Counterfeit Hope (Book Review)

  • Author: Crystal Caudill
  • Publisher: Kregel
  • Series: Hidden Hearts of the Gilded Age #2
  • Pre-Order Now (Releases Feb. 14th)
  • Synopsis: Trapped with her late husband’s family of outlaws, Lu dreams of escaping the criminal life, along with her son, Oscar. Secret Service Agent Andrew Darlington hopes to bring the entire family, including Lu, to justice.
  • Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author. Opinions expressed are my own.


While the book conveys a strong, beautiful message without the use of explicit or gratuitous content, the novel was a harder read, for me. Counterfeit Hope deals with some very heavy issues, which I do unpack in the content notes of the review. This review contains spoilers.

Scripture Connection

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Rom. 8:24-25

The author includes Rom. 8:24-25, in the King James Version, as the novel’s epigraph. I think the KJV works well with the historical setting and the verse is perfect for a book called Counterfeit Hope.

Spiritual Themes

Hope, as the title suggests, is at the center of the novel, thematically. And, as in the Romans verse, part of that hope pertains to trusting God with the future: not only in this world, but also in the life to come.

Forgiveness is also a huge theme, as one character grapples with what Jesus’ forgiveness looks like. I also really appreciate that the author explicitly states that a person cannot be the answer to another person’s problems. Only Jesus can do that!

I highlighted several passages about forgiveness, Jesus’ dealing with sin (both what we’ve done and the ways we’ve been hurt by others’ sin), and about Him being the only One to fill us. There was some excellent, well-articulated faith content, and it is apparent that the author tells a very dark story so that His light can shine through all the more. I can see the author’s heart flowing through her words, both in the book and on her website, as I think it is beautiful that she wants her readers to know Jesus.

What I Liked

The author begins the novel with a letter to the reader, and there were two things I liked about that. First, she’s very transparent in terms of content/trigger warnings, and I’m glad to see that at the start of the novel. Second, she invites readers to reach out to her (including her email address!), to learn more about the hope that Jesus offers. That is so beautiful! I’m really grateful that Caudill chose to do that.

Caudill does such a great job with characterization, in terms of subverting readers’ initial expectations/reactions. I did not like Lu at the beginning of the book, but she really gained my sympathy as the story went on. Another character I initially felt a little sympathy towards changed my mind (in a bad way) by the end of the story. Also on the topic of characters, I enjoyed seeing Theresa and Broderick make return appearances in this book.

The novel is a marriage of convenience, which isn’t my favorite. With that said, I really appreciated that there wasn’t an overemphasis on the characters’ physical relationship (or lack thereof). It was there, to an extent, especially because of Lu’s history, but that wasn’t the main point of tension in the story.

Lastly, this is the kind of book I would describe as “important.” Although the subject matter made it harder for me to “enjoy” the book, I’m certainly glad that the book has been published. In crafting the character of Lu, Caudill demonstrates the awful reality that, for so many, prostitution is not at all a choice. She also paints Lu as a very human character: certainly not perfect, but someone who is really trying her best to survive an impossible life—and give her son a brighter future. The book is also hugely important because it proclaims the truth of Jesus, and it does that in a beautiful way.

Favorite Quote

I know it’s frightening to trust someone with what you’ve done wrong, but He’ll take it. Not just a little bit. He’ll take all of it. You don’t have to carry it anymore.

Location 2403

Content (Includes Spoilers)

This was, overall, a hard book to read. Sexual coercion is a BIG part of the story. Lu has been forced into a life of prostitution and, although we learn she only flirts with her clients, she is also continually threatened by her brother-in-law, who constantly tries to assault her.

Additionally, Lu’s mother-in-law, the head of the household, enforces her authority by poisoning people, and will not allow Lu to be alone with her own son.

In the author’s note, Caudill encourages people to skim over the harsher scenes of the story, if necessary. Perhaps this would have benefited me. In all honesty, though, the harsh themes are so deeply intertwined with the narrative that you really can’t gloss over them, and still read the story. But, we also get to see how Jesus’ redemption is greater.

Recommendation Status

Although quite different from the first book in the series, Counterfeit Hope continues the series with another Gilded Era investigation of a counterfeit ring. Unlike book one, the historical fiction is more a blend with suspense, rather than mystery, this time around.

Counterfeit Hope is not an easy read, but it does raise some very important points and questions, with a compelling narrative, and I’m willing to recommend it, on those grounds. However, due to the harsh thematic content, I highly recommend reader discretion.

Published by Stephaniesninthsuitcase

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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