Shadow among Sheaves

Shadow among Sheaves

by Naomi Stephens


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A Timeless, Beautiful Allegory of the Biblical Love Story of Ruth and Boaz
The Great Rebellion of 1857 was a remarkably bloody business. At a time when Britain’s imperial influence in India was sparking brutal clashes on both sides, no one could have expected Rena, an Indian woman, to marry a British officer—nor do they understand her decision to follow her mother-in-law to England after her husband’s tragic death. 

Once the two widows are in Abbotsville, the stern yet compassionate Lord Barric attempts to help them despite his better judgment. Soon he is torn between the demands of reputation and his increasing desire to capture Rena’s heart for his own.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683229339
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 593,801
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Naomi Stephens is a bookworm turned teacher turned writer. She received a M.A. in English from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and now lives in Ohio with her husband, her two children, and a rascal of a dog named Sherlock. 

Read an Excerpt


Both women were starving.

After nearly three weeks in Abbotsville, Rena's shoulder blades now cut against her skin like she was made of paper. Head pounding, she lay beside Nell in a stable which smelled of manure, desperate for any way to escape the unbreakable claws of poverty.

The sun was beginning to show through the dawn-filled haze, but Rena was too angry to look at the sky. In India she had loved watching the sun and stars unfold at the start and end of each day. She often pressed against the rail of her father's balcony, lifted up, captured by the endlessness of it all. Now everything was different. She, a Brahmin, was forced to sleep in the hay like an animal. The humiliation was nearly unbearable. Her father's home was filled with sacred, ancient texts and priceless artifacts. He was a valuable asset to the British troops stationed there. Even Rena herself had once been described as a prize.

And who was she now?

She yanked a few strands of straw from her hair — a trespasser, lying amid filthy cattle while Nell slept soundly beside her. To such concerns as starvation and poverty, Nell merely replied that all problems had their solutions. She was a sturdy woman with no intention of moping. But Rena was not convinced, even by such practiced bravado.

Many years ago, Nell had lived nearby, in a suburb of Liverpool, well before she met and married Sir Alistair. A few of her cousins were still scattered in various estates throughout the area, and Nell had written to them several months ago, shortly after Alistair had died, to announce that she was returning to England and would be much indebted if she could stay with one of their families until things were sorted.

"Of course," they had all responded. "With pleasure. You are always most welcome."

They'd made arrangements to stay with a Lady Harriet, who lived the closest to Abbotsville. All was quite settled ahead of time. But then Nell had arrived in England with an unexpected surprise — Rena.

"There must be some mistake," Lady Harriet had stammered, stunned to find an Indian girl waiting beside Nell at her gate. "We did not expect you so soon. We haven't enough room for two houseguests...."

Rena had counted at least two dozen windows from her place beneath the gate. Two dozen windows in Lady Harriet's home, and yet not a bed for two widows to share. Nell had made her way down her list of cousins and second cousins, but all had given the same answer with varying degrees of shock and disgust as they stared at Rena in her plain widow's dress.

Rena rolled onto her side and studied the careful way Nell now slept in the hay, with not a single hair out of place. Nell had come from one of the most estimable families in northern England. She didn't belong here, sleeping like a vagrant with a foreign castaway. But even those sorrows paled in the face of another — before Nell had fallen asleep that night, she'd mentioned the workhouse.

"It is always best to consider all options," Nell had said bracingly, but Rena also read the terror thinly masked in the woman's eyes.

Restless, Rena pushed herself up from the ground, burying her face between her hands. Several times she had passed the Liverpool workhouse during her daily search for work. Cramped and full of sickness, it was a glorified prison for the hapless, desperate souls who needed it. If Rena and Nell were even admitted, they would be forced to turn over their own clothes, to bathe supervised, to work their way through a system dead set on breaking them.

No. Rena climbed to her feet. She could not let that happen. She would not.

With one last anxious look at Nell, Rena left the stable and marched straight into town. People were already beginning to gather on their way to the fields, and they watched her steady approach with alarm. Rena wanted to spit on them. When she and Nell had knocked on every door in town, no one had looked either of them in the eyes. When they had slept in doorways, alleys, and barns, the people of Abbotsville had pretended not to see them, not to notice. But now they watched Rena, their gazes pinned and direct.

As she turned the corner at the edge of town, three field hands jumped quickly to the side to avoid running into her. Rena fisted her hands. She was so hungry. So tired. She wanted to tell those men her family belonged to the highest caste in India, that her father was far more eloquent and learned than any of them would ever be. But Rena knew, even if they believed her, they would not care. They would still leave her and Nell to starve in gutters. All the money in the world would not make them look at her with any less disgust.

And why should they? The Indian Mutiny was painfully fresh in everyone's mind, only a few years past. When Edric left England in pursuit of colonization, no one could have expected him to marry an Indian woman. That she had returned in the wake of his death was an unspeakable scandal.

When the English looked at Rena, they saw a tapestry of evil: Indian soldiers rising up and shooting their British officers, British women and children hacked to pieces in defiance of westernization, Christian converts hunted down and murdered at Delhi for forsaking the Hindu faith.

It did not matter that Sawai Ram Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur, had sent nearly all of his troops to aid the British. Or that he had housed the wife and children of Major Eden in the Badal Mahal, refusing to hand them over to the demanding rebels who had then marched onto Delhi. The people in Abbotsville only knew that Rena was Indian. She had lived in the north where the mutinies had raged the hardest. She could never be trusted.

In times of weakness, Rena still considered sneaking off in the night so Nell might live with her own family in comfort. But Rena loved Nell too much to abandon her in such a way, and she knew Nell would never allow them to separate. An even weaker part of Rena was too afraid to starve to death alone.

She came at last to the door she was searching for and froze on the threshold, feeling herself approaching a precipice from which she could never draw back. At Nell's warning, this was the only door she had not visited in her relentless search for lodging. "Edric." She whispered her husband's name, just to hear it spoken. Then she shoved through the weathered door and stepped inside.

She had heard many rumors of the Gilded Crown, an establishment well known for thievery and prostitution, though it masqueraded as a common roadside inn. Splintered tables and benches were scattered about the dining hall, half the tables still not cleared from the previous night's revelries. A dingy portrait of a rather severe-looking Victoria loomed above the sooty stone fireplace — as if the queen herself actually cared to know what went on in such a place.

The dining hall was mostly vacant, save for a few passing travelers who ate breakfast in the corner and a scattering of women who lounged on benches along the farthest wall with bored, waiting expressions. Rena tried not to look at the women, but she could not help noticing as one of them stood abruptly and stepped across the room to lean against the bar. The woman wore a gaudy dress, wrinkled and slightly too big for her slender frame. The heavy smear of bright rouge on her cheeks made her appear perpetually tired but no less pretty. To Rena she looked like a butterfly wing someone had accidentally stepped on.

Rena froze as the woman met her eyes. She was the first person to have really looked at Rena since she'd arrived in Abbotsville, and an unspoken understanding hummed between them. Rena wondered if this woman had been homeless too. Cast off by relatives, or perhaps born illegitimate.

"Who is loitering there?"

Rena stepped back at the nasty voice but turned her eyes toward the staircase, where a woman with a stack of faded blankets was descending the stairs. This woman was much older than any of the other women there. Her graying hair was tied tightly at the back of her head, and she had the beady eyes of a badger, dark and unusually close together.

Rena's voice came out in a painfully fragile thread. "I came to see if you have a room." The words flooded her with shame. She wondered what Edric would have said if he had seen her in such a place, practically begging for crumbs.

The older woman shook her head. "No," she answered in a clipped voice, then stabbed a thumb at the door. "Leave."

Half-relieved to be cast out from such a dismal place, Rena turned toward the door but stopped as she remembered the stable where Nell was still sleeping like those in India who were born too unclean to merit a caste at all. From the highest to the lowest was a dizzying fall, and Rena still couldn't feel the ground beneath her own feet. Could they plummet lower still? She thought of how it might be if she and Nell faced winter without a home. What might happen if the chill in the air journeyed to their bones and then to their lungs?

"My mother-in-law is starving," Rena managed, half turning back to the woman. "We both are. We have nothing. We are desperate."

The woman looked at Rena the way Nell's family had looked at her, as if the whole of the Indian mutinies were carried out at her behest. "Put the Indian chit back on a boat," one cousin had whispered to Nell when he thought Rena was out of earshot. "Send her home at once."

"Even we have standards," the woman said scornfully. "You must find lodging elsewhere."

But Rena had already been everywhere. Nearly delirious from sparse food and even sparser sleep, she felt unbearably thin beneath the woman's gaze. "Wife!" growled a voice, and the woman winced. Rena turned and watched as a thin man with a dirtied apron crossed through the kitchen door. "See to the storage room," he ordered, jerking his head toward the back. "Make it ready."

The woman hissed then spun around and disappeared through the back hall. As soon as she was gone, the man folded his arms in front of his chest and gave Rena a dubious look. Hard work had given his skin a blotchy appearance, but his eyes were clear. Scraggly white whiskers hung in a long, wiry tangle along his jaw. Rena had once heard them called Piccadilly weepers by British soldiers who had worn the style with a bit more class.

"Have you not heard of what happens in our upstairs rooms?" the man challenged. "Or is that why you're here?"

Rena's humiliation climbed, undercut by a stab of raw fear. "I have no interest in what goes on in any of your rooms," she responded. "I left my mother-in-law, Lady Hawley, sleeping in a stable. All I am looking for is a roof to put over her head."

At her stiff reply, his face softened, as if discomfort was something he didn't often see in his line of work. He measured her anew, the corners of his mouth pinching as he glimpsed her black mourning gown and trembling hands. With a slight wince, he asked her, "This mother-in-law of yours. Can she wash dishes?"

Half-breathless with hope, Rena jumped to answer, "We both can."

"My wife will never let you in her kitchen." He shook his head with an embittered frown. "But if your mother-in-law can wash dishes and floors, if she can sweep and clean tables, then you can stay in our storeroom."

Rena was too stunned to answer immediately. With the looming threat of the workhouse, she was certain Nell would accept the arrangement, though it still smarted to imagine her mother-in-law scrubbing floors in such a place. "I am ... indebted to you, sir."

"It's not exactly posh lodging — a drafty produce closet with a narrow bench."

"We've slept in gutters," she answered, steadily meeting his eyes.

He quirked a bushy eyebrow then nodded. "And the men? The ones hereabouts who drink too much, they might take an interest in you."

She hesitated, glancing back at the pretty, albeit rumpled, woman who still watched her with unease. Was this their silent understanding, then? Was Rena looking at her future, or was this poor woman remembering her own naive past?

"I am not to be touched," Rena insisted, mortified to have to set such a stipulation, regardless of whether it would be followed. She turned back to the innkeeper and lifted her chin. "If you can promise me that, then we will gladly accept your offer."

"Ah, so here you are setting our terms now." He nodded his approval then extended a veiny hand. "I am Mr. Bagley, and I accept your terms. It's only fair warning to you, though, that my wife does not and likely will never like you."

If such was the least of Rena's worries, she might actually sleep through the night for the first time in nearly two years. "I am growing rather used to being unliked," she confessed. "And I would rather sleep among humans who despise me than horses who don't."

* * *

Oats, barley, wheat.

Rena ran her fingers with wonder along the sheaves as she followed the main road out of town, passing foreign fields and grand estates as she journeyed. So much food, she thought bleakly, and yet she and Nell were both starving.

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. For four weeks, Nell had scrubbed dishes and floors to pay for their place in the shabby storeroom at the Gilded Crown. But money was scarce, barely enough for a loaf of bread and some watered-down milk every few days. And while the Bagleys had allowed them to stay in their produce closet for practically nothing, they were not about to feed them as well. To Rena generosity was becoming a land with uncomfortably tight borders.

Hunting for work of her own, she had knocked on enough doors to scab her knuckles a hundred times over. No work was beneath her, she vowed, no prospect too small. But all doors closed as if on phantom hinges, blotting out her desperate pleas.

Since Edric had died, Rena wondered if she was being punished for something she had done. For marrying a foreigner, perhaps. For leaving her family behind so she could look after Nell. For watching Nell starve and finding herself too weak to find an answer. Karma. The word unfolded like a flower in her mind, whispered in her mother's careful, instructive voice. As a child, Rena had learned that her actions had the power to haunt or reward her, to shape who she would become, possibly even in future lives. And Rena felt haunted in many, many ways.

She pressed deeper inland, hoping to come upon a farm willing to pay half price for a milkmaid. With fewer buildings and trees left to block the wind, she pulled her gray shawl tighter around her shoulders and tried to brace herself against a shiver. It was only August, and Nell often said the country air would become crisper after the harvest was gleaned, then turn bitter. Though Jaipur certainly had its colder evenings in the winter months, Rena had spent much of them indoors. She was still too used to the heavy air, the kind of heat she felt deep in her throat every time she swallowed. Abbotsville's leaves were dazzling in their own way, the fields a lovely shade of burnt sunlight, but the shivers still jumped along her skin and made her wish for a warmer, more inviting place.

"You think your desert sands are everything, Rena, but there is a whole world beyond this heat. Someday I will take you to England. We'll pluck apples from the trees and lie in the grass all evening while we eat them. And then I'll whisper in your ear all the ways I love you."

Rena gripped the front of her threadbare dress, feeling the press of Edric's ring from beneath the fabric. He had spoken those words to her three days after their wedding, and it sickened her to hear his voice now, in a strange, foreign place where stalks of wheat stood sentinel over her aching heart. She shut her eyes, no longer wanting to see the lush leaves and yellow harvest. "Oh Edric," she sighed to the empty road. "This place is yours. I wish you could share it with me."

As if hearing her somber plea, distant voices began singing deep in the field beside her, the echoes lifting up a sorrowful dirge which matched the caws of crows as they soared overhead.

As if their voices could sense her hunger.

As if they were giving it a voice all its own.

Rena turned toward the field, closing her eyes once more as she listened. From a distance, she couldn't make out any of the words, but the vague sound gave the song a certain beauty. She took several steps toward the field, then parted the stalks, her feet crunching the ground as she pressed forward. The fields were empty.


Excerpted from "Shadow Among Sheaves"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Naomi Stephens.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Shadow among Sheaves (FREE PREVIEW) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
fromtheheartJH More than 1 year ago
Review of Shadow among the Sheaves by Naomi Stephens I really enjoyed this book by a new author! It takes place in the 1860’s in England and retells the story of Ruth in a unique way. A widow and her Indian daughter-in-law leave India after both their husbands die. They are almost completely destitute and are not sure how they will survive. Eventually Lord Barric enters the scene, but not always in a helpful manner. The prejudices displayed and the desperateness of the widows’ situation will stir your emotions. The story has strong characters, a vivid setting, and is compelling enough to keep you reading until you are finished. This is a great story for history lovers, but with the parallels to the story of Ruth, it will make you want to reread that as well. "I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review."
TheGrumpyBookReviewer 10 months ago
It’s 1861 in England, and Rena is traveling back to England from India with her widowed mother-in-law, Nell. The problem? Rena is Indian, and is the widow of an English husband, Edric Hawley. Because of the Indian uprising against the English colonizers, Rena is not welcome in England, but she will not abandon Nell, who is also known as Lady Hawley. Nell and Rena are destitute because of a problem with Lord Hawley’s will. Amid taunts and threats of sexual abuse Rena finds a way to feed and care for Nell. In this, her debut novel, Naomi Stephens spins a lovely tale of love, desperation, and resiliency in overcoming prejudice, bullying, fear, and starvation. In a time when Indian widows were scorned and often killed, Rena’s leaving India not only helped Nell, but probably saved Rena’s life. These characters are so life-like, I felt Rena's pain and confusion while trying to adapt to a completely different culture, and Nell's despair over losing her beloved family home. Shadow Among Sheaves makes statements about the British invasion and colonization of India, 19th century human rights for women, the manner in which the poor were, and often still are treated, and the ability to love and trust again after a devastating loss. Stephens’ story is strong and heartfelt. It is Christian fiction that shares that God’s love is for all people, but is not preachy, as some may think. What Makes This Reviewer Grumpy? - Incorrect verb usage (was vs. were, take vs. bring, coming vs. going); - Incorrect usage of the word “gleaning”: Rena was gleaning. The workers were harvesting. - Redundancies (report back vs. report); - Missing commas; - Split infinitives; - Mixing singular and plural within a sentence; - Using “further” in place of “farther”: they are not interchangeable.
Anonymous 12 months ago
I enjoyed the read and it's bring together people who are different cultures and finding love in spite of others
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kelly Hodgkins More than 1 year ago
“The sun was the same, but that was all. Blindingly hot, it hung low on the horizon as if dangled there by an invisible string.” - Opening lines of Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens A brilliant allegory of the book of Ruth, Shadow among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens captures the reader from its opening lines with vivid and emotive writing. Knowing the narrative, I didn’t anticipate the suspense created, it is a page-turner! Set in the 1880s, shortly after the revolt in India to British rule, the historical landscape is perfect for unpacking much of the trauma and healing the four short chapters in the Bible leave out whilst creating an amazing parallel. My heart broke for Nell and Rena as they return to England in mourning for their husbands and penniless. Mocked and belittled for being different, Rena suppresses her pride as she asks for charity for the first time in her life. Seeing her suffering, Lord Barric reaches out in compassion offering food and begins a sequence of events that soon neither can stop from unfurling. The writing is exquisite, so carefully constructed as to create a beautiful picture of happenings. The Indian perspective livens up the grey English landscape bringing vibrancy and intrigue. Rena wrestles with settling into England and understanding Christianity and her journey of coming to know God is a favourite element for me. The ending is wonderful but I was sad it arrived and paged back hoping there was more, I have become so attached to each of these characters! I want to know what happens for all the others in the small town too! It’s highly recommended and five out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story! When I was unable to read it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Wonderful characters! Thank you!
lghiggins More than 1 year ago
The Biblical story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth is known and quoted as an example of devotion. Upon the death of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages her daughter-in-laws to return to their home countries, but Ruth says: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16). In Shadow Among the Sheaves author Naomi Stephens uses this story in a new setting. Nell (Lady Hawley) and her daughter-in-law Rene move from India back to England in the glory days of the British Empire. Rene, from the highest caste in India, has promised to take care of Nell, but because of discrimination against Indians, they are treated as outcasts and beggars. Stephens’ story follows the same general lines as the Biblical story but is fleshed out with a deeper plot and extensive character development. Using the complexities of the ethnic divide and the social and class norms in Britain at that time, Stephens weaves a riveting tale of love and conflict. I would like to extend my thanks to and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Deanne Patterson More than 1 year ago
Shadow Among Sheaves is the debut novel of author Naomi Stephens and what an incredible book it is. This is the retelling of the biblical Ruth and Boaz. Rena was born in India but marries a British man. Traveling to England after his death she and her mother in law Nell are outcasts there. No one wants to hire them and they are starving. The story draws me right in . I could feel the compassion Rena has for her husband's mother Nell who she feels responsible for after his death. Very well written. Published April 1st 2019 by Shiloh Run Press I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
DKStevens119 More than 1 year ago
don't think I could describe it any better than the blurb! "A Timeless, Beautiful Allegory of the Biblical Love Story of Ruth and Boaz" Love, family and faith were the main thought of this young ladies life. Good story! I received a copy through the publisher and NetGalley, no review was required, my review is voluntary.
KR3 More than 1 year ago
This is quite an interesting take on the story of Ruth. Set in England shortly after conflicts between England and India, the story follows Rena as she struggles to find her place in her husband’s country. Marked as an undesirable due to her Indian heritage, she and her mother-in-law try their best—and fail—to make ends meet. Until Rena stumbles into the barley fields of Jack Fairfax, Lord Barric. What follows is a love story that is sweet and satisfying. My only wish is that Jack was a little less stern (my imagination of Boaz was always a man of unfailing kindness, so Jack’s stern/cross demeanor took me a bit off guard). Still, this was a good book and I wouldn’t mind reading Ms. Stephens again! Rated PG-13 for some perilous situations and slight innuendos. —clean read —no overt sexual scenes —mild language —no violence This ebook was provided to me free of charge by NetGalley in return for an honest opinion.
RobinWillson More than 1 year ago
"Most days she found her own past too painful in its vastness." England 1861. Intricate tale of a young Indian woman who married a British soldier, heir to a fortune. Similar to the biblical Ruth, when he and his father both died, she left India to follow her mother-in-law back to England. Neither realizing just how tough it would be. Severely rejected because of her race and nationality, both women were rejected and shunned by everyone and forced to live in a way neither had experienced before. Lord Barric grudgingly felt compelled to help these women, relatives by marriage. At first, he just allowed Rena to glean from his field. The story is excruciatingly painful to read at times, vividly brought to life by this talented author. Unfairness of discrimination, both of race and because they were women in the society of this day and age. And the customs of both countries. Through Rena, the beauty of the Indian people is unfolded. Although in India, the people didn't respect widows at that time; treated them harshly. In many parts of India, widows were beaten and shunned, cursed and spat upon, their clothes stripped away and ornaments ripped from their piercings so even their skin and flesh were broken. In the Indian state of Punjab, the term for widow - randi -was synonymous with the word for prostitute. But love has no racial boundaries. “We are so much more than our reputation,” she finally managed to reply, her face warming. “Stories cheat; truth is found only in friendship.” I was blessed to meet and work with people from India for a while, even more blessed to call these beautiful people friends. A time and friendship that I will always treasure. I didn't learn nearly enough about them and the land that they came from. The beauty and dignity of the main character in this story made me think of them. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher and NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” #ShadowAmongSheaves #NetGalley #NaomiStephens #BooksYouFeelGoodAbout
Jennybug52 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars- I have always loved the story of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible. So when I heard about this book retelling the story in 1862 England, I was eager to read it. It was such a fascinating read. I know very little about the history between India and Great Britain and the Indian Mutiny. I learned so much about this time in history and it fit so well with the story of Ruth. This book was hard to read at times because my heart felt so hurt for Rena and how she was treated by almost everyone. It brought such great perspective of how similar it must have been for Ruth in the Bible. I don’t think I ever quite grasped just how poorly she was probably treated. Rena was a woman of great courage and fortitude. She struggled to find a place to belong. Because of her marriage to an English soldier and subsequent widowhood she was cast out of Indian society, yet because she was Indian she was scorned by the British. Enter Barric, the only Englishman to show any sort of kindness to her, and that most begrudgingly. I’m still so torn on my thoughts of Barric. At times he seemed so angry and hardened, yet at other times there was this amazing sensitivity about him. There were some moments I felt like his words to Rena even bordered on cruel, yet I sensed a softness about him as well. I was also struck by how much alcohol the men drank in this book, Barric included.Maybe that was the norm? Overall, this was a story that tugged at my heart and kept me reading, wanting to see what would happen next. Even though I knew the outcome of the story in the Bible, I was curious to see how things would play out in this version. I look forward to reading more books by Naomi Stephens. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
SusanS More than 1 year ago
This is a fictional account of Rena, an Indian woman who married a British officer during the Great Rebellion. After her husband dies, she travels with his mother back to England, leaving her family and home land. In her heart, she is determined to take care of her mother-in-law with every ounce she possesses…and indeed it takes every ounce to succeed. The women suffer poverty and hunger as they struggle to survive. This book is brilliant. Naomi Stephens has captured the essence of Ruth and Boaz from the Bible through the story of Rena. The story is fictional of course, but I understood what Ruth from the Word of God went through so much better after reading Shadow Among Sheaves. The scorn, indignity and sacrifice Rena endured fairly leapt off the page. I highly recommend this book. I will be looking for more books by this author. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Faye_reviews More than 1 year ago
India born widow, Rena Hawley returns with her also widowed mother-in-law to the homeland of her late husband. In England she is met with disdain, and shamed for her exotic heritage. Rena works hard to help provide for herself and Nella, but the only productive work she can find is to glean in Lord Barric's field picking up what is left behind by the harvesters. Lord Jack Barric is intrigued by the beautiful woman who has come to glean in his fields, he allows her to stay and even arranges a place for her and her mother-in-law to live. But as the townspeople begin to chatter and spread malicious gossip about him and his relationship to Rena, things become strained and choices must be made. A Victorian re-telling of Ruth, Shadow Among Sheaves is a fresh new take on the story we all know so well. It made me admire Rena's bravery to travel to an unknown land and people, leaving everything familiar behind. Barric is honorable to a fault, constantly thinking about his reputation while also juggling his duty to do what is right. I liked how the characters were all flawed and imperfect, yet were not without redeeming qualities, which brought a realness to them that was refreshing. In some ways it was a slower read, and maybe it just felt that way because I did have a pretty good inkling on how it would likely end up. I also thought that there was a lot of justifying and overthinking going on inside the heads of Barric and Rena which had me skimming here and there. But I did really like how the author transposed the story into the late 1850's of Great Britain, with the culture clash of Rena's Indian upbringing, I could tell that the author had done her research with this genius re-telling. Overall, a promising read, good tension and that paints a picture of the societal challenges that a woman such as Rena would have faced in Britain in the mid-1800's. Strong themes of faith, family, and trust, the whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking what a great movie it would make. A wonderful new way of looking at Ruth and Boaz, set during Queen Victoria's reign. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Deana0326 More than 1 year ago
This book has been a joy to read. The author has taken a story from the bible and retold it in a way that brings readers right into the scenes with ease. I felt like I was there as the story unfolded. My heart broke for Nell and Rena as they found themselves penniless and no where to live. The deep compassion Rena has for her mother-in-law is compelling. The depths that Rena will go to in order to keep Nell safe and well is what I would call unconditional love. Rena and Nell both are grieving a loss but must find a way to survive when there is no one willing to help them. I can't imagine how hard it was for Rena to be called such horrible names by people and still honor her promise to her mother-in-law. I really admired Rena's strength and integrity and she found ways to provide for Nell. The time period was quite fascinating to read about and I loved the British theme in the story. It is easy to see Rena out in the fields as she collected the loose grains left behind by workers. She never complained about how hard it was to be in the field all day as the hot sun cast heat across her body. When we are introduced to Lord Barric I was immediately drawn to his compassion and humbleness. He was a character that gave off quiet strength and a heart that was pure. Being of British descant Barric is enthralled by the young woman from India. The rumors abound when he takes interest in her. The people who surrounded Lord Barric were concerned that his reputation would be damaged if he was to show any sympathy for Rena. It is funny how people jump to conclusions that Rena must be after Lord Barric's money and that since she is a foreigner she is not worthy of him. The story is similar to Ruth and Naomi from the bible but is told in a way that delves into more of what it was like to be an outcast and feel like you have been forgotten by God. It also highlights how a person is treated if they are from another country. The author kept my attention by telling a story that went into detail of the struggles of a young woman who made a promise she was willing to keep at all costs. The story flows easily and reminds readers that there is always hope. I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. The review is my own opinion.
thedanielsr More than 1 year ago
Really strong characters and interesting story.
Erin_Slocum More than 1 year ago
My Thoughts: This book is by an author I've read before and enjoyed her works. I thought this would be a neat retelling of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz. It focuses almost solely on the characters that are Ruth and Boaz though. Rena is Ruth and Lord Barric is Boaz. Okay, some brutal honesty. While this is a retelling of Ruth and Boaz it contains a few elements that would NOT allow me to let my teenage daughters read it. This has become a major benchmark for me. Will I let my girls read it? If the answer is no I really have to make myself think about whether I would really recommend it. For this book, yes, I will recommend it but with a caveat that it should be read by mature adults and not anyone impressionable still. The reason for the above paragraph is that there are some scenes with married interaction(not graphic), cussing, a bit of more gore than necessary, etc. I don't want this to deter you from the book though as it is a well-written keep you reading type of read. It just has a bit more extra than I was expecting. Okay, back to the story! Rena and Lady Hawley(Naomi character) are returning to England after the deaths of their husbands. They've been in India which is Rena's homeland. She is a very pretty Indian of high stature but none of that matters once they return to England. People snub their noses and want nothing to do with this foreigner and in turn nothing to do with Lady Hawley as well. While they wait to see what will become of the estate of Lady Hawley's husband they find refuge in some unlikely places like a brothel for one. Lord Barric does step in but he is torn. He finds Rena very beautiful and can be seen as almost caring but then in the next breath, he allows himself to have the same attitude towards her like the others. That attitude of disgust with her lineage. While it does follow the Biblical version I don't find Lord Barric quite as likable as Boaz. Maybe because after all these years of reading the story I have a different picture of him in my mind. I love the research that went into this novel! It is true to the time period and both countries. Definitely, this is a great accurate read but as I did mention above it should come with a bit of a warning before you read so you know that there is some adult type content.
5643437 More than 1 year ago
Shadow Among Sheaves takes the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible and sets it in the 1800s. Rena, a young lady from a wealthy family in India, married a British officer during a time of upheaval in India. After his death, she decides to move to England with her mother-in-law who has lost both her own husband and son to death. Left penniless through unexpected events the two have limited choices in Abbotsville because of Rena’s Indian heritage. Rena offers a similar strength to Ruth in the Bible without the initial belief in God that Ruth demonstrated. While I enjoyed the story, I do not think it necessarily follows the story of Ruth completely, and I am not quite sure how I feel about that fact. Also, given the time the story is set in and that it is a Christian book, I found some of the scenes including physical relationships to be too intimate for my tastes. One of my favorite characters is the Parson who demonstrates true Christian love and charity. One of my favorite scenes from the book is when Rena comes home and tells Nell that she has been baptized. Lord Barric is one of those characters I did not know what to think of at first. He seems to want to do the right thing but does not quite know what the right thing is. The ending of this book is fitting. So check it out for yourself.
TheBeccaFiles More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy Bible retellings (especially those about Ruth), then I have no doubt that you will simply fall into this one! I absolutely adored this story. I appreciated that it held the perfect balance between maintaining the essence of Ruth while still being its own unique narrative. What I thoroughly loved about this story was the emphasis on the cultural implications. We know that Ruth and Naomi were from different cultures but do we really grasp how significant that was? Or do we simply assume that Ruth changed who she was overnight and was no longer burdened by her upbringing? In this depiction Rena came from India. I personally don't know a lot about Indian culture, but I do know that it is very different from my own. Historically even more so. I appreciated the research that was added into the narrative to give a fuller picture of the type of life that Rena came from. There were pieces she missed and those she didn't, but seeing just what she'd given up to marry Edric in the beginning and then again to follow Nell into England was a thought-provoking journey. It saddened me to see that everywhere Rena went, people saw her as an enemy and a cast-off because they could tell she was Indian. What made matters worse was that even her own people wrote her off after she'd married an Englishman. Seeing Barric initially throw her kindness out of humanity to then come to truly care for her, was truly heartfelt. Not only did I enjoy reading about the characters in this telling, but I developed a further understanding of the original Biblical account through them. This story easily gets 5 stars from me. I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it to historical and biblical fiction fans! I was amazed that this was Naomi Stephen's debut novel as it was simply masterful. This is an author I will certainly be keeping my eye on for the future! *I received a copy of this book through CelebrateLit. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.
Ourpugs More than 1 year ago
Shadow among sheaves The book was a little slow at first but within a few chapters it got interesting. Loved how Rena cared for her mother-n-law. Rena and Nell are both widows. The story is set in England around 1861. They end up homeless. They do find work and end up living in a closet. Through trying to find food Rena meets Lord Barric. He ends helping them. Basically that was when the book got very interesting. The book had great characters, great word flow. A fast read. I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit. I was not required to write an positive review. This is my own opinion.
Becky5 More than 1 year ago
“The Sun was the same, but that was all.” I was intrigued by the first sentence, sure that I had discovered another jewel in Shadow Among Sheaves by Naomi Stephens. The novel takes place in England in 1861. Touted to be a modern recounting of the Old Testament story of Ruth and Boaz, I was disappointed. Stephens does a great job describing India; its revolt against Britain; the hatred of the one people for the other. She also shows us how much Rena loved Edric, but I felt like so many details of the story that Scripture spoke to, were ignored and the circumstances changed for the sake of the story. We don’t know a lot about Boaz, but again, I felt the character representing him was not as honorable and respected as the one shown in Scripture. The author uses a couple of swear words a few times over. In both cases, it was a few times too much for my taste. I am not a prude, but I don’t expect to have to read those words in Christian books. In summary, I thought this was a great book to explain the resulting relations between the British and Indian peoples following the Indian revolt against British rule. It was not, however, a great representation of the Biblical Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. This is only my opinion. I would encourage you to read other reviews and judge carefully for yourself. I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit. All opinions are my own responsibility and no positive review was required.
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
This was a little bit different for a historical romance. I was not sure whether Rena and Nell were going to survive moving from India back to England. It was nice to read a story that was different than normal. I had a hard time putting this down. I received a copy of this book from Celebratelit and Barbour Publishing for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.
Kristen_Gwen_Johnson More than 1 year ago
Retellings always feel like I’m visiting an old friend and discovering something I never knew about them. It’s comfortable and familiar, but also fresh and exciting as the author deepens the characters, emotions, and conflicts of the story. Naomi Stephens does that in this retelling of the Biblical story of Naomi and Ruth set in England, 1861. Shadow Among Sheaves tells the story of Rena, a newly widowed East Indian woman, who promises her mother-in-law, Nell, that she will follow her to England. They are destitute, falling victim to English entailment restrictions on women inheriting property, but Rena does her best to provide of them both. Starving and desperate, Rena comes upon a field where the workers are harvesting and, in her hunger, she steals some grain. When the master, Lord Barric, hears about her, he allows her to come and take what she and Nell need. One thing leads to another and soon Rena and Nell are under the protection and provision of Lord Barric. The love between Barric and Rena grows, though they struggle to admit it as they push past hurts and misunderstandings. Rena’s fierce love for Nell makes you love and cheer for her, and the way she is treated by everyone in the town makes you want to jump to defend her. She is strong and gentle, brave and timid all wrapped up in one petite bundle and you can’t help but cheer for her. Lord Barric is a man with many strings pulling on him, be it family ties, societal pressures, or his own expectations, and he is conflicted as how to best care for Rena and his own estate. While I definitely had sympathy for Lord Barric, as a character, I found him passive. He more or less went along with whatever he was told to do or what was expected of him until the very end. That being said, I still cheered Lord Barric and Rena on as the book went along. Overall, I recommend this wonderful story of finding second love, holding firm to who God says we are, and sacrificing for the ones we love. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
InspirationallyEverAfter More than 1 year ago
The description of "Shadow Among Sheaves" immediately caught my attention. In part, the author's bio was a draw, because I lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana for several years. I used to drive past the IPFW campus on a regular basis, since it was near our home. More importantly, however, I enjoy historical fiction set in the Regency and Victorian eras, and I have read several excellent books which could likewise be classified as Biblical allegorical fiction. It's a tricky genre! It can easily grow imbalanced, either slanting toward trying too hard to remain true to the original story or careening headlong toward reckless theology. While I wouldn't urge readers to discard all theological studies in favor of fiction, rest assured: this book hits the sweet spot, delivering both a compelling story and a beautiful tribute to the original Biblical story. Rena, a young Indian woman from the highest caste, hastily eloped with a young British officer with whom she fell in love. After his untimely death and the subsequent death of her father-in-law, she insists upon accompanying her impoverished mother-in-law, Nell, back to England. The two women quickly discover, however, that Rena is viewed as not only an outsider, but also with great suspicion and prejudice following the Great Rebellion of 1857, an uprising among Indian members of the British army in which many British officers were killed. For Rena, who enjoyed great freedom and privilege as the treasured daughter of a wealthy and influential family, the contrast could hardly be greater. As a widow who has chosen to align herself with her British mother-in-law, however, she has fallen from grace in her first culture and is no longer truly welcome in India, either. Nell and Rena find themselves helplessly entrapped in poverty, a plight often explored in novels set during this era, due to the nature of entailed estates and uncharitable relatives. In desperation, Rena finds them a temporary living situation in a tavern and begins to forage for food, which brings her to the fields of a local landowner, Lord Barric, who reluctantly allows her a place among his field workers. As the young woman bowed by grief, once little more than a shadow among his sheaves of wheat, hesitantly and reluctantly emerges from her self-imposed solitude, Lord Barric is drawn to her, despite the warnings of his steward and uncle. Will he become a savior for the desperate women or will he plunge Rena into ruin once and for all? Readers, this is a book which will pull you into the Victorian era and drag you (quite willingly) through the Dickensian suspense of characters steeped in grief and teetering on the razor's edge of ruin. Rena and Nell are entrapped in a proper Gothic dilemma hinging upon their protectors' premature deaths and the conditions of an irregular will. Only an Austen-worthy hero can possibly save them. The characters have depth, the dialogue felt plausible, and the plot twisted predictably only because I am familiar with the story of Ruth. I read it not only once, but twice, and will gladly read it again! I'm stingy with rave reviews, but this is a debut novel which easily earns five stars, two thumbs up, and a spot on my "favorites of 2019" list. I am ecstatic to have a strong new voice in Christian fiction and eagerly anticipate Naomi Stephens' next book. I read an Advance Reader Copy of this book provided through Celebrate Lit. All opinions contained in the review are my own.
GailHollingsworth More than 1 year ago
It’s July 1861 in Abbotsville, England, hot and bleak for two widows. They have been turned away from various households and businesses as they search for work. They are starving, without money and with no place to rest. Rena is from India. She was married to Nell’s son, who was British. After he passes away Rena feels compelled to take care of her mother in law. Rena’s nationality has caused them to be shunned by nearly everyone. Talk about prejudice! This story is based loosely on the Biblical account of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Rena is allowed to gather the “scraps” from the wheat harvesting to sell in town to keep them from totally dying of starvation and allowing them to sleep in a closet at a brothel. What’s to become of them and how does Lord Barric fit in? I felt so sorry for Rena and how she was treated by those around her. Nell clung heavily to her faith but Rena seemed in despair most of the time. She had been raised Hindu in her home in India. But she was much stronger than her weak, frail body indicated and worked as hard as she could to take care of Nell. It was a compassionate story of sacrifice and unselfish love one for another. A lesson good for all to learn from. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Celebrate Lit but was not required to write a review positive or otherwise.