Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ransomed Lives

At first glance, Scott Higginbotham’s Ransomed Lives appears to be nothing more than a Christian historical romance. In the first few chapters we are introduced to William, an English knight with a sense of humor, and his betrothed, Elizabeth. The backdrop-on and around August 26, 1346 when the Battle between the English forces and French army was fought at Crecy. And yet, although Ransomed Lives is rich in battle description, you realize that is not the emphasis. In fact, the love story between William and Elizabeth could hardly be worth mentioning if you decide to read beyond the simplistic story of love and war. When William is captured by the French Army, he is sent to the Count of Abbeville’s castle where his life becomes entangled with an awkward peasant girl and Lady Catherine who happens to be on holiday at the time. As improbable as it seems that they would meet, let alone plot an escape together, it is carried out to perfection. And that perfection involves much more than not getting caught. As they begin a new life, the road “home” becomes longer and longer as they each deal with issues that complicate, yet in the end resolve, their lives. They each experience a ransomed life in a different way. And if you think you have the end figured out, hold onto your seat and don’t put the book down until the last page is turned. Higginbotham begins the book at a fast pace and doesn’t slow down. In fact, as the pace quickens you find it impossible to set down.

A unique novel that blends a quick wit and humor with love, unusual circumstances, and a beautiful description of what it means to be ransomed. Although the names and certain details are not real, the story could be. It blends Gods perfect will with humanity at its best and worst. The story could happen today, given a few changes, making it timeless and relevant to us. Although I love history, I am not a historical fiction fan. Yet, classified as such, Ransomed Lives mirrors the very struggles we face, clothed in knights armor, castles, draw bridges and horses. Clothed nicely without being overbearing.

Higginbotham has done his homework in giving historically accurate descriptions. But deeper than that is a writer who seems to know the very heart of God and doesn’t mind sharing. He examines how one simple act of kindness can change a life. Take Marian, the peasant girl who was wiping spit from her face when William met her and yet became a refined woman because of him. Or Lady Catherine that dealt with stares and ridicule because of a physical deformity yet experienced a kindness that looked beyond that deformity and set in motion her ransom. He also causes us to vicariously walk in another’s shoes as our hero, William, at one point takes on the role of being the one spit on.

Higginbotham also touches on the conflict in being spiritual when life is hard. He brings the message of faith and hope so vividly alive that you see it in action. Many times we are told to have hope, or have faith and it’s hard to know how. He shows how. And that is another important aspect of his writing. He shows, not tells. You will not only read the words but you will clearly see the story unfolding in your mind. With this kind of clarity, it’s easy to laugh or cry because you are emotionally invested in what is happening. It is also easy to be strengthened by the faith of the characters. You relate. And isn’t that why we read in the first place?

Ransomed Lives, Higginbotham’s first completed manuscript is waiting to be published. He is not your run of the mill writer. Although the story line may be fiction, it’s as real as it gets. Higginbotham is a breath of fresh air in Christian fiction. He will set a new standard and give accomplished authors a new height to reach. It is impossible to read Ransomed Lives and not be changed in some aspect. I challenge any editor to read it and not concede that Higginbotham is a fascinating writer with a knack for entertaining the reader while presenting timeless truths in the process.

Ransomed Lives is only missing one thing-a publisher. It would be a waste to not see this manuscript published. Higginbotham will be popular with any audience and a sure thing for a publisher that is willing to take the time to get acquainted with his work. Remember, you heard his name first here but certainly not for the last time.

NOTE: I received the following from writer Scott Higginbotham after posting this review. I am posting it as a way to become introduced and familiar with Mr. Higginbotham.

Hello all,
First off, gratitude is in order. Thank you, God, without you, none of this would have been possible. Secondly, I want to extend my appreciation to Mary Nichelson for reviewing Ransomed Lives and giving me my day in the sun. Thank you, Mary.

I would like to take this time to introduce myself and answer some potential questions. My name is Scott Higginbotham. I’m an engineer with a marketing degree and an MBA, but I’m still just an average guy. I’m not a self serving glory hound chasing after fame. It goes deeper than that.

For many years I had been running after an elusive dream of success. Job promotions, new jobs, another degree; they were out of my grasp. I understood Solomon’s frustrations in the book of Ecclesiastes in chasing after the wind. You can’t catch it and you never will when God has other designs for your life, which brings me to where I am now. Has anyone caught it?

Last year I did the unthinkable and lost my marble (I only had one)…I gave up and said, “God, you win. What do you want me to do?”
It was a simple prayer, but one with far reaching effects. I studied the word, I prayed for wisdom, and used Romans 12:1-2 as a guide for finding God’s plan for my life. Try it. You’ll never be the same if it’s heartfelt.

As the pieces clicked into place, Ransomed Lives was birthed and soon made it onto my hard drive. It’s historical fiction woven with enduring truths and goodness, a healthy salting of romance and humor, unlikely allies, questions of faith, and an ending that places an eye to the future.

The novel has the middle ages as a backdrop, but the characters are timeless. Reader’s ears are tickled by treachery, trials, love, and triumphs of characters that are easy to identify with. My desire is to quickly connect on a spiritual and emotional level with the audience and for readers to ingrain themselves into the tale.

The first line of Chapter One accomplishes this connection when one of the characters, Elizabeth, gasps, “Something is wrong!” which wakes her out of a bad dream; a dream where her betrothed, William, is clothed in a tattered tunic, head hung low, and trudging aimlessly. Praying for him, she knows he’s being tested somehow, and then she quickly realizes that her time of testing has arrived. After digesting the import of her life’s new challenge and the faith that will see her through, she blows a kiss into the wind as a lone tear trickles down her cheek. William is at war, but even still, faith is a powerful theme as the story unfolds.

The fourteenth century had a host of historical contexts to fit a story into, but I sought to make it a lighthearted and easy read, devoid of vivid descriptions of great battles and torture common to that time. Additionally, I want to encourage readers with another, oftentimes out of reach morsel in this crazy, upside down world. It’s a four letter word that you should never speak aloud. It’s in short supply, but we all need it. Hope.

There are strong undercurrents of humor throughout the book, but it’s not over the top or overdone. People need to have a soul cleansing chuckle from time to time and laughter is good medicine. Everyday life is full of hilarity if you search hard enough. (Imagine yourself all alone in a sun dappled meadow on a clear day, chasing after the wind, but make sure it’s not a Youtube moment.) Many medieval writers used spices of comedy within their writings when they were conveying a deep, spiritual truth, so I jumped on their heels and followed their lead. My, how times haven’t changed!

There is another coming soon, named A Pilgrimage of Time. It is a sequel of sorts, which will send you on a journey to the fourteenth century and the characters in Ransomed Lives, but from the perspective of a modern man with a penchant for disaster. In keeping with my style, you will laugh, cry, and examine your life in a fresh way. It’s a read where God’s goodness, a portrait making chatterbox, bubbling confection, and of course, romance, breathes newness into the life of a woman who has disgrace as a faithful companion.

While Ransomed Lives and A Pilgrimage of Time are not published, Mary and I believe that God never does anything halfway, which is another sub theme throughout both reads. When life seems dark and dreary and you thump the proverbial wall, take a step back. Perhaps you have already arrived; the open door may very well be a few shuffles to the left or right.

As a reader of Mary’s blog, if your curiosity is piqued and you would enjoy reading Ransomed Lives and A Pilgrimage of Time, please indicate your interest on her site, email me, and above all else, pray that these novels make it to print.

As I said before, my passion for writing goes deeper. I have a strong authorial voice and my heart’s desire is to have people examine their lives in the light of God’s truth, because the truth never lies. It never does.

Scott Higginbotham