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Beneath Outstretched Arms (Walk With Me) (Volume 1) Paperback – April 22, 2016
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Such is the world we enter with Lady Velena Ambrose, and although the story doesn’t dwell on the physical aspects of the Plague, the reader gets a good feeling for the emotional effects through Velena’s experience. Though only fifteen at the opening of the novel, she is of marriageable age by medieval standards and has been betrothed to her cousin for a number of years. However, the Plague’s devastation and Velena’s removal to the countryside for quarantining postpone the wedding indefinitely.
Beneath Outstretched Arms follows Velena’s maturation over a three year period as she struggles with fear and a loss of faith in God's goodness, and develops a deep and abiding friendship with the castle bailiff’s nephew, Tristan Challener. The interplay and banter between these two is one of my favourite aspects of this series, and I love the way in which Tristan mentors Velena in the Christian faith. This was particularly interesting because it took place during a time in which lay-persons reading the Bible for themselves was discouraged, if not forbidden, and Tristan’s understanding of the Gospel went against the universal Catholic teachings of the day, pre-dating the Protestant Reformation by more than 150 years.
However Velena’s marriage is always looming on the horizon. Provided he survives the Plague, her betrothed will eventually come to claim her. Velena naïvely believes that this won’t need to affect her friendship with Tristan, however Tristan, being a few years older and wiser, knows that no prudent husband would allow his wife to continue such a close friendship with another man. Their friendship is set to become a central point of tension in the rest of the series!
There were some technical things that distracted me a little during this novel. There is a bit of point-of-view switching within scenes which, though smoothly done, isn’t my preference. There were also some editing issues, particularly with incorrectly used homonyms or similar sounding words, and grammatical things that were missed in line editing. But those things aside, this is a great series for those who want to immerse themselves in medieval life and explore love, friendship, and faith in God from a perspective that is at once completely removed from our own, and yet universal at its heart.
But to find out who she marries, you have to read Book2. But book 1 is still a very interesting, while also depressive because of the plague.