The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection – Review

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

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?

The Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert
1170: County Kerry, Ireland
When a Viking bent on revenge mistakenly raids the castle of a bookish Irish princess, will she cast her fears aside to befriend the enemy, finally realizing God’s plan for her life?

A Song in the Night by Amanda Dykes
1717: Scotland and England
When a Scottish story-weaver loses her family in a clan war, she finds herself aided by a handsome, secretive bagpiper in a race against time to reunite with someone she never dared hope she’d see again.

The Forgotten Hope by Maureen Lang
1798: New York
As a champion of the sick, a young New Yorker never doubted her worth until a new doctor arrives to work with her father, one who believes her to be nothing more than a social butterfly. Can she gain his respect—and his love?

A River Between Us by Jocelyn Green
1864: Roswell, Georgia
When a Georgian cotton mill worker is arrested and sent North, the Union officer who tries to protect her is the last person she wants to forgive—and the only man who can bring hope and healing to her heart.

The Swelling Sea by Joanne Bischof
1890: Coronado Island, California
After washing ashore on the California coastline, a young woman’s yearning to discover her past leads her to the courageous oarsman who helps her find the key.

~ Excerpt ~

Duncan watched as the fiddle orchestra struck bows to strings twice in quick succession, signaling the merrymakers to bow and curtsy. Deep pride welled in Duncan. Whatever may be said about the Scots, they worked with all they had in them and celebrated just as furiously afterward. The tradition of dance was a stronghold, an unflinching resolve to rejoice and commune even when the perils of such a life weighed heavy upon them. Deadly exhaustion, dwindling hope of crops, mounting odds in warfare—their foes were as real and dark as the night. But come evening, they pushed through the resignation that threatened to isolate them each, joined hands, and set their feet to flying together.
Tonight the people did just that. On the eve of a symphony held to break through tensions and forge trust. During a time when this new Great Britain of theirs faced enemies from without and within. These country folk and sojourners gripped one another’s arms as if on a battlefront…and began to march in dance.
The music was lively, the souls even more so. To an outsider, it might look like an utter tangle at first, but every step of a reel was planned, every weaving movement as intricate as if the dancers pulled strings behind them, tying an elaborate Celtic knot as they went.
Kate hollered instructions to Mrs. Bettredge around the poor fellow in between them. “To the right! Now left! Now clap and—yes! There you are. Less like a rabbit, if ye please. More like a gazelle, Mrs. Bettredge.”
“Cow’s bell?!” Mrs. Bettredge tipped from side to side with great confidence.
Gazelle! Yes, there! Now to the center, and take your partner’s hand…”
“Aha! Here I go! Did you see that? Rather like a gazelle!” Her face flushed with alternating concentration and delight as she swished herself side to side. Her feet did not know the intricate steps, but she caught the movements of the circle dance fast and was soon hollering her own whoops and trills along with the others.
And then there was Meg. Her bowed lips parted in a smile so warm it made him ache.
Oh, how she laughed. Tossed her head back, dark hair flying like freedom itself. Eyes alight as she danced with abandon, like a bird in full and stunning flight. She looked his way, searching—her smile brighter when she found him.
Duncan swallowed. Longing filled him for the fine light of Meg’s spirit. If all went well in the coming days, that spirit would fly far across the ocean with her brother. The very thought snapped something within him. Father above, keep her. Keep her fast and well, even if ye keep her not for me.

~ Review ~

As someone who is not generally inclined to pick up novella collections, I am so glad I made an exception for this one! Having read three out of the five contributing authors before, I was fairly certain I would enjoy the collection, but it ended up exceeding even that expectation. I genuinely loved it!

The collection begins with a prologue set in a monastery in Northern Ireland in AD 834. A monk, desperate for the Living Word to endure as they are attacked by Vikings, prays: “Please, Father…If we perish, may hope yet live.” A bronze vessel and the single parchment he manages to secure inside are that legacy of hope, and the five novellas that follow trace a small part that bronze vessel’s journey through the centuries, closing with an epilogue in modern-day California.

For me, the most attractive part of this series was the different settings, each so vividly brought to life. If I was pressed to nominate a favourite, I would still have to give two: A Song in the Night by Amanda Dykes, and The Swelling Sea by Joanne Bischof.

Amanda Dykes was one of the new-to-me authors in this collection, and not only did I love the Scottish setting (my own ancestry and a setting not frequently seen in Christian fiction), but I fell in love with her writing and her characters. As an extra bonus, the original performance of Handel’s Water Music features in the story! My music- and story-loving hearts united!

Joanne Bischof’s heroine, Rosie, is one of the sweetest heroines I have come across—a young woman who nearly drowned at the age of ten and still exhibits certain mannerisms that are considered childlike. Couple that with Joanne Bischof’s beautifully sensitive writing and you have a captivating story.

But I would only single those ones out if I was REALLY pressed to nominate a favourite, because this is truly a stellar collection. Even if you are not normally a novella reader, I highly recommend this series. If you are a novella reader, put this one at the top of your list. You’re in for a real treat!

I received a copy of this book from the authors. This has not influenced the content of my review.

Release date:  1 March 2017
Pages:  448
Publisher:  Barbour Books

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  iBooks  //  Goodreads  //  Koorong

~ About the Authors ~

heather-day-gilbertHEATHER DAY GILBERT, a Grace Award winner and bestselling author, writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather writes Viking historicals and Appalachian mystery/suspense. Publisher’s Weekly gave Heather’s Viking historical Forest Child a starred review, saying it is “an engaging story depicting timeless human struggles with faith, love, loyalty, and leadership.” Heather’s website:

amanda-dykesAMANDA DYKES is the author of Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, the critically-acclaimed bicycle story that invited readers together to fund bicycles for missionaries in Asia. A former English teacher, she has a soft spot for classic literature and happy endings. She is a drinker of tea, a dweller of Truth, and a spinner of hope-filled tales, grateful for the grace of a God who loves extravagantly.
Amanda’s website:

maureen-langMAUREEN LANG has been writing stories since the age of ten, when she figured out a way to write the stories she feels like reading. Since then she’s become the award-winning author of over a dozen published novels. In the last ten years her faith has directed her to write stories that reflect Christian hope and traditional values. She’s also been an active member of the disability community since her oldest son was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. Maureen loves going on research trips to get a feel for the settings of her novels, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband, children, and lovable Labrador Retriever.
Maureen’s website:  http://www.maureenlang.comblank space 3

jocelyn-greenJOCELYN GREEN inspires faith and courage as the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013, and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. She graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America. She loves Mexican food, Broadway blank space 2musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Jocelyn’s website:

joanne-bischofA Carol Award and two-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. Her 2014 novella This Quiet Sky broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews among other critical acclaim. She lives in mountains of Southern blank space 3California with her three children.
Joanne’s website:

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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5 Responses to The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection – Review

  1. Winnie Thomas says:

    This book is sitting by me taunting me. I have to read a couple of others first (Must. Discipline. Myself) It sounds sooooo good. I keep telling myself it will be worth the wait.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amanda Dykes says:

    Oh, my! Thank you for your incredibly kind words– they blessed my heart more than I can begin to say!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the Scottish setting (isn’t it fun to explore the land of our ancestors? Wonder if your ancestors and mine ever crossed paths!), and so pleased you enjoyed that symphony! I was so fascinated with the whole concept. You might enjoy this documentary if you get a chance– they tried to actually recreate the experience with as much historical accuracy as possible a few years back! (here’s a little snippet of the actual performance: )

    Thank you for reading, for sharing, and for being a kindred spirit when it comes to books and music! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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