The Secrets of the Cross Trilogy
Two Destinies-Finalist for The Christy Award, 2013, for excellence in Christian fiction
One intriguing era in France's history, one unforgettable cast of characters, and one of the best writers in the CBA today all add up to one incredible read! In Two Crosses, Elizabeth Musser has achieved another literary triumph.
~Ann Tatlock, award-winning author of Promises to Keep
A wonderful tale of love, sacrifice, war and courage, written in stunning detail. Elizabeth Musser is an amazing storyteller.
~Susan Meissner, author of A Sound Among the Trees
Elizabeth Musser reminds me of Francine Rivers. The characters are real, the drama is gripping, and the Spirit rises up from the grass roots of the story. You'll love Two Crosses.
~Creston Mapes, best-selling author of Nobody
In a novel rich in historical detail, Elizabeth Musser spings an intriguing story of the lives and loves of young people caught up in the Algerian revolution to win independence from France in 1954-1962. It was a costly conflict, and we are invited to see it through the eyes of those living on both sides of the Mediterranean. Christian convictions and patriotic loyalties are put to the test as God works His plans for individuals and nations. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
~Ruth Stewart, AWM missionary for forty years in Algeria and France
Two Testaments untangles the complicated history of Algeria's war for independence from France. You feel as though you know the characters. The surprising twists in the story never stop. As the book comes to an end you are ready to immediately pick up Two CrossesIn this delightful story, the sounds, scents and scenery of France and Algeria come alive.
~Margy Haines, former missionary with over thirty years of missionary experience Algerians and French in North Africa during the end of the war
Musser does an excellent job of showing the senselessness of war....Two Crosses will leave readers wanting more...
...first novelist Musser captures the loneliness one feels in a strange land....interesting!
~WNIV, Atlanta, GA
Two Testaments is a book with great content and, like the first volume, of exceptional quality. The writer keeps the reader fascinated…
~Radio Goeree Lokaal, Netherlands
I can really recommend Two Testaments
~De Heraut, Netherlands
Elizabeth Musser is able to reflect the hatred between different people groups in a way that draws the reader in…
~Reformatorisch Dagblad, Netherlands
Two Crosses is extraordinarily fascinating…
Great job! I loved it!
~Jill Briscoe, Author and speaker, Brookfield, WI
It is September 1961, and Gabriella Madison is on a one year Franco-American exchange programme in Castelnau, near Montpelier in France. The programme is headed by Mother Griolet, who Gabrielle herself has met before, as a child of six, even though the nun does not mention the fact. This gives us an early sense of hidden secrets and unsolved mysteries. And Mother Griolet is not the only one with secrets. It appears that the handsome young professor, David Hoffman, has some of his own, and these are about to involve Gabriella.
David invites Gabriella out socially (obviously student-teacher relationships are not an issue), and she begins to fall for him despite the fact that she is a strong Christian, the daughter of American missionaries in West Africa, and he is a half-Jewish atheist. Ophélie is the six-year-old daughter of Anne-Marie Duchemin, a pied noir, a French woman born and raised in Algeria. Anne-Marie is missing, and Ophélie finds herself in Castelnau, in the orphanage run by Mother Griolet. Like Gabriella, Ophélie wears a Huguenot cross necklace, but doesn’t understand its’ significance.
The background to Two Crosses is the Algerian war for independence from the French. The early chapters therefore have quite a bit of explanation of the historical context, which some readers might find slow or off-putting. Personally, I have always enjoyed history, and one of my personal bugbears is authors who set novels in a particular time and place but get the facts wrong. So while there was quite a bit of information in the opening chapters, I liked the fact that the author knew the time and the area. The story is very well plotted, and the disparate strands come together as the story progresses.
One of the characters says, “The war is over independence, but still religion divides”. Rick Warren recently tweeted that church splits are less often about differences in doctrine than they are about a clash of egos. It seems that the same could be said of many wars. Are they really about religion, or are they a fatal clash of ego? Two Crosses would seem to confirm Rick Warren’s view.
The writing style reminds me of Michael Phillips, particularly his 'Secrets of the Rose' series. Both cover a similar period of history, both feature American protagonists in living Europe, both have characters with a strong Christian faith and both are written with varying third person points of view. I particularly liked the character of Mother Griolet, the wise old nun who provides Gabrielle and others with practical and spiritual guidance.
Two Crosses is not a light read, nor an easy read. But it is a worthwhile read. While telling a story about the recent past, the stories of the Huguenots’ reflect on the more distant past, and encourage the reader to think of the present and the future. As the old saying goes, those who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. Well worth reading, particularly for those who enjoy solid historical fiction.
~Iola Goulton, NetGalley Reviews, July 2012
The Art of Steering | 25 August 2012
The trilogy (Two Crosses, Two Testaments and Two Destinies) chronicles the history of several generations of a family with French, American and Algerian connections. Based in Montpellier with brief interludes in Algeria, this story is one of great faith in a God who sometimes seems to lead his people into real danger for the sake of Muslims who don't yet know him. The Midi culture and environs are powerfully drawn: knowing Montpellier quite well, I can almost feel the shimmer of the Mediterranean heat as the story weaves through the Place de la Comedie and the shadowed streets off to its sides.
I came across these books quite by chance at a time when I wanted some fiction to make light relief from my diet of endless how-to books on church, discipleship and leadership. I never expected to review these books as so much of the Christian fiction I'd read was not great. But this trilogy was a complete surprise, being both educational as well as having an engaging storyline.
~Chloe Lynch, NetGalleys review
In 1961, twenty-one year old Gabriella Madison arrives in Castelnau, France as part of the Franco-American exchange program at the Church of Saint Joseph. Director Mother Griolet welcomes the forty-two young women.
After Mother Griolet dismisses the students, Gabriella and her housemate Stephanie rush over to their first class "Visions of Man, Past and Present" conducted in English and French by M. David Hoffmann. The young ladies try to act mature with him as each assumed she is the perfect debutante for him which amuses the professor. However, he is stunned by his attraction to the red haired pupil wearing the Huguenot Cross as this Gabriella reminds him of a Raphaelite angel who shocks him that she knows Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man." Gabriella is attracted to her literature professor but after offering to help at the orphanage she meets the little children, mostly victims of the Algerian war for independence. She finds herself challenging her Christian beliefs.
The reprint of the first Secrets of the Cross historical Christian thriller is a great opener starring a young woman who begins to question her faith as she learns more about the war and herself. A coming of age tale, readers will relish Gabriella's growth as a woman who cares. With a warm regard to various religions, Elizabeth Musser provides a timely story of faith in the home front during the time of a violent war.
~Midwest Book Review, June 2012
The glittering Huguenot cross she innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows.
Gabriella Madison goes to France in 1961 to complete her education. She is a missionary’s daughter, and out of place among all the rich socialites also attending there. But she also catches the attention of a professor—David Hoffman.
Suddenly she is drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. And the further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged.
People surround her with a whirlwind of transforming forces—with a wise man involved in smuggling, a little girl carrying secret information, and a man with unknown loyalties who catches her heart. But then she discovers a long hidden secret about her past, a secret that has the power to destroy everything.
Two Crosses is the first book in Ms. Musser’s Secrets of the Cross trilogy. It caught my interest from the very first pages... with a heroine that readers just want to cheer for and a charming little girl who just captures your heart. Plus a host of other characters who are well developed and real. I highly recommend Two Crosses and look forward to reading the second book in the series Two Testaments.
Two Crosses begins the unforgettable story of several characters in a saga that stretches across opposite coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. The racism plaguing Algeria’s people as they fight for independence from France creates a chasm in the early 1960s that spins uncontrollably.
Teacher and student, David and Gabriella meet at a Franco-American exchange program. Mother Griolet manages the operation along with an orphanage, which doubles as the cover of a rescue mission in France. Gabriella helps David with the dangerous operation of transporting orphaned children whose family were victims of the Algerian war. David’s own past reemerges as his daughter Ophélie arrives on Gabby’s doorstep, epitomizing the stolen innocence of the children due to wartime treachery. Gabby and Ophélie bond immediately; they proudly wear their Huguenot crosses close to their hearts, which becomes symbolic and healing even as David tries to reconcile his own questions of faith with the horrors of the war he has witnessed. Gabby’s relationships with the women in the school and the orphanage are also an integral part of the story as she slowly realizes her calling in life.
Book Two seamlessly picks up the story from Two Crosses, as there is no clear divide between them. These books are definitely meant to be read in order, and the characterizations and the consequences of the war are as splendidly portrayed as in the first book.
Two Testaments continues with the aftermath of Algerian independence, as David befriends a Muslim friend and they question their faiths together. Although the war is supposed to be over, people have been forced to split and choose sides. The pieds-noirs were French citizens, unwanted after being forced from Algeria; the Harkis were Muslim soldiers who once fought alongside Arabs but found themselves unwelcome in the newly independent Algeria. Two Testaments tells the story of the pieds-noirs and the Harkis through several characters in a way that evokes tears because of the violence and tragedy. Yet there was always hope, and victory for some, death for others, and insecurity for the rest.
The plot is a well-written composition that teaches a little about life during tragic times, it is moving and emotive as the characters reach for understanding through a higher power. There is a daunting set of names and places at first, but they are threaded together carefully throughout the story. Both of these novels explore deep themes such as prejudice, God, love, sacrifice, and hope, but these words just skim the surface of its potential to touch the reader. Book Three, Two Destinies, picks up the saga of these families 30 years later as war yet again becomes unavoidable.
~Historical Novel Society
The first two books in Elizabeth Musser's Secrets of the Cross Trilogy, Two Crosses and Two Testaments, introduce readers to a dark spot in France's history. They do not, however, leave readers without a glimmer of hope. By combining a unique cast of characters, compelling dialogue, and an intriguing plot line, Musser teaches her audience about the struggles and uncertainties civilians of 1961 France and Algeria were dealing with in the midst of the French-Algerian war.
The Hugo mission begins in Two Crosses, where a nun, an Algerian harki, an atheist teacher, and a Protestant exchange student, unknowingly at first work together to rescue pied-noir and harki children from a revengeful man in Algeria, with the symbol of the Huguenot cross leading the way. Mother Griolet, the nun who operates a French exchange school in Castelnau as well as an orphanage, is not new to keeping information secret and housing children displaced by war. But when Gabriella Madison arrives as a student, Mother Griolet becomes unsure of what God has in store as she remembers another young woman with a painful past. As Gabriella grows closer to the young and handsome teacher David Hoffman, Mother Griolet's suspicions of the man lead her to feel protective of Gabriella.
After David rescues a small girl named Ophelie Duchemin off the streets of Paris following a riot, Mother Griolet feels a little better about David, but Gabriella is pulled even deeper into danger as she travels to random towns with David and gets to know Ophelie because of the Huguenot cross necklace they both wear. As both David and Gabriella fight with the idea of forgiveness in regard to their pasts, Gabriella tries to hold onto Jesus' promise that, "I am the vine; you are the branches" (John 15:5), but several "accidents" occur and lead to life-or-death situations, threatening the success of the Hugo mission and bringing about an understanding that saves more than one life.
However, as seen in Two Testaments, even with the Hugo mission being mostly successful, the cease-fire and call for independence in Algeria leave thousands of pied-noir and harki families without a place to call home. The French do not want them to steal jobs and space, and those loyal to Algeria see them as traitors and foreigners. When David decides to continue his work in Algeria in order to rescue Anne-Marie Duchemin, a past lover and Ophelie's mother, Gabriella starts to wonder if he will realize he still loves Anne-Marie and forget about his new love for her.
After a couple of deadly weeks in Algeria, David is finally able to get Anne-Marie to a ferry that will take her to France, but when no harkis are allowed on the ferries, David once again prolongs his stay in Algeria in order to save Anne-Marie's friend Moustafa and his family. Luckily, Anne-Marie is not alone on the long journey, for she meets an old friend who holds her father's last testament, which could reveal that nothing is left after the war or change her and Ophelie's lives forever. When Gabriella is left to take care of the children from the St. Joseph orphanage and protect Anne-Marie and Ophelie from an unforeseen threat, she must have faith that God will protect them and see her through all that lies ahead.
Throughout these two books, Musser's style remains consistent, pulling readers along as she introduces them to complex, relatable characters and takes them through the beautiful streets of France and the terrifying alleys of Algeria. Through the use of strong dialogue and the characters' inner thoughts, Musser is not only able to tell an amazing story about courage, love, and forgiveness, but she also informs readers about a piece of history they may not know or remember, showing that minorities, no matter where they are, should not be taken for granted.
I am so glad that the first two books came out together, because it would not have been fun impatiently waiting for the second book to come out months later. With that said, I most certainly recommend reading Elizabeth Musser's Two Crosses and Two Testaments. - Nicole E. Dynes, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
I like history and Elizabeth Musser is doing her best to increase not only my knowledge of history but political and religious freedoms as well. The Algerian war of independence officially ended on July 3 1962, when France’s President Charles de Gaulle formally renounced his nation’s sovereignty over Algeria and proclaimed its independence. However strife seems to be in the air in Algeria and in December of 1991 Civil War broke out between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups. This war would not end until 2002 and it is into this arena that we are introduced to Risléne Namani and Eric Hoffmann. “Two Destinies” is filled with danger, suspense, thrills and romance. Once again Ms. Musser has provided us a gripping adventure with plenty of action and memorable characters that you really care about. If you are looking for history you will find it here. If you are looking for a really good romance you will find it here. I liked this book and am really sorry that this series is over. The good news is there will be more stories from Ms. Musser that we can look forward to.