A New Fan Reviews ‘The River Rose’

By Michelle Vasquez, Life in Review
Guest Reviewer

The River Rose by Gilbert Morris is the second book in his Water Wheel series. It’s a lovely story that is rich in historical detail and will carry you away to another time and place.

Jeanne Bettencourt is a young widow who works as a chambermaid in a hotel and struggles to provide for her young daughter. Someone shows up at Jeanne’s work one day and tells her that she has inherited something from a distant relative. When she goes to the meeting with the lawyer she discovers that she is now half owner of a steamboat.

Jeanne grew up with her parents on a steamboat so she knows a lot about life on the river. Her new partner, Clint Hardin, is a master machinist, so he can handle the mechanical side of things. After giving it much thought she decides to take her daughter and try to make life work on the Helena Rose. There are many trials and big surprises along the way.

I very highly recommend this book! The writing is excellent and the characters will steal your heart and stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. For the most part this isn’t a fast-paced story, but it’s one to be savored. The historical detail is so vibrant that it becomes a lovely escape into an earlier time where life was very different.

I loved Jeanne right from the start and as a single parent I could really relate to her in many ways. Her daughter, Marvel, is her life and the reason she does everything. She longs to give Marvel a better life and she is very strong and determined.

Clint is a very different character because he is still a bit wild when we meet him at first. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him at first, but once we get to know him, we see the good man that’s inside.

The characters and the story hooked me right away. There’s drama, adventure, mystery, suspense, and sweet romance. The author laces it all with a beautiful message of faith.

This is the first book by Gilbert Morris that I have had a chance to read. I know he has authored a lot of Christian fiction books and has a big fan base. I am certainly a new fan after reading this one and will be looking for more of his books.

This review was originally published on Michelle’s blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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We’re All in the Same Boat

Life on the Mississippi River in the 1850s was a dramatic time in American history.

Between the Civil War, the rise of modern transportation, and the beginning of national economic growth, the introduction of the riverboat seemed both inevitable and vital to our country.

However, as important as steamboat travel became to folks in the 1800s, it was not without tragedy.

Between boiler explosions, fires, and explosions, the dangers of riverboat travel were very real; disasters were inevitable; death was expected.

Thankfully, regulations implemented in the mid-to-late 1800s resulted in safer travel and fewer casualties.

When I was a boy, I lived for a time in Helena, Arkansas. The river then was still thick with the sternwheelers, and I would sit for hours on the bank of the river and watch them, and riding on one was a thrill. That’s probably one of the reasons I chose to create stories set smack dab on the middle of a steamboat.

Part of the fun of being a historical fiction author is being able to travel back in time.

Accuracy is key. Then again, so is authenticity. Besides checking through documents and ensuring historical accuracy, I also try to include a little romance as well as real life struggles Christians face.

If you’ve ever read my books, you’ll notice my characters have one thing in common: sin.

My latest book, The River Rose, is no different. Whether it’s Clint Hardin facing the demons of past mistakes or Jeanne Bettencourt coming to terms with her own pride, it’s all the same thing. In fact, the main struggle all of us face throughout our lives is sin and our response to it. Sin, throughout the ages, is and has always been the great equalizer.

Spiritually, I guess you could say we’re all in the same boat.

If not for the saving power of Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for our sins, we’d be no better off than those early riverboat travelers who rode at their own risk, the inevitability of disaster just up ahead.

I thank God for saving me as a youngster. For reaching down and forgiving my proud heart. Truthfully, I’m no different than anyone else—I’m just a sinner saved by grace.

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How to Share Scriptural Truth Without Sermonizing

Q & A with Gilbert Morris

Q: You have been writing for the Christian publishing industry for several years. As a Christian, what are some highlights and lowlights of your faith journey?

A: There have been highlights and lowlights in my Christian walk, as is probably true of most serious Christians. Johnnie and I left our home church to attend Southern Baptist College without any money. We struggled for a long time, and I remember most vividly that for what seemed like months we survived on white gravy and bread.

I wanted to pastor a church, and my dream was to pastor a church with a beautiful spire or steeple. I guess I was a steeple chaser!

I went to peach in view of a call at North End Baptist Mission in north Arkansas—and it met in an old school building with the seats still fastened to the floor. Some of the heavier members had trouble fitting into those seats. That little church called me to serve as their pastor, and I learned that I had no need of a large church or a beautiful building!

During our time there, we saw many come to Christ, and built a very nice building. To this day I think of how God blessed us abundantly in the most primitive of settings!

Q: How do you use your writing to present moral insights without turning the whole story into a sermon?

A: There are several ways to share Scriptural truth with your readers without hitting them over the head with the Bible. Here are a few:

  1. By showing the internal spiritual journey of your characters and allow readers into their thoughts; let your readers see and experience your characters’ doubt, despair, reflection, and growth. In order to do this, you must have already created believable, authentic characters with flaws.
  2. By using setting as a mirror of what’s going on inside your characters hearts and heads (Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens is an excellent example of this. Dickens’ brilliantly uses setting to illustrate the moral worlds that Oliver moves between).
  3. By using symbolism to portray different aspects of Christian truths; weave those truths throughout your story as a thread is woven throughout a garment. C.S. Lewis’ brilliant use of symbolism in his The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series is a perfect example of this.

Q: What truth do you want readers to take away after reading your most recent novel, The River Rose?

A: As in all my books, I want my readers to see how vital it is to serve God no matter how difficult that might be.

Posted in On Writing | 1 Response

1851, Memphis, TN

Today I have a review of The River Rose to share with you from Linda Wagner, author of the One Desert Rose blog.

1851, Memphis, TN. After being widowed, Jeanne Bettencourt struggled to make ends meet for her and her six-year-old daughter, Marvel, as a chambermaid at the Gayoso House Hotel. Jeanne was always leery and alert when working in the rooms of the men staying at the hotel. Even her daughter was aware that “she didn’t like men very much.” The real issue is that she didn’t trust them.

Her life was about to change for the better when a distant, unknown Hardin relative passed away and she became a half-heir to his estate–a paddle wheeler steamboat. She grew up on one, so she was elated.

However, the other half-heir was Clint Hardin, a tough man who had his way with women. Being a Christian woman, Jeanne was uncomfortable “living” on the boat with him, but both needed money, so they made a business arrangement where she would pilot the boat and he would keep up the mechanical end. Though courting wealthy plantation owner, Mr. George Masters, Jeanne began her new life as a steamer pilot. Masters wasn’t happy with the arrangement, but she needed income.

The River Rose, by Gilbert Morris, was an entertaining and great historical book!  I found that the descriptive events of the daily trappings of the river, the gathering of supplies, the procuring of new customers and cargo, the bantering from the male pilots, the noise and filth of the docks, and the keeping of the logs during the eight-day trips made for an interesting read. I loved the bantering of being nicknamed the ‘petticoat’ pilot. The author fires up the ante with Clint falling for Jeanne and an unexpected shock waiting for Jeanne at the end of their fourth run.

Though I did not care for Clint’s lifestyle before working on the steamer, he endeared himself to me as he was so gentle and caring for Marvel. He thoroughly loved the little girl. All the other characters who worked the steamer each had their own little quirks, but I really enjoyed Ezra Givens. He seemed gruff and crusty hard, but he was really a softy on the inside. He’d been working the steamer with the previous owner, and remained as part of the ‘inheritance.’

Jeanne’s thankfulness to God for the small things in life as a chambermaid, and the circumstances that followed her after receiving the steamer, were a light to those around her, and was instrumental for steering her through her daughter’s illness and the shocking news and trial upon returning from her river trip. Her care for Roberty came from a heart willing to help this homeless child.

Having read other books by Mr. Morris, I knew I’d find an excellent read with detailed descriptions of every episode. He accomplished it once again. You will be amazed at how his writing will stay with you, as he has a way of gleaning and sharing historical information that sticks with you.

There was one thing that somewhat frustrated me. The title of the boat on the cover didn’t match the name on the boat in the book. I kept waiting for it to be renamed. Not sure if that was intentional or an oversight. Though Jeanne had been raised on a steamer, I found it hard to imagine a single woman working on a steamer with all men, except for her daughter, in that time era.

The River Rose is Book 2 in a three-book series (The River Queen and the upcoming The River Palace are books 1 and 3). However, The River Rose is a stand-alone novel with zero overlap in characters or plot lines between the books. They are a series in the sense that all three books take place on Mississippi River paddle wheelers during the 1850s.

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Two New Giveaways of ‘The River Rose’


Today I have the honor of featuring reviews from two delightful women, Lena Nelson Dooley and Joy Hannabass. Lena and Joy are both hosting giveaway contests for The River Rose at their blogs, so please click the links to each of their blogs to enter their respective contests.

Lena Nelson Dooley, A Christian Writer’s World

(Click the blog’s title, above, to enter Lena’s contest)

I have read Gilbert Morris books for many years and loved them. And I’ve even considered writing a riverboat novel. So I was very interested in reading this novel.

The book is written in the classic Gilbert Morris style. Using words, he wove a colorful tapestry of the setting and society of the mid-19th century.

As a reader, I felt as if I walked the streets, rode in the carriages, and sailed on the steamboat on the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers. I could have never given the authentic touches he did about the steamboat. And the hardships the characters had to face were real-life situations.

I loved the characters. They were completely human with both strengths and weaknesses. Their growth, both spiritually and emotionally, was completely believable. They grabbed my heart and didn’t let go even after the last page.

And the story and plot line was unique enough to pique and hold my interest. Because of my own book deadlines, I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I found myself picking up this book at every free moment I had until I finished it. I highly recommend it.


Lena Nelson Dooley, www.lenanelsondooley.com, is the author of Mary’s Blessing, the Selah Award winning Maggie’s Journey, and Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, which won the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, Pinterest and with her internationally connected blog, where she interviews other authors and promotes their books.


Joy Hannabass, Splashes of Joy

(Click the blog’s title, above, to enter Joy’s contest by August 22, 2012)

Jeanne Bettencourt is hardly able to make ends meet for she and her six year-old daughter working as a maid at an upstanding Memphis hotel. She is saving back a small a mount of money to purchase a house for themselves, but it will take a while. Jeanne grew up on the river, her parents owning a boat making runs on the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.

Clint is an engineer who has made his way as a boxer, what time he’s not out womanizing, that is. He never knew his dad, and his mom wasn’t exactly the model mom, so he didn’t grow up in a happy household.

Two very different people, never dreaming of being brought together, especially through distant relatives, making Clint and Jeanne joint owners of their own riverboat. But how were they supposed to run a riverboat? Or how could they both live on the boat? And who would be captain? Well, as you read “The River Rose,” you will find the answer to these questions and more.

This is just a wonderful interesting read during the 1800’s riverboat era. Gilbert Morris creates a cast of characters that I grew to love and appreciate as I read this book. They work together to make the story enjoyable and interesting, and peak the interest of the readers.

I loved Clint’s growing relationship with Marvel. And it wasn’t to just win Jeanne over; he had a genuine love for her. And on the other hand,

George Masters acted like she was more in the way, not wanting Marvel with he and Jeanne on their dates. And did Masters just disappear into the clear blue yonder? Or maybe will return in the third book? That will be interesting to find out!

I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting a good book to read! And if you like historical fiction, this is a must for you! You will not be disappointed, and you will not want to put the book down until you read the last page! Grab a copy to read and enjoy for yourself.

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Gilbert Morris Has a ‘History’, Writes Reader

By Pamela J. Nelson
Guest Reviewer

I absolutely love to read. But one of my pet peeves is to start reading a book and not be able to get truly interested until about chapter 5 or 6 because of all the “introductory” material.

Gilbert Morris has a history (no pun intended—he writes historical fiction) of writing books that grab you on page one.  The River Rose is no different. From the moment I picked it up, I was hooked. The characters were fascinating, the setting was charming, and the story line was well thought out and very intriguingly written.

The River Rose is book #2 of the Water Wheel Series. I was a bit concerned about reading it since I haven’t read book #1 as of yet. But even though it was part of a series, it was entirely enjoyable as a stand-alone novel.

Usually when I read a novel that’s part of a series (not book #1), I can always tell when the author is “catching the reader up” with what they missed in book #1. In this case, the book was so seamlessly written that I didn’t get that sense at all.

This book is particularly written for the Christian Historical Fiction audience with a good amount of romance as well. However, I believe that it would appeal to the non-Christian audience as well. The Christian aspect of the book doesn’t feel like it’s crammed down your throat, but instead is very tastefully written.

I would highly recommend this book to any of my friends. It’s a keeper!


Pam Nelson is a middle-aged woman with 3 married kids, 3 grandsons & 1 granddaughter (Ages 9, 6, 8 months & 22 months respectively). She is the Women’s Ministry Director for her church as well as Secretary/Treasurer for the corporation (church). Eight years ago, God blessed Pam with a brand-new heart via transplant, so every day is precious.


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Would You Like a Chance to Win ‘The River Rose’?

Alena Belleque, author of the Our Little Bit of Wonderful blog, is hosting a giveaway contest for my new historical fiction novel, The River Rose.

Visit Alena’s blog to enter her contest:


Here is an excerpt from Alena’s review:

My mom introduced me to Gilbert Morris’s historical fiction when I was in high school. I spent countless hours reading about his engaging characters during the various stages of our nations’ history, and had serious crushes on more than one of the heroic male leads. It has been almost a decade since I picked up a Morris novel, due more to life changes and forgetfulness than to anything else, and I am so glad I did!

The River Rose is a fast moving and compelling story that I really enjoyed. As with all of his novels, Morris provides a wealth of historical information and detail that fills the story with depth and realism.

The only issue I had with this story was that when Clint became a believer, he immediately swore off all of his previous vices without a single hint of difficulty, which felt contrived to me. Thankfully, that was a minor detail, and did not detract from the overall story.

Dealing with themes of questioning faith, romance, forgiveness, justice, societal norms, and morality, this book will keep your attention riveted until the final page.

Posted in Book Giveaways, Reader Reviews, Water Wheel series | 2 Responses

Swept Away by ‘The River Rose’, Writes Reviewer

Here is a new review of The River Rose by blogger, Danica Page.

My Overall Thoughts/Impressions:

I did not expect this book to be as good as it was. From the second I started reading, the characters and the writing style swept me away.

The world that Morris created was one that I found fascinating. Jeanne has not been dealt an easy hand in life. She’s a widow struggling to make ends meet while trying to provide for her eight year old daughter, and yet she is incredible. I loved learning about her. Like many of my favorite characters, I wanted to hit her upside the head a few times. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching her progression.

And then there was Clint Hardin. Clint was roguish enough for me to absolutely adore him, but refined enough that I didn’t feel bad about liking him. He was so kind to Jeanne and her daughter and I loved him from the moment I met him.

Morris’ world was full of intrigue, suspense, and romance on the backdrop of the Mississippi. I found myself thoroughly entranced by the tale and recommend this to all fans of historical romance with spunky characters.

In Summary:

Brilliantly written and full of lovable characters set against a backdrop that lends to an incredible tale of romance, suspense, and intrigue. I definitely recommend this one. I for one will definitely be checking out Morris’ other novels.

The Wrap-up:

This book managed to be heart-warming, heart-breaking, hilarious, and poignant all at once. Any book that causes me to feel that wide range of emotions automatically makes its way onto my favorites list.

Definitely recommend this book if you are looking for a touching romance with spunky characters who will have you rooting for them from the very beginning.

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Quite a Character

When talking about writing a novel, the topic of characterization inevitably comes up. And rightfully so – without characters, there isn’t a story!

In my 30 plus years of writing, I have created hundreds of characters, from all different walks of life, places in history, ages, etc. In order to lend authenticity to writing, there are four unique things I have to give each and every character:

  1. Physical Description
  2. Speech
  3. Behavior
  4. Psychological Patterns

The trick is to use all four of these fundamental aspects of character development and make them work in unison. It’s the seemingly insignificant details that make all the difference. In order to keep them all straight, I keep an ongoing list of each character, with personality analysis, history, and physical descriptions.

My new book, The River Rose (B&H Publishing Group), introduces a whole new cast of individuals from the 1800s.

The River Rose characters:

Jeanne Bettencourt

With wide-set velvet brown eyes and long chestnut brown hair, Jeanne spends her days working as a chambermaid at the Gayoso House Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Jeanne is a single mom who works hard and loves her daughter, Marvel, so much it sometimes hurts. Frugal and compassionate, Jeanne loves the Lord, but wonders how to reconcile her growing affection for two very different men in her life.

Marvel Bettencourt

A small child with mousy brown hair, six-year-old Marvel demonstrates cleverness and kindness beyond her tender years. Although an only child, living in poverty, Marvel’s gentle gratitude and sweet joy of life brightens the life of those around her.

Clint Hardin

Clint is in many respects, a man of extremes; a hard-working machinist of humble means, Clint is also a gifted opera singer. Although a gentleman at heart, Clint definitely has some rough edges. He likes to tease and spends his evenings frequenting the local pubs and making ends meet as a fighter, known to the locals as Clint the Flint Fist.

Vince Norville

A wiry, tough man with dark curly hair, Vince is Clint’s good friend. Loyal, strong, with a ready smile, Vince openly questions his friend’s dual lifestyle and the women he sees coming in and out of Clint’s life.

George Masters

A gentleman through and through, George is blonde, blue-eyed, and handsome. George is a wealthy plantation owner who treats Jeanne with gentle consideration and respectful admiration.

Taking on a life of their own

More often than not, by the time I’m finished with a manuscript, the characters in my story have moved in very different directions that I initially planned. They have developed through the plot and dialogue. A successful author creates characters so real they begin to take on a life of their own during the writing process. Authenticity shines most bright when our characters have both strengths and weaknesses, both smooth and rough edges.

Now that I’ve given you a small taste of character development and introduced you to some key individuals, I’d love for you to “meet” the whole River Rose gang. Sign up for my e-mail list to get subscriber-only giveaways and special offers on upcoming releases.

You can also purchase The River Rose at your local bookstores or online from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and B&H Publishing Group.

Posted in On Writing, Water Wheel series | 1 Response

Gilbert Morris Books Have the ‘Lay’s Potato Chip Effect’

Lydia Mazzei, The Overweight Bookshelf

Lydia is hosting a giveaway contest — enter to win a copy of The River Rose through July 30, 2012. To enter, click this link.

Gilbert Morris’s books usually release as part of a series and, for me, they have the  “Lay’s® Potato Chip” Effect: betcha can’t read just one.

Gilbert’s ability to breathe life into history through fiction was the beginning to my fascination with history, which would become my major in university and now one of the subjects that I teach. It is very true that everything you read becomes a part of you!

I adored The River Rose’s unique and rich setting of a river boat–it is a niche topic that I was happy to explore through the lives of Jeanne, Marvel and Clint. Jeanne and Clint are unlikely partners but their personal journey and their relationship will pull on your heartstrings and keep you turning the pages.

I loved that Jeanne wasn’t cast as simpering or damsel in distress; instead she defies the odds with strength and courage to ensure a future for her family.

Clint is a hero in need of reforming that is a complex character once you scratch beneath his self-assured veneer. {Read Lydia’s full review}

Here’s another beautiful review by Mary A. Hake. Mary is president of Oregon Christian Writers.

Mary A. Hake

The River Rose takes readers back to the riverboat days of the mid-1800s, where sternwheelers made regular runs on the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers. Jeanne Bettencourt, an impoverished single mother, works as a maid in a fine Memphis hotel. Her six-year-old daughter, Marvel, is the joy of her simple life.

Jeanne grew up aboard a steamboat on the river, where her father served as pilot. He taught her how to pilot also. When she inherits half-interest in a riverboat, she attempts to become the first woman boat pilot and partners with co-heir Clint Hardin to run freight on their Helena Rose.

Clint, as hard as his name implies, has been a boxer and a womanizer. Jeanne feels uneasy about their relationship, but agrees they could make a good business team. Clint, along with the rest of their scanty crew, adores Marvel and watches over her.

A wealthy plantation owner Jeanne knew from the hotel courts her, but she’s not certain whether he is the man for her. Troubles still try to swamp Jeanne—including prejudice, life-threatening illness, and an evil man from her past returning with threats and attempts to rob, rape, and murder. Then she must testify at the trial.

Will the new life she’s formed be torn away? Will the new love she’s discovered be able to survive? Perhaps returning to the faith she once cherished will sustain her through life’s difficulties.

Gilbert Morris has written dozens of historical novels. This is the second of his Water Wheel series (after The River Queen), but the story stands alone. He says, “As in all my books, I want my readers to see how vital it is to serve God no matter how difficult that might be.”

Posted in Book Giveaways, Reader Reviews, Water Wheel series | Leave a comment
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