional value for those of us who treasure them. I wanted to explore that in the book.
What was your favorite collection that Miss Eleanor Sheffield worked with?
I loved exploring the difference between what her mother treasured -the valuable and showy jewelry, and what Harry’s mom treasured, the pelican pendant, and what it said about each of them. Ultimately, our treasures tell others a lot about us.
Who is your favorite troublemaker in this story? Or if you wish not to answer that, who is your favorite support character?
Marguerite is my favorite support character. Every woman needs a BFF, no matter what time you live in, someone who is unfailingly faithful to you but also loves you enough to speak the truth.
What experience or person triggered the “writing bug” in you?
I was always a reader; I learned to read and love reading at an early age. It followed, for me, that I wanted to create stories, too. The many historical books I enjoyed reading as a child and then as a young woman influenced me, too. I loved American set books such as the Little House on the Prairie series, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and others like that. I also fell in love with Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt and her books definitely influenced the topics I choose to research and write about.
How do you like to begin writing a novel?
I think of a main character, and the situation, and the romantic difficulties. Then I plot in layers. I research extensively, and those learned bits get put on my outline. Dates, and the mystery’s clues and outcome, are layered on next, and then the various threads: romance, character arcs, spiritual aspects. When I have the house framed, as it were, then I feel free to let my creativity loose because—hopefully—I haven’t forgotten anything.
I don’t think I could write historicals without setting a plot and a timeline ahead of time. It’s too much for me, personally, to keep in my head. Then once the math is done, so to speak, I relax and let my character command the pages.
How do you wish for your readers to connect with you? I would love for them to visit me at my website: www.sandrabyrd.com There is a contact button there if they wish to email me, and links to all of my social media pages!