Thursday, July 30, 2015

Where Treasure Hides by Johnnie Alexander

Where Treasure Hides
Johnnie Alexander
Tyndale House Publishers

Official Backpage Synopsis

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
Alison is a very passionate young woman regarding art. It is her sole pursuit, her one true love apart from Ian, and she is constantly faced with a question throughout Where Treasure Hides, something known as the Mona Lisa question. In other words, is art worth dying for?

If you were to ask my sister, she would likely say yes. An impassioned young woman herself, she lives and breathes art and holds the Monuments Men in very high esteem for their courageous protection of the great masterpieces from Nazi Germany during World War II. However, my sister also loves people, and if it came down to a choice between a painting or a person, she would pick the person hand's down. For myself, not really an art connoisseur, I wouldn't hesitate. Let the painting, no matter what it is, meet an ugly end if it means saving a human life.

Alison struggles with this concept and it bothers her that she struggles. Even though she spent a great deal of Holland's occupation safe-guarding Jewish children and delivering them into the arms of families who would take them in, the same niggling doubt still oppresses her. Which does she love more? Art or people?

The finale of this story is revelatory for her, a necessary moment where she realizes what she values most cannot be a work of art. It's a timeless theme of choosing life, and Ms. Alexander spun her tale around that theme very solidly. I applaud her for it.

I will say, though, that the whole Van Schuyler family "fate" thing, where no one in Alison's family life had a happily-ever-after was absurd. That's an unrealistic reason to not marry, especially if you're a Christian. Are you going to believe in a "curse" or put your faith in your Heavenly Father?

The Characters
Ian I loved as soon as he was separated from Alison and became a POW in Germany. He faced some truly ugly ordeals during his time there, and it toughened him in ways that I can respect, ways other than being so ardently in love with Alison. Just as Alison traverses her journey, so does Ian also traverse his own. Part of this means coming to terms with his anger and the violence he will enact on others in a righteous rage. He kills a Nazi with a farming implement and a rock because the man was taking advantage of a young woman. It's an unpleasant scene, but one indicative of life. I've known many men who struggle with anger, and so to have an upstanding Christian man also experience the same struggle made him more real for me.

Alison is one of those artistic types who can so easily lose herself in her work that she forgets everything else. I appreciate her attempts at loving, but I disliked her recklessness and unwillingness to listen to sound advice at first from her grandfather, father, and every other male authority figure in her life. Stubbornness is becoming a "thing" in Christian fiction heroines, and I'm not inclined to like it very much. Near the end of the book, her behavior is also so completely contradictory to what my own would have been, that I almost took a disliking her. I'm a Peggy Carter type and not one to simply assimilate into a bad situation and develop Stockholm Syndrome. I would have literally tried every possible means of escape until they had to truss me up like a chicken to keep from getting out. No such behavior from her, and I just wasn't buying it.

As a couple, Ian and Alison were likeable. I never fully connected to them as a whole, probably because they spend far more time apart than they ever did together within the pages of Where Treasure Hides. That style of timing doesn't allow for a whole lot of relational growth.

The Writing
The writing itself, as in the prose, the voice of the author, is excellent. It flows well without any hitches or hiccups that occasionally interfere with debut novels

However, I do wish that the book had somewhat different pacing. It literally spans the entirety of World War II, from 1939 to 1945, and that was entirely too long. I don't know how it could have been told any differently, but the pacing did make for a bit of an awkward read at times. Some of the best pacing was by far when Ian was in Germany. That entire section of the novel was brilliant, gritty, and agonizingly heart-wrenching. 

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, Where Treasure Hides invariably weighs itself down with a few too many plot contrivances to be fully realistic. I understand that the Monuments Men were real. So let's leave them that way and not throw them in at the end of the novel as an afterthought. The same with Ian pretending to woo a woman we don't even really get to know because of a mission for king and country. He claims she is such a comfort to him during a hard time, but we've seen her have maybe one conversation with him. No connection so we can't feel the loss he feels when she leaves. There were too many plot threads that didn't quite lead anywhere and that I genuinely wish had been tied up. Plus, I'm not a fan of unresolved endings. One really major thing is left unresolved at the end of Where Treasure Hides, undoubtedly intended for a sequel, but I like my stand-alone novels to stand alone.

With all that said, keep an eye on Johnnie Alexander because I anticipate she could hit it big. She has so very much promise and I hope she continues putting pen to paper. Authors all have to start somewhere and this book really is a decent beginning.

NOTE - I received this book as a complementary copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.


  1. Hah! As I was reading your review, I kept thinking, "Wow, this sounds like Monuments Men, doesn't it?" And then she actually threw them in at the end? Well, not surprising, I guess.

    1. Yep, I felt it was a little bit too much, to be honest. But I really do like her style and I'm hopeful for her future in the publishing world. If she puts another book out there, I'll definitely read it.


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