CFBA Tour—Amber Morn

Brandilyn Collins is a wonderful writer. My problem, not hers, is that she writes suspense. I’ve known for some time that I belong to her Big Honkin’ Chicken Club … though marginally. These are readers who steer away from all things scary. I only marginally belong in the club because nothing I’ve read of Brandilyn’s hits my too-scary button.

Her latest release, Amber Morn , the final installment in her Kanner Lake series, didn’t push the envelop either. What I have come to realize, however, is that I want something more.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Amber Morn is an example of Brandilyn’s fine writing. She’s done something different in this book, too. As a way of closing out a series centered on the people of Kanner Lake who come together at the cafe Java Joint, Brandilyn has written a story featuring an ensemble cast. It is a unique book, very different from the previous three in this series.

And the story has a surprise twist at the end, one I didn’t see coming at all. I love to be surprised in a story, and Brandilyn delivered.

But … but … I don’t love the book as I suspect suspense readers do. I didn’t feel the thrill or the worry or the fear that I read other fans experiencing. I didn’t devour the book, turning pages late into the night, then keep the light on to chase away the fright, as others have reported.

In other word, this book succeeds mightily in giving lovers of suspense just what they want. I, however, am not a lover of suspense. Never have been.

Still, I will happily tell others who are fans of the genre, especially of stories written from a Christian worldview, you won’t be disappointed with Amber Morn. There are three-dimensional bad guys, sympathetic characters, heros, innocent bystanders … lots of people to care for. And a plot with interesting turns and plenty, plenty of suspense.

I will admit, two things snagged me. One is connected to an early incident that looked like it happened but didn’t (I don’t want to give a spoiler). In my mind, that was a lose-lose scenario, because if it did happen, I would have been upset with the book, but because it didn’t happen, my reaction to the rest of the story was tempered.

The second snag was the motivation of the three perpetrators. I thought they were selflessly taking on sure condemnation for the sake of the youngest brother. To me, it didn’t seem to fit their character, to knowingly face prison (at best) just so Youngest could go free. Doubtless, most readers will see no problem with the character motivation. There is an element of plausibility—a familial tie that seems … touching. But in thinking, what does this character hope for? it seemed odd to think, He hopes his youngest will go free even though he and the other two sons will never enjoy him or reap benefit from his freedom. They just didn’t seem that selfless to me.

But there you have it. I’ve come to realize, I want to read books with characters that ponder the consequences of their actions, who are changed internally as well as externally. Not just books that give momentary thrills.

Clearly, momentary thrills are there aplenty in Amber Morn. And for those who enjoy fast action, heart-pounding, seatbelt suspense, this book will not disappoint.

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 11:01 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. You’ve touched on one of those intangibles, Becky. I loved Brandilyn’s early suspense novels (Eyes of Elisha, etc.), but I’ve noticed that some of the authors I’ve enjoyed in the past are writing to fit the current trends and/or demands of publishers, and I’m finding their newer work less appealing. I enjoy suspense, mystery, thrillers, but this novel didn’t compel me to turn the pages as her past novels have done.

    It has nothing and everything to do with the writing. How many times have we heard “Less is more”? I disagree. BC writes very lean now. Not my favorite. No one can fault her for following her own or her publisher’s preferences. She noted once in a post on her blog something which alluded to a “what if” moment where she could write kind of in a “no holds barred” way. I think I’d like to read one of those novels if she ever writes it.


  2. I’m amazed and impressed by your honest and sensitive evaluation of this book. I don’t read in this genre, but it was really interesting to read your able analysis. You sound like a former English teacher. : ) (From a… well… a former English teacher! Me.)


  3. Thanks, Becky. I always look forward to your honest feedback.

    And, yeah, Nicole, I hear you. I like the books I write today, but they are different from Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion. Those books were each about 120,000 words. Way too long for today’s standards and for what my publisher wants. The longer word count allows for multiple storylines and subplots. Can’t do that in the current word count.

    However, if you’re referring to “leaner” as a style of writing, that’s a different thing. My style IS leaner today. That is, every word counts, whereas in EOE and DC I had longer paragraphs and was more wordy in general. Perhaps this is a style you personally like better.


  4. Laura, when I write a review like this, I generally tell myself, Well, in all probability, the author will never see it anyway. So who comments right after you? 😮

    Seriously, I love Brandilyn’s writing. I love the way she crafts a story and develops her characters. It’s actually very sad to me that she’s a suspense writer! Great gain for those who love that type of story.



  5. Brandilyn, you’re right: I do. And you’re good at it. I prefer your writing that way because of the investment in all facets of the story. I love long novels, I prefer long novels, I write long novels. Tough cookies for me, I know.


  6. Thank you for introducing me to this writer. I love to read and started a blog to share my reviews of the christian books I have read. But then I realized that all the books I’ve read and loved have come from just a handful of authors. When I like an author, I am faithful to read the whole series of books that follows the first one. I am eager to check out the books Brandilyn Collins has written. And I will be popping in here again to see who else you may introduce me to. Thanks again.



  7. Kelli, I’m so happy you’ve discovered Brandilyn. I hope you appreciate her writing like I do. You’ll have many happy hours of reading.

    For a complete list of her books, check out her web site:



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