Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.
For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant . . . until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upsidedown. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?
Israel's unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas's sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God...
Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter. Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.
Roseanna's book broached a niggling question I always had regarding Hadassah and Marcus, characters from Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series: What if Marcus hadn't stopped with just heart-pounding kisses?
I got swept up in this story. I mean, goose-bumps-chills-and-shivers swept up. Roseanna's approach to developing the character of young Abigail was so well done that I felt along with Abigail her shame, desire, shock, hope, betrayal, and happiness.
As a bonus, I got transported back to Jesus' time, and it was hard to shut the book and have to remind myself that what I was reading didn't happen. It was just all so feasible and plausible and believable...it was like getting a sideways glimpse into the gospel stories from people who were there. Barabbas' uprising, the crucifixion, the Day of Pentecost...A Stray Drop of Blood got me to thinking about these historic events in a different way.
What about the people who had to deal with the grief Barabbas inflicted upon their families as his group of rebels wreaked havoc upon Jerusalem? What about the guard who had the job of leading Jesus up the path to Golgotha? Or the friends of the man whose son Jesus healed, causing him to run and jump after years of lameness? We tend to read the Bible in a vacuum, I think, and we forget that people back then were just like we are now--curious, disbelieving, outraged, debauched, considerate--they just wore different clothes from us and didn't update their facebook and twitter accounts regularly.
Donning the therapist hat, there were several things Roseanna dealt with in her biblical fiction that are so pertinent to people today, as well. First and probably foremost is rape. Let's just address it. It happened back then, so why not? As a slave--with little to no rights at all--Abigail was forced to do something she didn't want to do. She had to go through the same feelings and thoughts rape victims go through today, and she had to do it all under watchful eyes as she was to still perform her duties and never to say a word to anyone. As a result, Jason isn't my favorite character. He was the quintessential victimizer, using force and manipulation, but he has a redemption story that's worth reading.
The second thing dealt with is harassment. The opening line on the back of the book says it all: Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected. Abigail garners attention no matter where she goes, most of it unwanted. She had to step lightly, and even that didn't always work.
Roseanna incorporated feelings of being ostracized and forsaken, as well. Most everyone can relate to feeling this way at some point or another. Abigail's entrance to the story is thick with abandonment. How could God have let what happened to her happen? Why her? Even when she marries out of her station, she then faces another type of exclusion: being above her station in life in name only. People still saw her as a slave.
And Abigail wasn't the only one to feel this way. Cleopas, her father-figure, experiences his own rejection, although of a much different kind. I hadn't stopped to consider how a Gentile might feel about Jesus' teachings. Everyone knew that the Jews were God's chosen people. How might a Roman soldier, who tried to live by the Mosaic law, feel about this favoritism? How second-rate they must have felt...until Jesus came and preached to the Gentiles! How freeing and unburdening this must have been for those that fell into that camp of Gentile God-fearers!
Last, Roseanna plunges her characters deep into the throes of grief and trauma. People die, and when they do, survivors grieve. It's natural. Having Abigail present at the crucifixion commanded a large turning point of the story. And with Easter around the corner, it helped me to see Jesus' death and resurrection in a new light. People do bond during traumatic encounters, and this is portrayed very realistically while at the same time spinning the story around to a new, necessary direction. They also do things out of character and perhaps even stupid and dangerous. If you read this book, you'll experience the depths of the characters' emotion yourself, so I need not say more.
Thanks, Roseanna, for such a great read. Losing yourself between the pages of a book is so wonderful. :)
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***This book was given to me free of charge from the author. 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.***