I think this novel may be the best yet in The Dunbridge Chronicles. It was a joy to read. While it is the fourth in the series, it would be worth reading even if the previous novels have been missed.
Neil and his flocks set off on a Christian cruise. That's right, both his flocks - the people in Dunbridge, where Neil learned the ropes as curate, and the people of Burntacre, where he now serves. The two groups start out as strangers but by the end of the cruise have become friends.
What a delightful book. Rhodes again does a great job with characters. There is the jealous choir director who gets huffy because she hasn't been chosen to lead the choir. There is the couple who are finally beginning to test the edges of romance and begin contemplating marriage. There is the long married couple with a gruff husband who seems to be bent on ending their marriage. There's the middle aged woman who will make the stop in Dublin with thoughts of seeing her parents – parents who threw her out of the house 24 years ago and whom she hasn't seen since.
In addition to the greatly depicted characters are the history lessons. We journey along to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and learn of St. Aidan and the monastery established there in AD 635. We visit Orkney and hear of the Italian prisoners of war brought there to work on the Churchill Barriers. Then on to the Isle of Iona and the community St. Columba founded there. We find delight in the Abbey Gardens and the Isles of Scilly and then go on to Guernsey. What fun to find out about the spiritual history of these places through the eyes of the travelers.
And the most fun may be the appearance of the author, Pam Rhodes, the popular host of BBC Television's Songs of Praise program. She is instrumental in designing the musical aspect of this Christian cruise. It was as much fun to read about her as I am sure it was for her to put herself into the story.
During the nine days of the cruise, people bicker just like they do at church. New relationships are made and old ones heal. Some people are moved by what God is doing while others seem to be as crabby at the end as they were at the beginning.
I highly recommend this novel. I love the characters and I really enjoyed the history I learned. Unlike some British Christian novels, the Christianity in this one will be well recognized as evangelical by American readers.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Pam Rhodes has presented the BBC's Songs of Praise for many years. She has written several popular novels.
Lion Hudson, distributed in the U. S. by Kregel, 272 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.