The Rock at the Bottom

Lorna & Tristan Series Book 3

Christian - Romance - Historical
302 Pages
Reviewed on 03/13/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Bestselling author of the Lorna & Tristan series, Cynthia Hilston is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, happily married, and lives in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction, although she still dabbles in fan fiction.

In her spare time – what spare time? – she devours books, shamelessly watches Hallmark movies and When Calls the Heart, pets her orange and black kitties, looks at the stars, drinks wine or coffee with good friends, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

It is said that to err is human and to forgive is divine, and how this might play out is a foundational element of the Christian romance novel The Rock at the Bottom by Cynthia Hilston. But forgiveness of who? Your biological father? Yourself? Stephen starts his life under a cloud of hatred, his father's contempt for him further complicated by a penchant for drinking. Stephen tries his best to craft a place for himself in an imagination that thrives against a backdrop of abuse. He is a wordsmith, a writer, and proving his worth is a powerful driver. Once old enough to leave home, Stephen moves out with his childhood friend and marries the tenacious Anna “Julie”. Stephen's success and his life with Julie, along with those of two others, are abruptly interrupted when Stephen dredges up his father's own issues from within himself. Stephen is haunted by his mistakes but whether or not he can overcome his own worst enemy, himself, will determine the rest of his life, both lived and eternal.

I love a good redemption story and my goodness author Cynthia Hilston is able to serve it up in The Rock at the Bottom. The analogy of the title shows up unexpectedly as Stephen's story progresses, and the nuance of Hilston having one word or phrase narrated and a reader discovering it is the sign of a gifted writer. She does this a few times and it is fantastic. I admit that I did not read books one or two in the Lorna and Tristan series, Lorna Versus Laura and Rocks and Flowers in a Box, but it didn't impact the readability of book three. That said, I was clueless about how the story of a guy named Stephen tied into a series with a different name, but Hilston unveils the connection in a beautiful, metaphysical reveal. Readers should be warned that Stephen goes through a dark period where he is deeply troubled and, frankly, becomes a character so flawed that he morphs into one that is genuinely unlikeable. This is the moment we start to witness God's grace and mercy and, yet again, where Hilston proves the divinity of forgiveness that comes. I'm human and struggled with Stephen...but God is patient and loving, and readers who stay the course will see how amazing this can be, no matter how far we fall.

Risah Salazar

Guilt, loss, and anger have existed inside and outside of Tristan Blake’s life for years now. His mother dying while giving birth to him made his family, especially his father, hurt him in all ways possible. Growing up, he didn’t know what love was. His harsh reality prevented him from making friends so he resorted to his imagination for escape. The first time he ever wrote on a crumpled piece of paper, Tristan knew he wanted to become a writer. A writer whose character mirrors himself but unlike him, always ends up with a happy ending. In his late adolescent years, Tristan finds himself in the good company of his typewriter, his best and probably only friend, Ben, and the love of his life, Julie. He swore he’d never be like his alcoholic father who beat him every chance he got. But fate has its twisted way and he ends up bringing more damage to people than his father ever did.

The Rock at the Bottom is Cynthia Hilston’s third installment of the Lorna & Tristan series but it can be read as a standalone. With a captivating start, the story pulls you in and keeps you wanting more. The narrative’s foundation is established early on through great worldbuilding. Hilston’s eloquent writing hits deep; she knows how to work her way around emotions and she’s good at it. Prepare for a whirlwind of heavy drama because the story never lets up. Hilston also takes time in building the characters, making them as real and relatable as possible. The entire story has a steady pace but the last one-third of the book seems like an entirely different story. This is not a bad thing, though, but the tone and setting significantly change. The plot twist is worth all the questions you may have while approaching the end. The story does a wonderful job of stirring up emotions by exploring life’s hard truths.

K.C. Finn

The Rock at the Bottom is a work of fiction in the romance and Christian fiction subgenres and forms the third novel of the Lorna & Tristan book series. It is suitable for the general reading audience and contains some mild reference to adult themes such as alcohol abuse. Penned by author Cynthia Hilston, in this emotive drama, we find ourselves looking at the characters from books one and two from a very different angle as this story follows our new protagonist: Stephen. Stephen lives in the shadow of his alcoholic father and has begun to take steps down that same path, but he is determined to turn things around and have the future he yearns for.

Author Cynthia Hilston writes from the heart and it shows on every page of this lovingly narrated and deeply personal tale. I was thoroughly impressed by the multi-faceted exploration of alcohol addiction and abuse, which explored the psychological, historical, emotional, physical, and social ties in great detail as we watched Stephen battle to break down and reframe each thread of this very complex web. The work is easily enjoyed as a standalone tale for this alone, but it also compounds the Lorna & Tristan story with much more context than before and incorporates a very interesting era of American history in the process: Prohibition-era Cleveland. I was fascinated to learn about the hardships of the time and how simple joys could be found if one was willing to work for them. Overall, The Rock at the Bottom is a powerfully emotive and inspiring work of Christian romance that fans of the genre are sure to love. I can’t wait to see more from this author.

Rabia Tanveer

The Rock at the Bottom is the third book in the Lorna & Tristan Series by Cynthia Hilston. This time, the story follows Stephen, a young man who aspires to be an author. Stephen believes bad luck follows him like the plague. His mother died after giving birth to him, his alcoholic father holds him responsible for that, and he seems to have a hard time forming relationships. However, Stephen is determined to prove everyone wrong and fulfill his dream of becoming a writer. But writing about love is one thing and sustaining a healthy, loving relationship is another. He learns this quickly when he falls in love with pretty Julie, but is unable to maintain the relationship. To his horror, he is quickly becoming just like his father and losing the battle with alcohol. Can he keep away from his addiction and prove to be a better husband to Julie? Or is he doomed from the beginning?

The Rock at the Bottom is such a perfect name for the story and explains Stephen incredibly well. He is the life of the story and Cynthia Hilston makes sure you forge a relationship with him from the get-go. His emotions are all over the place, but he is coping, to say the least. His relationship with Ben is wholesome yet enabling at the same time. At first, I felt bad for Julie because Stephen was spiraling and he had no idea how to stop. But as the story progresses, Stephen unavoidably took over my heart and mind. He is funny, has no idea how else to defuse awkward situations, and adores Julie. The narrative is rich, the character development is complete, and the overall feel of the story is fantastic. There are life lessons in this story and each character has a tale to tell and a point to prove. I highly recommend it!

Asher Syed

The Rock at the Bottom by Cynthia Hilston is the third book in the historical Christian romance Lorna and Tristan series, preceded by book one, Lorna Versus Laura, and book two, Rocks and Flowers in a Box. An abused little boy called Stephen writes stories to put a proud smile on his damaged face. His dad is an alcoholic who wishes Stephen wasn't alive and Stephen wants to get as far away as he can. As an adult, Stephen's friend Ben and his girlfriend, and later his wife, Julie encourage him not to give up on writing, and not to give up on God. The first part might be possible but as an atheist who doesn't see God in any piece of his life, the latter is close to impossible. Julie is a devout Christian and they are married in a church, the first Stephen has set foot in as an adult, and his life seems to be made over. He is blessed and under his pen name B.R. Stevenson, his work is finally published. Alcoholism curbs Stephen's blessings and he hits rock bottom after he loses everything.

The Rock at the Bottom by Cynthia Hilston has a twist that is heartbreaking and the upturn that slowly starts in Stephens's life is obliterated by alcoholism. I saw this would happen from the blurb but the extent of it made me physically ill. My wife was in a car accident that took the life of her friend and the driver of the car that struck them was drunk. The terror that I could have lost her was long tucked away and I had to set the novel aside for a while as it was too close to home. Hilston uses scripture, biblical references, and religious anecdotes liberally in The Rock at the Bottom. The whole book is unapologetically Christian so all the readers who love clear and unambiguous messaging will be happy with the story from start to finish. Stephen's penance seems improbable but he is not alone nor without guidance from messengers only God could put in front of Stephen. Fans of the series will know it at once. Very highly recommended.