When I saw A Promise Engraved by Liz Tolsma, I had zero doubt that I wanted to read it. I mean, come on! The Alamo (I remembered!), split-time novel, and Liz Tolsma. A triple… YEAH! Add to those the fact it’s part of the Doors to the Past series, and there’s no doubt that this would be a great book, so I did what any sane person would do… I requested a review copy.
Then Liz came on the Because Fiction Podcast to talk about it. That’s when I cheered that the book had just arrived and me having a deadline to review the book meant nothing could push it out of my schedule.
Nothing, that is, except my brain shutting down and insisting that it was to be read… next week. Ahem. What can I say? I’m an idiot.
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Who Knew A Promise Engraved Two Centuries Ago Could Endure?
In true Liz Tolsma style, she took her first split-time novel, A Promise Engraved, and knocked it out of the park (or should I say, ‘won the day’?). Despite one thing that irked me, this book has made it to the top ten books I’ve read this year. No mean feat with some truly incredible fiction coming out this year.
Some split-time novels have a tenuous thread between storylines that don’t really need to be told as one story. This one, while having two interesting stories that could stand alone, needs both together for the greatest impact. YES!
One advantage historical fiction authors have over contemporary authors when writing split-time fiction is that they know how to handle the historical side well. They become familiar with the cadence of speech and writing–of knowing what would be important to people living during that time and what wouldn’t. Good authors know how not to impose modern sensibilities on historical culture without seeming to condone what we abhor today.
Being contemporary people makes these same authors capable of writing an authentic dual timeline without sounding stiff or formal. Those who allow themselves to break out of the historical mode, that is. Liz Tolsma does both.
So what do we get from A Promise Engraved?
The contemporary story showcases real issues Texans face today–children sent across the border in hopes of a better life. The impact on those children and on those who have to watch the pain and sorrow the victims of this kind of human trafficking endure. But more than that, the heartbreak those children face for decades to come. Add to that the reality of dealing with creepy stalkers, and… whoa.
But as much as I loved the contemporary story, the way Tolsma handled the historical counterpart is nothing short of wonderful. She took a hard, cruel story, let us know all the horrors Josie endured, and never once took it so far that I couldn’t handle it. This book recounts a young girl’s captivity by a vile man. We know what she endured. But we never have to endure it with her. Thank you, Liz.
In true Tolsma fashion, I did give the slightest little eye-roll at the declarations of undying love. Liz is much more effusive that way than any author I know, and that’s fine for her. It just never rings true for me. I’ve never heard people be quite so… gushy with their endearments as her characters tend to be. But like Basham’s “stick-your-head-in-the-freezer” kisses, they’re part of who Liz and her books are. And I’m okay with that (like she cares if I am. Snort).
Besides… the characters!
They’re so likable! Josie is impetuous and strong–determined not to be a victim again. Defying anyone to tell her what she can and cannot do. While some might see her as “before her time,” I see her as a product of her time. Women were strong, resilient. Not only that, they became so without losing their femininity. It’s something modern women could learn from.
Kayleigh is somehow her own, unique person and the contemporary counterpart to Josie. Their stories are so very different–and so very much alike. They both have a stalker; they both serve their communities. They both have men in their lives that see past the clumsily glued pieces of their hearts and appreciate the beauty within. Neither woman is perfect. We wouldn’t want them to be. Both women will creep into your heart and make you glad you met them.
My only complaint nearly stole a star from this book. But the more I reflected on it, the more I realize that I don’t know if it could have been avoided. One suspenseful thread feels like it needed more somewhere. The problem is, that given any more, it would have destroyed everything. Liz did the right thing, and I have to acknowledge that.
A Promise Engraved is on tour with CelebrateLit
Book: A Promise Engraved
Author: Liz Tolsma
Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction/Romance
Release date: May 2022
Can Promises Made in Times of Struggle Endure 200 Years?
Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.
Young, spirited Josie Wilkins life is about to take a turn when faced with political turmoil and forbidden love in San Antonio of 1836. John Gilbert has won her heart, despite being a Protestant preacher who is forbidden to practice his faith in Texas. Will either of them survive an epic battle for liberty to create a legacy of love?
Nearly 200 years later, Kayleigh Hernandez takes breaks from her demanding job as a refugee coordinator working with Mexican migrants to attend flea markets where she has found a uniquely engraved ring. Enlisting the help of appraiser Brandon Shuman, they piece together a love story long forgotten. But will dangers linked to Kayleigh’s work end her own hopes for leaving a legacy built on hope, faith, and love?
About the Author
Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son is a US Marine, and her oldest daughter is a college student. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her website at www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@LizTolsma), Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.
More from Liz
The Story of Susannah Dickinson, Alamo Survivor
When asked how many died at the Alamo, many would answer that everyone did. While it’s true that all fighting on the side of Texas independence perished, there were survivors, all women and children and one slave. The only white woman (the rest were of Mexican descent) was Susannah Dickinson, along with her daughter Angelina. Susannah had followed her husband, Almaron, to Mexican Texas in 1831. They had married two years before when Susannah was just fifteen. She never learned to read or write.
She and the other women hid in the sacristy of the church, one of the surviving buildings in the mission and what we now think of as the Alamo. Her husband died, but Mexican General Santa Anna found them and spared their lives, sending them to Sam Houston with $2 each and a blanket.
She married again the following year but divorced him almost immediately on the grounds of cruelty. She married a third time the following year and was married for five years until her husband died of alcoholism. A fourth marriage occurred in 1847, but she divorced again in 1857, this time allegedly because she was having an affair. That same year, she married for a fifth time.
This marriage lasted until her death in 1883.
The ring in A Promise Engraved is based on a cat’s eye ring supposedly given to Angelina by William Travis before the battle. Angelina was Susannah’s only child. She married and had three children, but that marriage ended in divorce. She gave the ring to a man she’d become involved with in New Orleans. She married again and had one more child but died in 1869 from a uterine hemorrhage.
Today there are many descendants of Susannah Dickinson. If you visit the Susannah Dickinson house in Austin, you’ll see a quilt that is signed by many of her living descendants.
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Tell Tale Book Reviews, June 5
deb’s Book Review, June 5
Mary Hake, June 5
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 6
Blossoms and Blessings, June 6
Connie’s History Classroom, June 7
Life of Literature, June 7
Back Porch Reads , June 7
Bizwings Blog, June 8
For the Love of Literature, June 8
Through the Fire blogs, June 9
Pause for Tales, June 9
Labor Not in Vain, June 9
A Good Book and Cup of Tea, June 10
Melissa’s Bookshelf, June 10
Little Homeschool on the Prairie, June 10
To celebrate her tour, Liz is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.