Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Readers Learn About Forgiveness, Courage from ‘The Pilgrim’

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Today I’m featuring reader reviews of The Pilgrim from Dennis Brooke and Mary Esque.

The Fragment, a follow-up book to The Pilgrim, releases February 19, 2016. While both novels are stand-alone books, the themes are loosely tied together. You might consider getting both of them as a gift for someone who loves historical fiction.

The Pilgrim by Davis BunnDennis Brooke, on Goodreads:

For three centuries Roman emperors did their best to crush the movement started by the disciples of a Jewish preacher they had executed as a common criminal. In The Pilgrim Davis Bunn tells the tale of the woman and her son who made that movement the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Bunn uses historical fact, legend, and masterful storytelling to weave a story about Helena, the spurned wife of one Roman Emperor and the mother of a future one, and her quest to find the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Through this story and her example, I also learned something about forgiveness—and my personal journey.

Davis’ research and master of the craft made me feel like I was witnessing the early days of the church and a turning point in its history. I’ve done research on this place and era for my own book and Davis’ descriptions are spot on.

You might read The Pilgrim for the great tale, the characters, and what you learn about this important time in history. You’ll remember it for what it teaches you about yourself.

Mary Esque, on Goodreads

The Pilgrim is another fine example of the masterful storytelling we have come to know and love from Davis Bunn. Rich in detail and rooted in historical fact, Bunn weaves a lovely, engaging tale about an era of church history that is not very well known. It is a powerful story about faith and forgiveness, one that I found personally challenging.

In a world of faithlessness, it takes a lot of courage for Helena to step and go on the pilgrimage that she embarked upon. It took even more courage to continue on that journey in spite of all the obstacles that she faced. I found myself asking would I have persevered in such a daunting task if I had faced the same challenges.

As I considered the answer to that question, I realized how very similar our world is to Helena’s world. Both are full of faithlessness and have powerful opponents who would seek to destroy believers or at the very least silence them. I was reminded and encouraged that God is still at work and He prevails despite any and all opposition. His plans and purposes will not be thwarted. Helena reminds me that God delights in doing the most impossible of miracles in the hearts of those who would truly seek him. That is why I love this book.

Helena Encouraged Early Christians that Their Persecution was Not in Vain

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The Pilgrim by Davis BunnToday I’m featuring four delightful reader reviews of The Pilgrim from:

  1. Amy Nowak
  2. Kevin Denis
  3. Lindsay Franklin
  4. Mark Buzard

Amy Nowak’s blog:

Are you interested in female strength, courage, and virtue?

Would you like to learn about a woman who enjoyed high stature but was thrust down hard from her throne?

Why she picked herself up?

And what made her follow a dangerous road with men she did not know to seek an impossible treasure?

The Pilgrim artfully tells the story of how the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, believed God, sought to fulfill his vision, and thereby encouraged early Christians that their persecution was not in vain.

Enemies ordered to kill her are hampered. Soldiers ordered to protect her become supporters and friends. Yet as her following increases, so does her humility. There is brokenness, healing, miracles, and a bit of romance too.

I recommend The Pilgrim for anyone interested in early church history, but especially for young women who seek a role model of virtue during times of despair.

The Pilgrim Quote 7

Kevin Denis, on Amazon:

“I believe in miracles . . .”

The gospel song written by John W. Peterson kept running through my mind as I neared the conclusion of Davis Bunn’s latest historical novel, The Pilgrim, and for good reason:

The journey of Helena, mother of Constantine, as a pilgrim to Jerusalem after being divorced without cause and disgraced as a result, is nothing short of miraculous.

After Helena is exiled by her husband, she travels to meet her son. While on her way she is visited by God in a vision and instructed to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journey is perilous with threats of death from Roman authority in Caeserea and the surrounding region. God’s hand is upon her, however, as she is joined by others on the way to Jerusalem.

The story casts Helena as the central character; however, three others – a young soldier, an experienced sergeant, and a bishop/pastor who no longer has a church – are as important to the story in their own way as Helena is.

The Pilgrim is neither a long novel nor a quick read, and Davis Bunn successfully proves that fiction doesn’t have to be without meaning. As fiction The Pilgrim is entertaining; however, the book doesn’t shy away from asking some deep questions:

  • Am I burdened with doubt?
  • Have I failed my Lord in any way?
  • Do I have a reason to continue living, a purpose for my life?

As the characters in the book come to understand, we will find the answers to our questions when we seek those answers from the only One who can truly provide them.

I believe readers will be blessed and encouraged by The Pilgrim. It is the best historical novel I’ve read this year, well worth the 5-Star rating I am giving it.

Lindsay Franklin’s blog:

I hadn’t really studied the history (and legend) surrounding Helena before, as most of my studies about this era in church history have been centered on her son, Constantine. But after reading The Pilgrim, I know I’ll be doing further research into the life of Helena.

Bunn does a great job of fleshing out her character as she deals with heartbreak and loss while she works to fulfill the calling she received directly from God. I enjoyed taking the journey with this woman of faith and courage.

Bunn does an equally great job creating an interesting cast of characters to surround Helena on her journey. As I said, I know little about Helena’s historical pilgrimage, and from what I understand, it’s pretty difficult to sift history from legend. So I’m not sure if any of Helena’s traveling companions are historical figures or if they’re wholly based upon Bunn’s research into the era and people who may have existed at that time. Either way, I know I enjoyed the inner journeys of these supporting characters, particularly the commander Anthony.

Bunn is often noted for his meticulous attention to historical detail, and he brings the fourth century alive with the ease befitting an author of his experience and acclaim.

Bottom Line: With overarching themes of grace, redemption, and the kind of faith that forces a person to her knees, Christians and history buffs interested in this time period should check out The Pilgrim.

Mark Buzard’s blog:

Davis Bunn is an excellent author who writes all types of novels and never disappoints. However, I wasn’t so sure of this book when it came in the mail. It isn’t a very long book, coming in at only 176 pages, and it is a very unassuming book in appearance. Armed with the knowledge that Bunn is a great author, I started reading it. And I couldn’t put it down.

I either had forgotten Helena was a real person, or never learned about her. Regardless, as I read it, I wondered if she was a real person. I Googled “Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine,” and sure enough. Just as the book said, she had led her famous son to Christ, and she had also taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and legend says she found the cross Jesus was crucified on. With that knowledge, the book became even more interesting to me.

It is historical fiction, so many of the events and characters in the book come from the author’s imagination, but he takes the reader on a fascinating journey from Caeserea to Jerusalem. The journey is filled with all sorts of interesting and miraculous events, and after finishing the book, it seemed to me the book was longer than just 176 pages. He packs a lot into those few pages.

It is an interesting and entertaining read, but there is also a great message in the book:

That there is always forgiveness, even we turn our backs on Jesus and do things that seem beyond forgiveness.

Although the people in the book that repented were fictional, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that there were real life Christians who turned their back on their faith to avoid torture and death for them and their families.

The Pilgrim Quote 6

I would highly recommend this book. Davis Bunn can put this short but packed novel up against the best historical fiction there is and be proud of this latest work. It does not disappoint. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

To What Pilgrimage is God Calling You?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnI’m excited for the release of my new historical novel, The Pilgrim, on Friday, July 17. In these two reader reviews, Judith Ingram and Debbie Phillips beautifully reflect on their own journeys as pilgrims.

Judith Ingram, on Goodreads

Davis Bunn’s historical novel, The Pilgrim, reads like a poem—lyrical and layered with spiritual meaning. The plot moves slowly, allowing the reader to savor the characters’ subtle introspections and heart changes that are the real story.

The title at first seems straightforward, “the pilgrim” being the empress mother of Constantine, recently divorced and shamed, on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As her journey progresses, however, the troubled young Roman soldier assigned to accompany her reveals himself to be a pilgrim, also, on a journey to recover his lost faith.

By the end of the novel, I realized that I, too, had become a pilgrim, following their journey in faith, waiting for God to act and recognizing His movement in factual church history, which Bunn artfully embellishes with fictional details.

I recommend The Pilgrim to readers who enjoy a thoughtful read that is rooted in historical fact and finished off with vivid descriptions and piercing truths that will linger long after the book is laid aside.

The Pilgrim Quote 9

Debbie Phillips, on her blog

Wow, what a book. This is a GREAT historical fiction novel by a favorite author, Davis Bunn. A wonderful, touching tale about Helena, the mother of Constantine; her companions; and her pilgrimage to fulfill the call of God on her life and to walk in the steps that Christ walked while on his way to Calvary. Constantine, her son, has found the Lord and is beginning to change the world. Helena has been given a noble quest, through a vision from the Lord.

Oh, what wonderful characters. Oh what glorious descriptions. A quest that would lead the characters not just to Jerusalem, but to a deep spiritual place that helps them to find a reason to live, a way to forgive themselves for their failings and their past, and a way to join together to make the world a better place, especially for the Christians under Roman persecution.

I love how Bunn weaves a tale and brings me along and helps me to travel with each character on their journey. I felt with each character. I empathized with them. I wished that I could join them on the journey. I wish that I could go now and travel the Via Dolorosa.

This book helped me on my journey to forgive myself; and forgive others who have wounded me in the past. This is a difficult thing for me to do. It is something I have struggled with for the past 3 years. I have not finished my quest. I have not fully forgiven, but I am making progress and this book was one tool that Lord has used on my path to forgiveness.

I have for you two of my favorite quotes from the book…

The Pilgrim Quote 5

“She had to forgive herself.

On one level, it was ludicrous. What had she done to deserve her fate? She had every right to be hurt, wounded, angry and even to seek vengeance.

On the other, she knew the truth of this matter. She did not need anyone to be hard on her. She was harder on herself than anyone else could possibly be. Nothing she did was ever good enough. She had spent an entire lifetime striving to do better, to rise further, to be more. Which, of course, was one reason why she remained so upset with her husband. Because he had both failed to live up to her expectations and dragged her down as well.” pg 63

“Helena sat apart and argued with herself. Personal forgiveness meant accepting that she was flawed. Imperfect. Destined to miss the mark, time and again. She doubted whether she was able to actually, honestly, take that step.” pg 64

“I have a world of reasons to worry. I know I am frail. What I want is to look beyond all that.”
Slowly, Macarius turned back. His good eye gleamed as he observed her in silence.

“I want to be ready to serve at God’s command. And I can’t do this if I let fear and regret and anger dominate my life. I want to turn from all that. I want to focus on God. But I don’t know if I can.”

Macarius took her hand and he had the previous night. “Let us pray on this. And keep praying. And trust God both to answer and to give you the strength to hear.” pg 73

I completed this book and find myself inspired, hope filled, forgiven and more ready to forgive others, more aware of this time period, and deeply grateful for the opportunity to read and review it.

The Mending of Lives: Key Focus of ‘The Pilgrim’

Friday, July 10th, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnI’m touched by the reader reviews of The Pilgrim that are coming in. Today, you’ll hear from:

  • Anne Rightler
  • Jared Beiswenger
  • Eddie Gilley
  • Jodelle Svenhard

Please click the link next to each reviewer’s name to read his or her full review.

Anne Rightler, on Goodreads

Not knowing what lay ahead her intent was to walk the path of Christ’s grief and suffering. Helena, rejected wife of a Roman emperor, mother of Constantine the Great, only knew it was the will of God for her to take this path.

Davis Bunn’s masterful historical novel, The Pilgrim, brings readers a glimpse in the life of a woman, now revered as a saint in some religious faiths…a woman who heard from God and would not be deterred. Helena admits to those she meets she has failed God more often than she wants to recall and is told God wants her to know and share in others’ suffering.

She finds solace in servitude; the Empress giving freely that others may live and see Christ in her. The story is replete with characters in need of her healing balm. Broken people who needed to know the forgiveness of Christ in their souls and in their body. Broken people like the readers may be, in need of seeing God at work in their own lives.

Bunn writes of hope and healing and the mending of lives.

Jared Beiswenger, on Goodreads

“…the book has a solid Biblical message throughout. I think the themes will most resonate with those who have suffered great loss in their lives. I can’t relate closely myself, but nonetheless, I was emotionally invested by the climax. The Pilgrim also sparked my interest in the history of the Roman Empire and the early Church. After reading I was inspired to research the true stories behind the novel.”

Eddie Gilley, on his blog

There is drama, action, character development, and the gospel woven intricately within the story lines… There are moral messages of peace and reconciliation…”

The Pilgrim Quote 6

Jodelle Svenhard, on Goodreads

The Pilgrim is one of those books that “picks up” around word two.

Effervescent with historical characters you swear you studied in college, but suddenly you find they have emotions and lives and are not remotely similar to the gaudy figureheads you took for granted on the white pages of that dorm-room textbook. They live and breath before you as if someone found a way for them to “string theory” through history and sit by your side. And, indeed, someone did. The author, Davis Bunn, is the spellbinder.

“Sit,” however, is something this book rarely does. The characters charge, banter, ponder, blunder and bluster…. The life of a pilgrim is never dull… At least, not this Pilgrim.

Ha. what an unassuming name. About an unassuming individual…. in an unassuming world… But, it cannot remain unassuming, there is too much warmth. Embers from a forgotten fire that blazed through the pages of history so brightly that even dusty canvas, slovenly habits and our modern digitalized age cannot starved it completely cold or still.

Davis Bunn has found that fire, fueled it with words and faith. In The Pilgrim an Empress, a long buried kingdom and one of the most famous Generals in the world LIVE again.

Enjoy meeting them! I did.

‘The Pilgrim’ Causes Reader to Reflect on Sorrow, Miracles, and Christ’s Grace

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnI want to share a beautiful review of The Pilgrim, from reader Sue Stevens:

Complete disclosure here – I am admittedly a big fan of Davis Bunn’s writing – whether history, thriller, fantasy or other. If Bunn wrote it, I’m going to read it.

When I received THE PILGRIM in the mail, I was intrigued and at the same time disappointed that it is shorter than most Bunn novels. When I read a bit about the book and discovered it was based in history, a re-telling of the story of St. Helena, mother to Constantine and a key figure in early Christian history, I was doubly intrigued – I’m a bit of a history geek. And I dove in.

But this is not dry as dust, completely remote, has-nothing-to-do-with-me history. Bunn uses his substantial imagination and story telling talents to practically create out of whole cloth individuals about which there is little detail, if any, in ancient historical texts.

We come to know – and journey along side of – three individuals in particular, all of whom are struggling with horrendous grief and loss: Helena herself, former empress, now divorced, abandoned and stripped of everything she knew in life; Anthony, young Roman soldier who is looking for death to relieve him from his grief of losing his wife and child; and Macarius, former bishop of the now destroyed and scattered church in Jerusalem and crippled for his faith.

The Pilgrim Quote 4

Helena is on a quest, responding to a vision she received from God and seeking to walk the yet-to-be-named Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and bring the news of The Edict of Milan, that all Christians are no longer to be treated as criminals. So that’s the set up. But again – this isn’t dry history; this story is a page turner. I wanted to know what happens next, what danger – and what miracle – lurked around the next bend in the journey.

And yet at the same time, I was brought to my knees, reflecting on my own falling-short, my own griefs and sorrows, on Christ’s grace that reaches even me, on the miracles that God works in simple and wondrous ways.

I’m considering sharing it with some friends who are going through some very tough times right now – I believe it will be a comfort, not because the parallels between their experience and Helena’s are so exact, but because the journey we all take in life is so eloquently spelled out in these pages.

Timing: The Christian Blogger’s Key to an Effective Book Review

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

I recently received a review from a blogger who reviewed a book I’d published 12 years ago and is out of print.

While it’s wonderful to receive such support from readers and to have such treasured stories revisited, I have suggestion for bloggers who post reviews of my books: focus on the timing.

Bloggers who regularly review books are pressed by the PR people with whom they link to review books in advance of their publication. The aim of this is to generate that all-important whirlwind of initial interest.

This helps new titles to be placed in the minds of readers in those crucial early days. Small privately-owned Christian booksellers limit their shelf-space for fiction titles these days. Which means if a title of mine is to be widely read or even sold, it must garner the attention of buyers in those early weeks.

In order to have a genuine impact, and help your favorite authors, it would be great if your first focus was upon reviewing the most recent titles.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

P.S. If you’re looking for a book to review, may I suggest The Pilgrim? It releases July 17, 2015, from Franciscan Media.

First Reader Reviews of ‘The Pilgrim’

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnIn my upcoming historical novel, The Pilgrim, I recreate an important “scene” from the life of one of Christian history’s most important women: Helena, the mother of emperor Constantine.

The novel releases July 17, 2015, and early reader reviews are streaming in. Below are excerpts from seven reviews. Please click the link next to each reviewer’s name to access the full review.

Click the link to read Chapters 1-3 of The Pilgrim, free!

Tina Hunt, on Goodreads:

This is not a long book, but it’s deep. It’s not a difficult story, but it is rich and full.

Passionate and submitted. Regal yet humble. Life-changing. Hope filled. These are words that come to mind when I think about how Davis Bunn unfolds this story. There is a power that leaps from the page.

The characters in this story each make a pilgrimage, a journey of faith, whether it is across the sea or from behind a tree. There is the presence of evil and the battle to overcome fear and even find forgiveness.

When I was done, I was ready to go buy a gray traveling dress.

Judith Barnes, on Goodreads:

…It is the story of grief turning to a faith to forgive and to rebuild… The book is appropriate for Lenten reading. Believers and seekers alike will find a solid Christian message in this book while enjoying a lively tale.

Dave Milbrandt, on Goodreads:

…In The Pilgrim, we are introduced to Helena, mother of the famed Roman emperor Constantine, who travels to the Holy Land to fulfill her own destiny and help others to do the same. The charm of The Pilgrim is how Davis takes a timeworn story sitting on the edge of our collective memory and breathes new life into the tale through his flowing, almost lyrical prose. This is a concise, well-told tale that likely will inspire you to seek your own purpose in life.

Tracie Heskett, on Goodreads:

…This gripping story has a strong theme of forgiveness and serving God. It gave me something to think about even after I finished reading…

…The ending was a little disappointing, in that it read more like a biography and less like the story I had just read. I still give the book 4 stars, though, because Bunn does a good job incorporating research to tell this story of a little known piece of history. For lovers of historical fiction, The Pilgrim delivers that fresh taste of something that hasn’t been overdone.

Sherry Arni, on Goodreads:

…The characters are one of the strongest aspects of the book. Their enemies are powerful, overwhelming, though I expected a little more from them at points in the book. Still, The Pilgrim allows us into the lives of Christ-followers in a most difficult period of history. It delights as Bunn’s novels invariably do.

Cindy Eberle, on

I love history, and learned of Helena’s contributions when we visited Rome.  But unless you are willing to plow through the long historical documents, there is little available about the believers of this era.  This book fills the gap AND is an enjoyable novel with memorable characters… My only wish?  I would love a summary, at the end of the book, to know which events are historical fact and which are filling in artistic details.

Shelley Walling, on Goodreads:

…This book filled my spirit as I pictured Empress Helena traveling to Judea and saving countless Christians along the way. I know for a fact she angered Satan in her quest to follow God’s plan for her life.

Video Book Trailer of ‘Emissary’ by Thomas Locke

Monday, December 15th, 2014

In January, I’m entering a new realm with my stories: an epic fantasy series targeted to the mainstream market, written under my pen name, Thomas Locke.

Hot off the press, here’s the video trailer for Emissary, book 1 in the Legends of the Realm series:

News of the Realm blog

If you’d like to learn more about Emissary, subscribe to my new blog at

Reviews of Emissary

Here are links to early reader reviews of Emissary:

The Captive: Free ebook Short

Get a free peek of Emissary; visit and download “The Captive,” a free ebook short, to your digital device.

Romantic Times Gives ‘The Sign Painter’ 4 Stars

Monday, October 6th, 2014

The Sign Painter by Davis BunnI’m thrilled by the review Romantic Times (RT Book Reviews) gave The Sign Painter:

Reviewer Sarah Eisenbraun writes:

“In The Sign Painter, Bunn brings readers into the heart of humanity — helping those who cannot help themselves. Amy and her daughter are believable characters. This novel moves quickly with twists and turns along the way that keep readers excited and engaged.”

Click here for a synopsis of the story, reviews, and online purchasing links.

Readers Give ‘The Turning’ 10 Stars

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

The Turning By Davis BunnThe Turning… A highly recommended read for even non-readers

By Pris Phillips

Wow. The story was incredible. (The word “awesome” comes to mind – but that word is far too overused to be appropriated here.)  I could hardly put it down.

Prepare yourself for a fast-paced read, with twists and turns in a plot that leads to an unexpected end.

Powerful… moving… believable. Though a work of fiction, I believe The Turning accurately represents a taste of what’s ahead for followers of Christ. The battles will be strong; the enemy powerful. In the natural, we should lose…

I found myself caught up emotionally with ALL the characters, both the “good” and the “bad” … caring what happened to each major player on both sides as they struggled with their personal demons; making choices that would impact others in powerful ways.

I think even a non-reader would be caught up with this one!

I give it five stars, but it really deserves a ten. I liked it that much!

Another page-turner from a master storyteller! 10 stars

By Mary Kay Moody, Jottings from the Journeys blog

In his new novel, The Turning, Davis Bunn presents a story which is paradoxically as familiar as age-old fairy tales yet as astonishing as tomorrow’s news.

He brings together an unlikely group of five ordinary people. Ordinary, but dissimilar. Ordinary, except that they’ve each heard God. When they converge in New York City and encounter each other, they recognize that God has put them together. But they don’t know why? They only know they’ve been summoned.

Bunn says that each task assigned them is demanding, though not particularly grand. And each act of obedience brings forth the next measure of guidance. They discover that their tasks are linked and challenge the cultural direction of the nation.

With control of power and money at stake, malicious forces align to oppose them. As the five encounter threats and try to remain steadfast in their faith, the public debate and media frenzy place an unprecedented spotlight on them, on knowing and doing God’s will, and on the movement some call The Turning.

The Bible relates occasions when God gathers a group of individuals who are to use their skills and gifts to accomplish God’s purpose:  Moses assembling ten spies; Gideon’s army of 300; Jesus’ twelve disciples. But it’s history. We read it—we don’t live it. Reading THE TURNING just might cause us to rethink that.

As always, Bunn delivers a story that coils tighter as it flows. This one has plenty of surprises that will keep you flipping pages at a brisk pace.

And he continues to astound me with his skill—not only of storytelling, but also crafting realistic, compelling characters. This cast is culturally dissimilar yet familiar, and whether Black, Caucasian, Jewish, Chinese, or Arab, they all ring true. To draw such diverse and distinctive characters—elderly widow, driven businessman, spinster choir director, young career woman, refugee surgeon, transportation manager, motorcycle thugs, or biker friends—with precise language and economy of detail is master craftsmanship.

In The Turning, Davis Bunn pulls back a veil and shows that God uses the common actions of ordinary people to accomplish great things. I highly recommend it—as does my husband. Between us we give it ten stars!