Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Review: The Black Cloister (Giveaway)

One day, Christian author Melanie Dobson was wondering about self-tanning lotion. That's when she came across the Jergens review on my blog, on which I have several references to my favorite books. She noticed that I enjoy Christian suspense, and asked me if I'd like to read and review her book, The Black Cloister. And boy, am I glad she needed a little glow this spring, because I have loved this book!

Here is the description:
After her mother commits suicide, Elise Friedman travels to Germany to search for answers and discovers her mother’s dark secret inside the walls of a medieval abbey. When the man who destroyed her mother threatens to destroy her as well, Elise fights for a way out of the darkness before she is consumed.

I told a friend of mine that I was reading a Christian suspense novel, and he said there was no such thing. He said that with Christian fiction there is no suspense, because you always know that everything is going to turn out right in the end. Well, I won't tell you how the story turns out, but I have to respectfully disagree with my friend, especially in the case of The Black Cloister. Melanie Dobson brought the characters' struggles, intense emotions and harrowing adventures to life in my mind as I tore through the pages. From the first page, I was thrust into the lives of Catrina, her daughter Elise, maverick Carson, sweet Sarah, and others, as they experienced the shocking revelations about The Chosen, an abusive religious cult, the pain of their memories, and the road to God's healing for each and every one of them. Regardless of the story's resolution, part of the suspense exists as the reader is drawn into the emotional turmoil of the characters. Melanie's descriptive writing flows wonderfully, and the dialog is natural and believable.

I read this book shortly after dozens of children were removed from a religious cult in Texas. This "real life" cult is suspected of polygamy, "marrying" young children to older men, complete seclusion and fear of "the world," and physical abuse. Before seeing that, I may have doubted the portrayal of The Chosen in the Black Cloister as hyperbole. Now I see that this work of fiction reflects reality for many people in the world, and Dobson really gets into the psyche of these precious children of God, who are deceived by self serving con artists. When I saw the women of the Texas cult, I admit my heart was a little callous toward them, wondering how they could get involved with something like that. After reading this book, I feel like weeping for them. And my righteous anger burns for those who control their minds.

I have been forever changed as a result of reading Melanie's book, and you will be, as well. The action and suspense that usually keep me turning the pages of a book were there in full force, but they were also overshadowed by a larger story. The story of God's love for His creation, His goodness despite the evil darkness this world can hold, and His tenacity in pursuing the one lamb that was lost.

About Melanie Dobson:
Melanie Beroth Dobson is the author of the inspirational novels Together for Good (Kregel, 2006) and Going for Broke (David C. Cook, 2007), and The Black Cloister (Kregel, 2008), as well as the co-author of Latte for One and Loving It! A Single Woman's Guide to Living Life to Its Fullest(Cook, 2000).

Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.


I'd like to pass on my copy of The Black Cloister to a Real Life Review reader. It's gently read, and I think I rubbed off some of the gold on the cover letters as I was intensely flipping the pages. To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post, and be sure to check out Melanie's website,, where you can learn all about Melanie, how she came up with the idea for The Black Cloister, and her other works.

  • If you are a subscriber to Real Life Review, you get an extra entry. (Click here to subscribe in a reader, or enter your email address in the form at the top of the page.) Leave a separate comment.
  • The contest will be open through Friday, August 1, and the winner will be announced on Saturday
  • Open only to US addresses.

You can see the Amazon listing here:


Lift Up Your Hearts said...

This sounds intriguing! Thanks for the great review!

Amber@OneMamma said...

Hi Sarah!
I love Christian fiction and this one sounds especially good. Thanks for passing it on!

Amber@OneMamma said...

I just got my Google Reader up and running (thanks to Simple Mom's article the other day) and, yes, I subscribe to your feed.

I'm amazed at how much time using a reader saves me each day. More time for fun things like playing puzzles, baking and sewing!

windycindy said...

Hello! What a great sounding suspense book. I saw all of that about the Texas Compound and then last evening, saw the Cambodian crisis of selling very young children as sex slaves. How very sad! Please enter me in your book drawing. Thanks very much! Cindi

Kate said...

OH WOW, this sounds GREAT!!! count me in girlfriend.....I am totally subscribed to ya too!! :D

Niki said...

That book sounds awesome! I will definetly have to check it out!

misty said...

Thanks so much for the opportunity.

planetmisty at gmail dot com

misty said...

I am also a subscriber.

Laura said...

I'd love a good book!

Heather said...

Sounds good. I have really enjoyed picking up a good book this summer. I will have to add this one to my list

Melanie Dobson said...

Thanks so much for reading "The Black Cloister" and for your amazing review! My eyes were opened as I researched cults like the Chosen, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share this story.

To God be the Glory!!

Marisa said...

Sounds great! Sign me up!

Grammy said...

Thank you for the opportunity to win this book. I too love Christian suspense and I love your site and your reviews. Thank you