Good Monday morning, everyone!

I hope you had a good weekend. I thought this morning I’d include some quick things I wanted to share with you.

Let’s start with books. As my faithful readers know, I don’t allow myself to read novels during the week, in general, because if I start a book I can’t stop, and then I don’t get anything done. I’m not one of these people who can read 15 minutes at a time. But over the last two weekends I’ve read one book each, which were sent to me for review.

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell takes us on a journey back in time to the Revolutionary War. Hannah Sunderland is the oldest daughter of a Quaker family, who does not believe in taking sides. However, after her twin brother becomes outraged at some of the British atrocities and joins the war, Hannah finds herself sucked in. He’s taken prisoner in a dangerous and inhumane place, and Hannah visits him, even though the Quaker community forbids it, to try to keep him alive. In the meantime, she’s asked to be a spy for the American forces, since she can pass into the prison easily.

There is a romantic angle to this book, but it’s not actually as important to the plot as the dilemmas that Hannah faces, which are actually far more interesting. When is it okay to lie? Hannah has grown up believing that lying is always wrong, but then is it wrong to spy? Is it wrong to try to help her brother? And what does she tell her parents and the Quakers, since she knows she will be kicked out of the community if they find out that she is aiding her brother.

And then, when the conflict inevitably comes, she’s faced with another important question: what remains of your faith when the trappings of it are gone? When you have to leave your religious community, does that mean you’ve left God?

I actually found these questions very interesting to ponder, and the lying one especially kept me going for quite a few days after I finished the book. I’ve never had a problem with the concept of spying or lying in wartime or to help others, and it bothers me a little that my conscience is NOT more bothered by this. Sometimes I worry that I have too much of an ends-versus-means faith, and not a “I do what’s right, and leave the rest to God”. So it was a good thing to wrestle through. I don’t have any answers, but the wrestling, in and of itself, is worth something.

I’d give this book a 4 1/2 stars out of 5, mostly because it shed light on two aspects of the War (Quaker views and prison camps) that I hadn’t been familiar with, and both were very interesting to read about.

The second book I read recently was Chasing the Sun by Tracie Peterson, about another Hannah who is stuck on a Texan ranch caring for her younger siblings when her father fails to return to a trip to Vicksburg, all during the Civil War. Shortly thereafter she’s joined by William, a young man who ran off to join the Northern side with his father and brother. When he returns, he finds that his ranch has been confiscated since he joined up with the North and given to Hannah’s family. The two make an uneasy truce, and spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who owns the ranch (I’m sure you can figure out how that turns out).

The romance in this book is more overt, but also more interesting. The plot’s also great; there’s a scoundrel you just love to hate who gets his just desserts in the end, and the side plots with the war and the Comanche are intriguing. But one of the issues that was really interesting, to me, is how Hannah makes her faith such a simple and central part of her life. She ends up sharing her faith naturally, in conversation, with Indians and soldiers alike. It is not that these people become Christians (it always bothers me when authors make people accept Christ too easily; that’s not realistic.) It’s just that she talks about it anyway. I’ve always wanted to be like that; not to be obnoxious, but just to be natural. It made me think more about why I don’t have conversations like that.

The second theme which intrigued me after some of the conversations around here was: what really attracts a woman? Back last weekend when we were talking to frustrated husbands whose wives refused sex, in the comments some people were saying that the problem could be that husbands had become too “nice”, or too Beta, as others say. Women end up wanting “Alpha” men; men who are confident, and who won’t let women walk all over them.

This book helped me explore that theme a little more, because what really ended up attracting Hannah was that William would get mad and call her on things when he thought Hannah was acting recklessly or stupidly. Several times Hannah did things because she felt like she should help the Comanche, and William felt that she was putting herself in danger. Now, both ended up being right, but by challenging Hannah, William became more attractive in her eyes. Yet he wasn’t a tyrant, and he wasn’t mean. He simply felt he should protect her, and that meant not standing idly by while she did stupid things.

Hannah was a strong and independent woman, and he encouraged her in this, except when he felt she was endangering herself. And she liked this about him. I think most women would like this. We don’t want a man who says, “whatever you want, dear.” That’s not what we’re aiming for. We often don’t know what’s best, and we don’t want to be put in the position where we call all the shots. We’d like men to be engaged in the process. That doesn’t mean we want to be ordered around, but we certainly, I think, want a man who thinks about the direction of the family and who watches us and sees if we’re doing something stupid.

Now, in most of our daily lives “stupid” won’t endanger the family, as it did with Hannah, living on the frontier. But “stupid” could endanger our relationships with our kids, or endanger our peace of mind by taking too much on our plate, or endanger our jobs, or whatever it might be. And one thing I like about my husband is that he calls me on things when he thinks I’m being silly with the kids, or with church, or whatever.

So I do think that women like some aspects of the “Alpha” male. I enjoyed that aspect of the book particularly, and I’d give this book 4 1/2 stars, too.

Okay, a few other things. Great post on respect and Ephesians 5. What happens when your husband yells, “I can’t take it anymore!”, and you didn’t even know there was anything wrong? Deep thoughts from Rena, one of our faithful readers, at Insert Grace Here.

And have you seen my friend Carla Anne Coroy’s blog? I don’t think it gets enough notice. Carla is the author of Married Mom, Solo Parent, a book for moms whose husbands work away from home for extended periods of time (or are in the military). It’s a very thoughtful and practical book, and her blog has lots of interesting stuff in it for marriage!

I think that’s it for this Monday. I’ll have more marriage posts this week, and a brand new contest related to The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex that I’ll be announcing tomorrow! It’s going to be a good one for your church, so stay tuned!

Books were provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not compensated for this review.