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Awaken My Heart
by DiAnn Mills

Reviewed by Sheryl Root

"DiAnn Mills' talent of writing strong and memorable characters continues..."

DiAnn Mills' talent of writing strong and memorable characters continues in her newest book, Awaken My Heart. Set in 1803, when Texas was still a colony, Awaken My Heart is the story of two people who find love in spite of the constraints and prejudices of their time and the differences in their backgrounds.

Marianne Phillips, daughter of a wealthy rancher, loves the land and its people. Her father, however, despises the mestizos who inhabit the lush, fertile valley of La Flor and will stop at nothing to have the valley for his own. When rebels kidnap her, hoping her father will trade their land for her freedom, Marianne finds herself torn between fear of her abductors and empathy toward their situation.

Armando Garcia, reluctant leader of the rebels, can't believe his men disobeyed his orders and kidnapped Weston Phillips' daughter. Now that the deed is done, however, he must do what is best for his people. Armando has no desire to harm Marianne, but how would they survive without their land? He must hope that her father will do the right thing.

Despite their differences, Armando and Marianne find themselves drawn to each other. Armando finds a peace in Marianne that he doesn't understand and, unaware she can speak his language, finds himself sharing thoughts and feelings with her he has shared with no one else. As Marianne sees the unselfish devotion Armando has for his people, her admiration grows. Soon, Armando finds himself battling not only with his conscience, but also with his desire not to be parted from Marianne. Will he have the courage to release her, knowing that their paths may never cross again? And if he does, what will become of his people?

Stories of love between people of different backgrounds are many, but DiAnn makes this one exceptional by creating compelling and realistic characters that sweep the reader into their story. I felt their joys, pains, and struggles as if I'd experienced them myself.

Marianne and Armando are at different places in their faith, and DiAnn portrays each in a way that is genuine and authentic. Marianne's faith is made stronger by her kidnapping, but she struggles with trying to love and honor her father when she so despises his evil actions. Armando has turned away from the religion of his youth, but finds himself left with a restless spirit searching for some sort of peace. His journey to understanding the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus is heartfelt and believable.

The only part of this book I was a bit disappointed with was the abruptness of the ending. It was a great ending, but a little too quickly wrapped up in my opinion. I would have loved an epilogue.

If you enjoy reading about Texas, I'd also recommend DiAnn's Texas Legacy series. It's one of my favorites!

Sheryl RootSheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.