The Proof by Cheryl Colwell
About the book:
Cheryl Colwell’s novel has multiple elements that make it a fascinating book to read. There is the time-honored foundation of historical fiction based on intrigue and fact in real history; there is the element of mystery–an unknown artifact has been referred to in freshly discovered ancient documents, something revered by early Christians, sought for by old and modern organizations for monetary reasons and fabled powers. The tale contains letters of ancient quests and trusts, a family in danger, murder, double-cross, and even a little romance. The suspense is thick, emotions run high among dysfunctional family members. Once you begin to read it, you won’t want to put the book down.
Gabriel Dolcini’s world was tightly focused on himself. The only family he had left was his mother and an unknown eccentric grandfather. Gabe had dedicated the past decade to perfecting his skills as an artist. He spared no expense to learn from the greatest masters. But in one fell swoop his house of cards collapsed. He became destitute and his mother’s home was in jeaopardy. A few months ago he’d received an invitation from his grandfather to visit him at his palazzo in Siena, Italy. He had no choice but to go and accept charity at his paternal grandparent’s hand in spite of his mother’s vehement objections.
Once in Italy, Gabe saw that his grandfather was wealthier than he’d realized. He allowed the man to sponsor an exhibit of his art work in the palatial family home. From Gabe’s point of view, things were beginning to improve markedly for him as an artist. Many patrons viewed his worked and claimed it to be brilliant. But then, shortly after the show, he learned of his relative’s true motive for the invitation. His grandfather wanted Gabe to join him in some kind of ancient quest that most believed was just a myth. Louis Dolcini told him how a 12th century ancestor had been entrusted to carry an artifact from the first century to Seborga where monks would protect it. The quest had never been completed. The ancestral Dolcini had been killed by hired assassins. Louis wanted Gabe to help him finish the task. He had found a map, but had not found the artifact called Il Testimento. Gabe was not interested, but eventually got swept up in the intrigue as matters became complicated, their lives were threatened, and factions began coming out of the woodwork. It became difficult for the men to know who to trust. Even other members of the family seemed part of the deceptions around them. Gabe’s safe, secure world seemed to blow up around him and he was unwillingly caught up in international intrigue completely out of his experience.
The reader gets drawn indirectly into the history of the Crusaders and the Knights Templar, secret Christian societies, powerful men’s grab for more power by attempting to control gullible people through superstitions and secret rites, and modern day societies with the same end in mind. After awhile, it was difficult for me to tell the difference between the bad guys and the good guys. The author keeps us guessing who is trustworthy and not right up to the end. Complete revelation was often withheld to ramp up the suspense. Sometimes I found the large numbers of factions in competition with each other confusing. Violent deaths occurred frequently. At one point, the two main characters, Gabe and Livia, were thrown into a cistern and left to drown. The pace was hard-hitting and fast, especially in the second half of the book.
It seemed to me that there were two components of the spiritual element in this story: religious organizations and their influence on politics, and a more personal aspect of spirituality. I’m not overly enthralled with organized religion and its sub-culture, the in-fighting and its influence on groups of people, but I enjoyed reading about the personal spiritual journeys of the main characters in this book. I would have enjoyed more development and depth in the romance developing between Gabe and Livia. The moment most meaningful for me was when Gabe finally admitted to his grandfather that he no longer needed any proof to believe that God was real.
One of The Proof’s greatest assets is the personal growth we witness in Gabe’s life as the story progresses. The book introduces us to a Gabe who is insecure, self-focused, and intent on gaining self-approbation through his art work. Many of his inadequacies were laid at his feet by his cruel and embittered father. It took the full scope of the book to understand why and how his father became that way in the first place. But once Gabe grasped the whole story of this father’s and grandfather’s relationship, he was faced with decisions of his own. Would he reach out in forgiveness, or continue on the family legacy of anger, bitterness, and vengeance? Would his new found personal faith in God help him with this struggle?
I have to admit that at one point I set the book down and left it awhile. The complexity of the external issues was not nearly as compelling for me as the internal issues. But I’m glad I finally returned to the book and finished it. I gained a renewed enthusiasm and was swept up by the family dynamics, especially those between Gabe and Louis. It was gratifying to see the love develop between the two. I think this book will be especially appealing to those who enjoy religious politico thrillers and suspense.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Book Crash on behalf of 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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