A Lady in Disguise, by Sandra Byrd, is the third and final historical fiction in the Daughters of Hampshire series. Meet Gillian Young, daughter of highborn mother and middle class father. Born into two worlds, the seamstress for a wealthy patroness and Drury Lane theater finds herself accepted by neither, especially after her father’s death that resonates of foul play.

While Gillian risks danger to uncover truth about her father—good or bad—she also dreams of keeping her inherited fixer-upper estate in Hampshire. To complicate matters she is drawn to two men, one from each world: Lord Lockwood, who seems helpful, but may only be after her land, and Constable Collingsworth, who she’s known all her life, but suspects may want to marry up.

Sandra weaves her story of mystery, social acceptance, and love into the tapestry of Victorian England. The reader takes a rushed walk down the sooty streets of London at night, hears the creaks and groans of yesteryear’s luxury home in Hampshire, and meets the working class behind the theater curtain.

From the horrors of human trafficking to the sting of fraud, Sandra sheds light on the dark side of historic England to tell a story of integrity, charity, and God’s faithfulness. In the pages, the reader finds courage to help others, despite their circumstances, because God is near to those who care. Bravo, Sandra, I believe this is my favorite of all your novels.

A Lady in Disguise can be purchased at Sandrabyrd.com, Amazon.com, or another favorite bookseller. While there, pick up Sandra’s other Daughters of Hampshire novels, Mist of Midnight and Bride of a Distant Isle. Be sure to sign up for the prize giveaway that ends March 29, 2017!

Author’s Note: This review was written in return for an advance copy of A Lady in Disguise novel.

Spiritual Hearing

cropped-spectrum-sound-wave-no-background-800pxSpiritual hearing, like physical hearing, is a gift from God. But to truly hear God requires a willing heart.

Jesus said, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears… Otherwise they might…understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:16)

As someone with physical hearing loss, I’ve wanted to share how it affects my life and teaches me how to facilitate better spiritual hearing. This post is my first on the topic and can be found with more on the blog Spiritual Hearing.

How is your spiritual hearing?

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!–Jesus (Matthew 11:15)


Butterfly Effect Mathematical Visual

Science has a term for chaos; it’s called the Butterfly Effect. It states that one small butterfly’s wings can flutter in a far-off place just enough to cause unpredictability in a hurricane’s path. Of course this sounds absurd, a small butterfly affecting a gale force wind. But put enough butterflies together and add other wind disturbances, and the theory sounds plausible.

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, the whole world teems with butterflies, creating chaos in the lives of his disciples. To name a few butterflies:

  • Jesus goes off to pray multiple times with a heavy spirit.
  • Despite Jesus urging the disciples to pray, they cannot keep their eyes open.
  • Late into the night Judas shows up with a mob to betray Jesus.
  • Peter grabs a sword and cuts off a man’s ear.
  • Jesus, God himself in the flesh, heals the man’s severed ear.
  • Jesus, who heals, allows guards to take him as though he had no power.
  • In utter failure to contain their wits, the disciples run.
  • One man follows, but gets harassed and leaves his covering to flee, naked!

Awkward events, difficult for the mind to process and react to, wreak havoc in the disciples lives. Because they aren’t thinking straight, they do the unthinkable. Their flesh is caught off guard.

But Jesus demonstrates how to get it right. He prays. As he prays, an angel comes from heaven and strengthens him. While the others see chaos, Jesus sees the intricate plan of God set in motion since creation. To attest to this, as they arrest him, he says, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49).

Take heart if life seems chaotic. The God who created butterflies created you. Nothing blindsides Him; He has a plan for you, every step of the way.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber—Psalm 121:3

Book ReviewBride of a Distant Isle, a Daughters of Hampshire novel, by Sandra Byrd, is a masterfully composed historical fiction. Sandra’s symphony of characters and plot twists tell the story of Annabel Ashton, illegitimate born of a well-to-do English mother and an absentee Maltese father.

Born highly enough on her mother’s side, Annabel is raised on the southern coast of England at Highcliffe Hall, a mansion that holds many secrets—some that could alter her future favorably, others that could condemn her to a life of misery. But which secrets will surface? And who is trying to keep others hidden? Like Annabel, the reader is kept in the dark.

With no funds to remain a teacher, little to no chance of a governess position, and the ever present threat of succumbing to her mother’s mental illness, it appears that marriage to Mr. Morgan, whose teeth remind her of “a cobblestone path long left unattended,” is Annabel’s only choice. But is marriage to this detestable man really a choice?

There is also Marco Dell’Acqua, the handsome half English, half Maltese captain. But is his flirting merely to further his business opportunities abroad? His shipmates seem to believe so. Nevertheless, Annabel is smitten. The only question is: Will she befall the same fate as her mother?

Along with Sandra’s beautiful writing, the reader experiences what it is to be a pawn sacrificed for those of position. As Annabel is moved from place to place on the board of her cousin Edward’s life for his advantage, she wonders: Does anyone, including God, care what happens to her? These same questions plague readers in real life. But as silent and as distant as God feels, Sandra points to evidence that reveals God’s presence.

This is the truth that sings from the heart of Sandra’s writing: Hope in God. It’s what makes her stories worth reading. While fate is precarious, at best, where God dwells, there is always hope. 
Bride of a Distant Isle is a symphony of beautiful writing with a song of hope.

I give Sandra a standing ovation for her latest novel of over four dozen books! Should the reader desire more of Sandra’s writing, visit her website at SandraByrd.com, order her books online at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com in paperback or digital format, or request her books at a local bookseller.

Congratulations, Sandra, you’ve written a winner!

Blind to the Crowd

From Mark 10:46-52

Bartimaeus sits on the side of the road, handicapped—physically blind and socially outcast. But when he hears Jesus of Nazareth approach, he calls out. “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The crowd criticize him. “You’re too loud! Be quiet! Jesus is too busy for people like you. You’re embarrassing!”

But Bartimaeus continues to call.

Jesus hears. He stops in his tracks and commands for Bartimaeus to come.

Suddenly, the crowd changes its tune. “Be of good cheer! He’s coming to you,” they say. The very people who try to silence Bartimaeus now celebrate with him.

Energized with hope, Bartimaeus tosses his garment aside. Nothing slows him down! He rises and blindly makes his way toward Jesus.

As lyricist, Helen H. Lemmel, says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Despite his physical handicap, the voice of the fickle crowd, and the hindrance of his outer garment, he focuses on Jesus. His moment before Jehovah Rapha—God who heals—is come.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks.

“That I might receive my sight,” he says.

Immediately, Bartimaeus receives his sight. Objects and colors become clear. People and faces show amazement and acceptance. Oh, what exhilaration to be whole!

So what does Bartimaeus do with his new vision?

Blind to the opinions of the crowd, he follows Jesus.

Does 2016 require new mercies and clear vision? Call on Jesus. His opinion is the only one you need.

Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.—I Peter 5:7

“Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”

What a presumptuous request to make of Jesus! Did the appropriately named sons of thunder have no scruples? The other disciples certainly express their displeasure over James and John’s forwardness.

Yet, James and John had walked with Jesus long enough to know he could do anything. He had healed the lame, deaf, and blind; he had power over wind, sea, and demons; and He had transfigured before them on the mountain, along with Moses and Elijah. In their minds, Jesus can do the super natural, and that’s what they want.

“Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left.”

Above all they can ask they want to be beside Jesus. They want to be with him as he rules his future kingdom. To be on the right and left hand of a king means they are committed to him one hundred percent.

But it is one thing to walk with Jesus as he teaches and heals people, and to sit with him in glory. How willing will they be to suffer the unknown ahead? Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to be betrayed, beaten, and crucified. “Are you able to drink the cup I drink?” Jesus asks.

“We are able,” they say.

What compassion Jesus must feel for these well-meaning brothers. “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink,” he says. For he knows James will be the first of his disciples to be martyred, and John, though he will live a long life, will suffer much persecution.

He instructs them that whoever desires to be great needs to put others first. It takes denial of self-comfort, self-preservation, and self-seeking. It takes courage.

It still takes courage to walk beside Jesus. But however difficult the unknown ahead, be bold. Ask Jesus for the super natural.

And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:15).

Mist of MidnightMist of Midnight, a Daughters of Hampshire novel by Sandra Byrd, tastefully marries English missionary history with Gothic fiction.

Miss Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of independently wealthy missionaries to South India, returns to England after the death of her family. However, she learns a young woman claimed her family estate a year earlier and subsequently died of mysterious causes. Now, her distant relative, Captain Luke Whitfield, stands to inherit her family’s home. In the midst of mourning, Rebecca must prove she is the real Miss Ravenshaw.

As Rebecca builds her case and her courage, her heart is drawn to Luke. But can she trust him? The death of her impersonator and claim on her family estate not only make him suspect of foul play, but even his relations question his integrity.

Yet, “nothing is as it seems,” Rebecca is reminded by an inner voice. And for the skeptic of Gothic romance, the same reminder is set forth. You can’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case, by its genre.

As well as expertly constructing a gothic tale, Sandra’s writing rewards the reader with rich history of English life in the 1800s, especially for the life of the returning missionary daughter. Mist of Midnight is also rich with history of India, illustrated by endearing vignettes of missionary life, complete with its foreign ways and heartwarming relationships.

Like other historical fiction written by Sandra, she tells the “what if” story adjacent to the popular account. Instead of retelling the lives of known missionaries, Sandra writes the “what if” they had a daughter and she was left without means for her care and security? How would she survive? How would the 1800s English system treat her return? This tale is not only about history, it’s about faith. For the child of missionaries, life goes on after their parents’ great sacrifice, and so does God’s faithfulness to each new generation.

To learn more about Sandra’s research for Mist of Midnight, visit her blog at sandrabyrd.com. Read her articles on proper Victorian era mourning to the dangers of laudanum, a substance commonly used in the 1800s to aid sleep. While visiting Sandra’s website, be sure to enter her giveaway!

While Gothic fiction is a new genre for Sandra, she is no newcomer to English historical fiction. Her Tudor historical novels—To Die for, Roses Have Thorns, and The Secret Keeper—are all available on Amazon.com.