Rhonda Parkinson

Rhonda Parkinson is an aspiring fiction writer who lives with her husband and son in Calgary, Alberta. Before turning to fiction she wrote articles on food and politics for various print and online publications; she has also published several cookbooks. Currently, she is combining her love of food and fiction to write a culinary murder mystery set in a small Rocky Mountain town. A convert to Catholicism, she joined the church through RCIA in 1987.

Book Reviews by Rhonda Parkinson

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No Vacancy

No Vacancy is the third book in Amy Bennett’s Black Horse Campground Series. The main character, Corrie Black, owns and operates the campground, located in the fictional village of Bonney (named after William H. Bonney, a.k.a. “Billy the Kid”) in south central New Mexico. As the story opens in mid-June, she is thrilled to be able to hang out a “No Vacancy” sign, the first of the season. But Corrie’s hopes for a banner camping year are threatened when a disturbing anonymous note, handwritten entirely in capital letters, is delivered to the campground office:

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The Complete Father Brown Mysteries Collection

A prolific writer living in turn-of-the-century Britain, Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton wrote hundreds of essays and articles on topics ranging from politics to theology, debated leading intellectuals of the day, and published several biographies, including St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas. His fiction includes the novels The Man Who Was Thursday and The Napoleon of Notting Hill. However, he is probably best known for a series of short stories featuring a Catholic detective-priest, Father Brown. Initially published in magazines, the majority of the stories were eventually...

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The Sugar House

Set in Britain in 1920, The Sugar House is a fictionalized account of writer Antonia White’s acting career and subsequent first marriage. It is the third book in a quartet of semi-autobiographical novels. The first book, Frost in May, is based on White’s experiences in a Catholic girl’s boarding school, while her follow up work, The Lost Traveller, takes her through adolescence.

As the story begins we find the main character, 21-year-old Clara Batchelor, struggling with the challenges of young adulthood. Determined to maintain her independence from a domineerin...

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The Archangel of Westminster

Who hasn’t wondered what angels are really like? The Archangel of Westminster is an intriguing tale of one man’s interview with an angel, and not just any angel, but the Archangel Michael, one of only three angels mentioned by name in the Bible. The initial meeting between Archangel Michael and our narrator, a tour promoter also named Michael, takes place, appropriately, on the Wednesday of Holy Week, at London’s Westminster Cathedral.

While touring the Cathedral (the Catholic counterpart to Westminster Abbey), our narrator is contemplating a statue of St. Michael when he is approach...

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The Red Madonna

Secret meetings, an evil-minded antagonist, and a nail biting opening scene – it all sounds like the stuff of spy novels. Not what you’d expect in a book dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic clergy; but in The Red Madonna, author Michael Shaughnessy manages the feat of exploring this delicate and complex issue in a book that’s a thrilling, suspenseful read.

Within the first few chapters, the reader is introduced to the main antagonist, Andrew Magnuson, a handsome, successful, senior partner in a law firm that bears his name. We immediately learn that M...

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The Many Colored Coat

Scotty Bowman is suffering from a mid-life crisis. The middle-aged bank manager is disappointed with his job, his wife, and his life. He envies younger, successful men like Harry Lane, a popular and influential public relations director for a Montreal brewery. When Harry tells Bowman about a “can’t-miss” investment opportunity, Bowman uses his bank management position to secure a loan for Lane based on fraudulent information. He then asks Lane, who has no knowledge of Bowman’s deception, to sign over 5,000 of the 15,000 shares to him.

The stock collapses. After a brief investigatio...

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The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Born in 1925 in Savannah Georgia, Flannery O’Connor is best known as a Southern author who wrote dark tales involving flawed characters and bizarre situations, mostly set in the deep South. During her all too brief career (she died at age thirty-nine of complications from lupus, the same disease that killed her father), O’Connor published two novels and wrote numerous book reviews and essays.

However, it is her short stories that have firmly established O’Connor as one of America’s pre-eminent Southern writers. Published posthumously in 1971 (and winner of the 1972 National Book Award f...

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More Joy in Heaven

The title of this book, one of Canadian author Morley Callaghan’s earlier novels, harkens back to the biblical parable of the Lost Sheep found in Luke 15: 1–7. At the end of the parable, Jesus says “I tell you, there will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.”

The “sinner” in this novel is Kip Caley, a newly paroled convict who gained national attention after embarking on a series of bank robberies a decade earlier. Caley is a changed man from the “big dark wild-eyed violent criminal&...

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The Lost Traveller

Although British author Antonia White published short stories and nonfiction and had a distinguished career as a translator, she is best known for her semi-fictionalized accounts of her own life between the ages of nine and twenty-three. The first, Frost in May, portrays the life of a young girl in the enclosed world of a Catholic convent. The Lost Traveller, the second book in the series, takes up the story when Clara (a name change from Nanda in the first book) is fifteen.

The setting is Britain, in the lead up to and early days of World War I. The novel begins on a sad note–Clara&rsq...

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A Married Man

Piers Paul Read’s A Married Man is a thoughtful novel that explores the dark side of an extramarital affair. As the story opens, we find British barrister John Strickland in the initial stages of a full blown mid-life crisis, brought on by reading The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. Like the main character in Tolstoy’s short story, Strickland finds himself questioning whether he has lived a meaningful life.  What happened to his goal of championing the poor, of serving “the old ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity in their new guise of socialism?” Once he aspired...

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The Parson's Progress

Before reading The Parson’s Progress I was unfamiliar with Anglo-Catholicism, a movement originating with a group of Oxford professors in the 1830’s that attempts to re-introduce more Catholic practices and beliefs into Britain’s Anglican churches in recognition of Anglicism’s Catholic heritage. In particular, Anglo-Catholicism emphasizes the sacramental life of the church, the importance of doctrine such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the return to an episcopal form of church governance, with local authority held by a Bishop.

By the early 20th century, th...

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Catholic, Ink.

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Sign-up for this free weekly e-newsletter and receive the free article - "What is Catholic Fiction?" Read the weekly column The Catholic Imagination and You and more.