Return to Exile is the second book in Lynne Gentry's Carthage Chronicles and in case you didn't read my review of the first book, be forewarned that I am a huge fan of her books now. I've actually become one of those really annoying people that follows (stalks) their favorite authors. So I'm sorry in advance, but I have to gush a little bit. ;)
Description:How far would you go to save the ones you love?
Six years ago, Impossible circumstances forced Dr. Lisbeth Hastings to leave behind the love of her life, not just in another country, but in another time. Her work as a top-notch epidemiologist and parenting her little girl helps alleviate the pain, but at night when her exhausted head hits the pillow, images of her beloved Cyprian haunt her sleep.
Cyprian Thascius returns from political exile a broken man. He’s lost his faith, the love of his life, and his purpose. He attempts to move on, to face the danger that is looming over Carthage, but when Cyprian’s true love suddenly reappears, his heart becomes as imperiled as the fledgling church he seeks to save.
Have the years that kept Lisbeth and Cyprian apart created too wide a chasm to bridge? In the midst of a new epidemic and rising oppression, will their love be the most costly fatality? Filled with gripping action and raw emotion, this spellbinding adventure of star-crossed lovers captivates with every turn of the page in this electric continuation of The Carthage Chronicles.
About the Author:
Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer who loves spending time with her family and medical therapy dog.
(Description [italics mine] from Amazon, and author bio and cover photo from Christian Book. No infringement intended.)
My Review: 5 stars
Another 5 star book from Lynne Gentry!
Return to Exile is the second book in Lynne Gentry’s The Carthage Chronicles. It continues the story of Lisbeth Hastings and Cyprian Thascius, six years after the first book left off. I loved the first book and had very high expectations for this one. I can happily say that it met them all!
I was quickly drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down! As I have come to expect, Lynne did an excellent job with the historical and medical details, as well as the descriptions. She brings Carthage and third century Rome to life so vividly that I had trouble pulling myself away from it. I could picture it so clearly and often felt as though I was actually there. One of the things I love/hate most about this book and Lynne’s writing is the realism. If you’re looking for a feel good, happily ever after story, then I don’t recommend this book. It will challenge you, change the way you view things, and leave you thinking about it for days. It may also leave you wanting to pitch it against a wall after you read the last page. That’s pretty much a given with her books. She is one of the few authors that can evoke such an emotional reaction from me.
I loved seeing how much Lisbeth and Cyprian have changed and grown since the last book. The changes weren’t always positive, but that’s true in life too, and I enjoyed following them through the pages of another book. Lisbeth Hastings has spent the last six years trying to move on with her life, while also feeling chained to something she can’t explain and doesn’t understand. She is still stubborn and very strong willed, maybe even more so now that she has a child to care for. She is also a bit impulsive, though she tends over thinks things after the fact. She definitely isn’t the stereotypical heroine and would not be mistaken for sweet or overly gentle, except with her daughter. She has built walls to protect herself from hurt and they have caused her to be a bit harsh in her view of the world and sometimes of others.
Cyprian Thascius has returned from exile to find he isn’t the man he was before. His heart has hardened and his faith is on shaky ground. He is still strong and stubborn, which he needs to keep up with Lisbeth. The changes in him are more obvious than in Lisbeth. He used to be kind and gentle, but is now more apathetic than anything. When pushed to reach out to the Church he once loved, he questions if he’s the right man for the job. Counted a coward by many, he feels he has something to prove to Carthage, but more importantly, to himself.
Their story started out a little slowly, as we catch up on the time between books, but it quickly picked up speed and kept me captivated until the end. I was a little surprised with how much I still hated Aspasius; I couldn’t even begin to feel sorry for him. But as the story proceeds, I found myself growing and learning along with Lisbeth and Cyprian, as they learn what it means to love their enemies and live as Jesus did.
If you’re expecting a romance when you pick up this book, you may be a bit disappointed. While there is a touch of romantic tension here and there, it isn’t a central part of the story. There are so many other things going on that I believe it would have detracted from the story had Lynne incorporated more. Lisbeth and Cyprian find themselves remembering their past love for each other, but having not seen one another in years, and believing their love lost through time, they spend a decent amount of the book trying to rebuild the relationship they thought lost.
I found myself very challenged with the spiritual side of the story. I’ve always heard that the Bible is a living book, always relevant throughout the years and that fact is clearly shown in this story. I was able to empathize with both Cyprian and Lisbeth’s struggles. Cyprian has lost his faith, his heart has hardened, and he can’t hear God. He tells Ruth at one point that he can hear nothing but the wind. In the meantime, Lisbeth has found faith, but still struggles with control and trying to make everything right. There is a quote that caught my attention, “All this time, she’d believed the reason for her travels into this harsh world a simple one: she was meant to rewrite history. But now she knew she’d been dropped into the middle of these struggles so the past could rewrite her.” - Lisbeth Hastings, page 343 There are many other quote-worthy moments, but that one snagged my attention and would not let go. It shows so clearly the change that occurs for Lisbeth and illustrates one of the main themes - even though we may not know God’s will or understand why, He always has a perfect plan.
I do caution anyone who is sensitive to violence or medical descriptions, this may not be the book for you. While I loved how the Lynne’s writing drew me in, this book is set in third century Rome during a plague and religious persecution. There are mentions of executions, though not in detail, and detailed medical procedures.
I very much enjoyed the many twists and turns throughout the book that left me stunned and trying to guess what might happen next. Lynne does a great job of building the suspense and giving the reader just enough information to have a general idea what would come next, without actually giving anything away. I also loved how each character had a very unique voice and stood apart from the rest when it changed to their point of view. I quickly knew who was speaking, before it said their name. I was sorry to say goodbye to the characters, though I know I will see many of them again in the next book. They become like family and I don’t want the books to end.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a suspenseful story that will challenge you and leave you begging the author for the next one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
*Quotation used with permission from the author. All rights reserved.
Thank you so much if you managed to make it this far! I know this review is super long and I apologize. I just had so many things I wanted to say, apparently! If all of my gushing hasn't put you off and you'd like to check out the book, maybe consider purchasing a copy, here are some links to get you started.
Barnes & Noble
Thank you again for stopping by and taking the time to read my review! I hope you have a lovely week!