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Book Review: Rising Darkness by Nancy Mehl

by Sandra Ardoin

Cover Art


Rising Darkness, the third novel in Nancy Mehl’s Finding Sanctuary series, is one I’ve been waiting to read.

After Sophie Wittenbauer escaped her sad life in Kingdom, she earned her GED, lost a good bit of weight, changed her name, and has been working her way through college while employed at a St. Louis newspaper. When presented with an opportunity to attain her goal of becoming an investigative reporter, she jumps on it, even though it means returning to an Old Order Mennonite environment.

Sophie blames God for abandoning her during her childhood troubles and blames herself for her actions against the people of Kingdom—brought out in the previous series.

As Sophie searches for a dangerous, escaped criminal she’s sure has insinuated himself into the Sanctuary community, she hopes to keep Jonathon from discovering her true identity.

I grew quite partial to Jonathon Wiese in Unbreakable from the Road to Kingdom series. In my mind, he and Sophie Wittenbauer clearly needed their own story, but I did have a couple of minor issues with this book.

The first was Sophie’s age. I have this same problem with many very young heroine’s in contemporary novels, so maybe it’s just my idiosyncrasy. She thinks, acts, and sounds much older than most twenty-one-year olds today—more mature. I understand why she can’t be older based on the timeline of the series, but at that age, I had a hard time picturing her, not only so mature, but as a love interest for Jonathon who is several years older and a pastor. 

My second issue dealt with having a secondary character from one series as a main character in another. (And we all know my love of taking secondary characters and giving them their own stories.) Sophie’s past is a major part of this current release. Though it’s explained somewhat in Rising Darkness, it’s been too long since I read the previous series. There were many details I couldn’t recall.

Those issues aside, this is a well-told, fast moving, and enjoyable story of redemption and restoration. As is typical of Ms. Mehl’s books, it is written in first person from the heroine’s point of view and the romance is light. While the romance is a big part of Sophie’s story, you won’t find any scenes of passion. Just when the reader believes the mystery is solved, there’s a nice twist to throw us off.

If you’ve read the previous books in the Finding Sanctuary series, you definitely want to finish it with Rising Darkness. If you haven’t begun the series yet, I’d recommend reading the three books in the Road to Kingdom series first (or brush up on Book Two) so you know exactly what Sophie did to merit her guilty conscience.

Do you agree with my thoughts on very young heroines in contemporary romances? I’m referring to the portrayal of women ages 20-23. Can you think of another novel that takes a character from one series and gives them star billing in another? What did you think?


Disclosure of Material Connection: This book came to me free from the publisher, Bethany House Publishers, with the hope that I would mention it on this blog. There was no requirement for me to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


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As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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