Fire by Night (Refiners Fire, Book 2)

by Lynn Austin

Paperback, 2003



Call number



Bethany House Publishers (2003), Edition: Reprinted, 432 pages

Original publication date



Fiction. Christian Fiction. Historical Fiction. Encounter the Civil War through the eyes of two very different Northern girls in this moving, Christy-award-winning novel.


Christy Awards (Nominee — Historical — 2004)


Original language


Physical description

432 p.; 8.5 inches


1556614438 / 9781556614439

User reviews

LibraryThing member debs4jc
Plot Summary: What happens, When & Where, Central Characters, Major Conflicts
Julia Hoffman joins the crowd watching the battle of Bull Run at the start of the Civil war, certain that the Union army will easily chase the confederates back to where they belong. She is terrified when the battle turns
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the other way and horrified when artillery shells start falling around their carriage. The young minister she was hoping to impress, Nathaniel, jumps out to help the wounded soldiers, but Julia is too frightened to stay and urges her driver to rush her home. Later she overhears Natheniel describe her as selfish and spoiled and this remark leads her to do some soul searching and determine to change the course of her life. Meanwhile, a young woman named Phoebe (nicknamed Ike) is dismayed when her brothers join the army and leave her to babysit a bunch of onery kids for a local townswoman. She decides that since she can shoot just as well as her brothers she will join the army as well so she disguises herself as a man and does just that. Little does she know that being in the company of men will burden her with a secret love.

Style Characterisics: Pacing, clarity, structure, narrative devices, etc.
While the story shifts regularly from Julia to Phoebe, it seems to focus more on Julia. The main themes are inner transformation and the role of woman--do they have to be subsumed by their husbands or can they live independent lives? And of course the tragedies of the Civil war are played out before the reader and this provides plenty of fodder for dramatic situations and soul seeking. Both Julia and Phoebe get close to the action (as nurses or as a soldier in Phoebe's case) although their inner conflicts and their relational struggles seem to provide more of the conflict for the story. Julia works for a gruff doctor named James, whom she feels an odd attraction for, which causes her to fall into the dilemma of having feelings for a supposedly married man while being engaged to another. And Phoebe loves her soldier friend Ted, but when he finds out her secret how will he feel about her?

How Good is it?
A solid story with convincing characters. I wasn't always sure about the messages being put forth, or the typical romanantic plotting, which was very predictable and doesn't provide the best example. And the agenda of the author seemed just a bit too obvious.
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LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Julia Hoffman, wealthy Philadelphia socialite, has been in love with the minister Nathaniel Greene since she was 15 years old. So when she overhears him telling her uncle that he thinks she is spoiled, self-absorbed, and selfish, Julia is heartbroken, though she knows that it's true. She must find
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a way to prove to him that she's more than fancy dresses and tea parties... so Julia lies about her marital status and enlists as a nurse in a hospital treating wounded Civil War soldiers. Can Julia persevere even though everyone is telling her she should give up and go home? And can this hard work change who she is inside or is it just a superficial measure to win the heart of Nathaniel?

Phoebe Bigelow is being left behind by her three older brothers who are off to enlist in the Union army. She's tall and homely and has no chance or interest in finding a husband, so she's forced to stay with a bratty family, mainding children and cleaning house. However, Phoebe devises a plan. She knows she looks more than a little mannish, so she disguises herself as "Ike" Bigelow and enlists in the Union army. Though it's hard work, it's the best time Phoebe has ever had and she finally makes some friends. But how long can she keep her secret? And what will her new friends think of her when they find out?

Julia's and Phoebe's stories intertwine in this gripping novel of the Civil War. Although I'm not a big fan of the Jesus stuff, it was easy enough to skim through and the story was well worth it. There's deception, intrigue, and romance... what more could you ask for?
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LibraryThing member MDLady
Well written story of 2 women living completely different lives. Julia's the beautiful and spoiled rich girl who can't do anything for herself. Phoebe is the not so beautiful poor girl who has never had anyone do anything for her. They end up finding what they truly desire in ways they never
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imagined. I hated for this one to end!
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LibraryThing member DonnaCallea

Set during the Civil War, this novel follows two women who defy conventions. Too preachy and contrived for me.
LibraryThing member JenniferRobb
I was given this book as a gift by a friend. It's set during the Civil War and follows two women--one a socialite and the other a country girl. The socialite seeks to impress a minister she wants to marry enough to get him to want to marry her. To do so, she becomes a nurse and discovers that she
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has a real knack for the work. Something that makes her minister beau upset.

The country girl grew up with only brothers and has been treated like a boy, so when all her brothers enlist for the war, she finds a way to also--as a soldier. When she's eventually wounded and found out to be female, she turns to nursing as well.

But war is nothing like either of them suspect. It changes them in ways they hadn't imagined and allows them to meet people neither ever thought they would--including their prospective spouses.

It's a atypical romance because the romance is not necessarily at the forefront of the narrative most of the time.
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LibraryThing member nlpolak
Lynn Austin is a powerful writer reknowned for her compelling historicals that weave events in the past together with the universal struggles we face today with love, God, and our life's purpose. In Fire by Night, the story focuses on two women from completely different backgrounds whose
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experiences during the Civil War find them led to each other in the most unusual way.

Considered an historical inspirational romance, Ms. Austin vividly describes what life was like living in 1861 during the start of the war, and how no one was quite prepared for the number of lives that were lost. Julia Hoffman is a young socialite from Viriginia, with little thought to her future, other than to be married and have lasting happiness. But the war's cruel reality forces her to meet her fears and step out in faith. She leaves the comfort of her home to follow God's calling for her life, much to the disdain of her family. Phoebe Bigelow, a Pennsylvanian farm girl with no desire to fall into the expected womenly role of her time, is not afraid to show support to her country. Left as an orphan in the absence of her brothers' care, she leaves home and pursues a new life in order to show her loyalty. By the time Julia and Phoebe's paths cross, the war becomes deadlier than originally thought, and both women struggle to make sense of what they see happen around them as the war drags on for 4 years. They become friends, encouraging each other to live according to God's calling, despite the opposition they face from the people they respect the most.

Fire by Night addresses more than just the issue of sociological differences that divided the Yankees from the Confederates - it explored the raw suffering from both sides, the black slaves caught in the middle; yet there were also prejudices that went beyond color barriers during that time. Women's rights were nonexistant. Surprisingly, there were strong feelings for and against changing how society viewed women, just by women themselves! Few were the men who upheld the notion that women were more than just the husband's property.

This book is also a chilling reminder of how our nation once battled against its brothers over vastly different opinions, much like what goes on today. Just like the people in the 1860s, today many find it hard to tolerate new ideas, even to the point of making distinctions between classes, races, and political groups to prove their own agendas. And with our President Barack Obama in power, his role with America right now certainly mimicks in many ways Abraham Lincoln's term as President.

I was drawn to the book while seeking to better understand history, and I found that I didn't have to look very hard to find common ground with the characters. Ms. Austin makes the plot come alive with dynamic characters who could very well be our ancestors. It brings the matter of living in freedom and equality to another level. You cannot help but be filled with awe for the soldiers and medical personnel who so willingly did their duty to God and their country during that time, as well as in every war since then. My appreciation of those who've worked hard to shape this country has made me want to become a better person. To be transformed like that in just 429 pages is a gift. The author is truly enjoyable, and I heartily recommend Fire by Night as a historical must-read.
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