I really do love Historical Fiction.
So its on this note, that I’m sharing one of my favorite series (though I do have a few).
If I have to narrow down what makes a book meaningful, enjoyable, and worth reading two dozen times (my record is about 15 times) I would say two things: Historical Accuracy & Prose
Kristen Heitzmann is well known for her Italian characters and suspense novels, but she has put out a few historicals, and her Diamond of the Rockies series is on my top ten list.
That’s a hard list to make.
To be on my top ten, a book has to be a really, REALLY good read. I have standards, you know!
But as I mentioned before, I have a short list of qualities, and my goodness, this series is beautiful – and words can be beautiful.
Just to start, in my own writing, I use this series as a standard. No exaggeration. Someone once told me that the trick to writing a good historical fiction novel, is recognizing the fact that you’re telling a story, not writing a history book. That said, if a historical anecdote is not relevant to the story, it’s not necessary.
As a writer, it’s SO easy to get sucked down endless holes and lost down rabbit trails of research. One little detail will lead to another so fascinating, it’s difficult to resist putting on the page, whether relevant or not. But that’s not even half the struggle. The real struggle is finding the perfect way to set the scene – blending foreign concepts into the story without confusing the reader.
For this reason, I truly admire Heitzmann’s style. The way she sets the scene – describing the Sonoma, California of the 1880s as well as the mining town of Crystal, Colorado. The cities come alive without sounding unreal. They have a certain patina and grit to them – like you’re standing in the world of antiques – but living.
I can’t exactly put words to it, but something that bothers me about Hollywood and novels, is the unrealistic nature of their settings. the places and scenes feel more fictional and corny than a place and time in history.
Heitzmann brings a bygone era to life, putting texture and taste to history – and I do mean taste. My mouth waters when I read about Carina’s cooking. There is nothing quite like a word picture of Italian food.
Even the characters fit into this old world – their language, their clothing, mannerisms, values – it all feels so real. You can’t impress modern values on a historical character. Heitzmann however, takes historical values and makes them relevant to the reader. And isn’t that the point of history?
But I said I had two things on my short list – here’s the second.
Now, let me begin by saying that not all of my favorite books are poetic, metaphoric, and full of symbolism – I don’t think that’s always the best approach. Instead, Heitzmann enters into her characters and brings their unique perspective onto the page.
Carina Maria Degratia is Italian – a passionate spitfire – small, yet full of emotion. She speaks with her hands, pulls, her heart makes deep, poetic connections to those around her.
Quillan Shepard is a loner. He’s the strong, silent type with a rogue’s smile. While extremely protective of every emotion he experiences, he has the heart of a poet, and can memorize entire books upon reading them.
These two characters come through very strongly whenever they are featured as the POV character. Carina’s passion and compassion are almost heartbreaking – moving – as a reader. You heart will bleed. While I LOVE reading Quillan’s poignant wording – like an artist, his thoughts paint word pictures – it’s not flowery prose for the sake of it. It’s the characters’ unique perspectives. And it’s beautiful.
On another note, if you are thinking about looking into the series, I would say that even for a Christian novel, consider the fact that the books follow a married couple and the more intimate side of their relationship is discussed (though not shown). Show discretion. I read them for the first time in High School. Make your own judgement.
Still, the moral values in this story are incredibly strong. Interestingly… Carina is Catholic, while her husband’s journey is much more protestant. Still, the differences between Catholic theology and Protestant are not strongly emphasized. Carina crosses herself on multiple occasions and seeks advice from the local Father Antoine. Her favorite expression is “Madonna mia!” But much of the salvation content comes from Quillan’s conversations with protestant preachers and a close friend. But as a whole, marital fidelity, even in the face of extreme hardship is a core and central theme. Other themes include forgiveness, trust and justice.
This series really is one one my favorites. I hope you’ll give it a chance.