Friday, November 7, 2014

Gatehaven by Molly Noble Bull

This is a Christian Gothic novel set in Scotland and England in 1784. It centers on a family of Huguenots who had escaped France and moved to Luss, Scotland. Unknown to the Christian family, a Frenchman had vowed revenge on Rachel Aimee, mother of the family. She had rebuffed his amorous advances in France.

Years later, the evil Leon Picard has moved to England, pursuing his revenge. He convinces Lord Northon, deeply indebted to Picard because of gambling, to go to Scotland and bring Rachel back to Gatehaven. Lord Northon mistakenly woos the daughter, Shannon, and convinces her she is to be his wife. Against the wishes of her family, Shannon agrees to go with the Lord (and an escort) back to England to meet his family. What she finds there is a spiritual situation that quickly puts Shannon's life in danger.

An enlightening aspect of the novel for me was the attention to spiritual warfare. The novel is set in a time when spiritual warfare was little understood. Only clergy studied the Bible and laypeople had little understanding of issues like the devil and his work. Fortunately, Shannon's potential Scottish beau, Ian, insisted he go with Shannon, planning to study under a vicar in England. The conversations Ian and the vicar have reveal the level of biblical understanding the lay Christian had at the time. At one point Ian had to find a book giving word meanings (dictionary) to understand what he was reading in the Bible. Only wealthier people had such a book and a word like “abomination” was meaningless unless it had been explained in a sermon.

Although there is discussion of spiritual warfare, you'll not read of any casting out of demons or anything like that. Even though Ian becomes aware of spiritual warfare, oddly enough, neither he nor any of the characters actually engage in it. While we read about hooded figures meeting, I did not read anything that would have kept me awake at night.

The author says she has always been interested in genealogy and when she found that one branch of her family came from Luss, Scotland, and another branch included French Huguenots, she felt compelled to write about her ancestors. I trust she has done her research in making sure the way she portrays Christian belief and spiritual warfare at the time is accurate. We may think Christians of all ages have had an understanding of the Bible similar to ours today. This novel reminds us that study helps like dictionaries, concordances, and Greek study books were not available to the layman at the time of this novel.

Those who enjoy Gothic novels with a strong Christian theme will enjoy this one. Good and evil are definitely portrayed as is the ease with which one who is not adequately trained in recognizing evil can be drawn into it. I felt the end was rather anticlimactic and rushed. Other than that, an interesting historical novel.

Molly Noble Bull is a native Texan and a graduate of Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Her novel, Gatehaven, won the grand prize in the Creation House Fiction Writing Contest 2013. She and her husband have three grown sons and six grandchildren. Find out more at

Creation House, 258 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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