Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jen Turano's "A Most Peculiar Circumstance"

The second novel in her Ladies of Distinction series, Jen Turano's A Most Peculiar Circumstance is every bit as funny and delightful as her first.  Her characters are smart and funny, but able to grow out of the mold they start in. 

A Most Peculiar CircumstanceTurano does a good job making the characters grow and change without losing their spark or compromising the values that make them who they are.  Inherently, Theodore desires to protect women.  When he is introduced to us, it manifests as 100% chauvinism, but as he recognizes the women in his life as more than just a tool for man's comfort, his chauvinism matures into chivalry; he still believes that women should be protected, but he learns see their worth as people too.   Arabella has a calling for fighting for women's rights, but she ends up facing the fact that she has neglected to think and act with compassion for the hearts of the people she is trying to improve.  With that revelation, she is able to move forward in a significantly more God-honoring way.

The best thing about the novel is the characters (and given that is very much a character- and dialogue-driven book, that is probably a good thing).  While Theodore was, admittedly, a jerk to Arabella in the beginning, I couldn't dislike him, since his notions of proper womanly behavior made me laugh.  Even more so though, it makes my heart glad that no matter his personal feelings for the female involved, he does everything in his power to defend her anyway, in spite of his chauvinistic attitude, and in spite of her apparent disrespect of him.   While I firmly believe that women can be more than capable of defending themselves, there is something about a man rushing to a woman's protection that makes me feel safe and cherished.  The world needs more men like that!  (Though ideally without the women-are-decoration-only attitude). 

Arabella is neither a stereotypical suffragette, nor is she a stereotypical blonde.  Yes, she does fight for women's rights, but she also is soft-hearted, feminine, and a romantic, without lacking in brains.  Some of her schemes might be rather foolish - especially the circumstances that land her in jail the second time - but even then she has the sense to not completely disregard her safety or that of the women she is attempting to help.  Overall, I found her spunky and sweet, without being abrasive. 

Like her other novel, Turano made this one a clean, safe read, ripe with romantic tension without the intimate touching, kissing, etcetera that is often found in romantic comedies.  A highly enjoyable read!  5 stars

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book for the purpose of review; I was not obligated to make it positive.

I highly recommend reading the entire Ladies of Distinction series for some amusing, heart-warming reads:
1. A Change of Fortune
2. A Most Peculiar Circumstance
3. A Talent for Trouble 
4. A Match of Wits

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dee Henderson's "Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story" - not as good as expected

Cover Art Dee Henderson's Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story serves as an introduction to her O'Malley series by finally devoting a book to the only O'Malley whose story was basically told through the points of view of her siblings in their respective books.  It sets up the course of events that follow in the subsequent novels.  

When I requested to review this book, I confess I was expecting a full-length novel, much like Dee Henderson's other O'Malley books, rather than a novella; it's my fault for not paying attention to the dimensions and length of the book, though they don't actually state it anywhere in the official description.  So that was a surprise and a bit of a disappointment, as I would have liked more story.

As a rule, I feel like novellas rarely allow for enough character and plot development to make a solid story.  Unfortunately, this one basically follows that pattern.  I had hoped that it would give more insight into Jennifer's character, but I feel like everything I know about her I already learned in the O'Malley books; this just condenses it all under one cover.  The main advantage of this book is that we learn a bit more about Tom, though I still don't think it's as in-depth as the love interests in the full length novels. 

There is not much of a conclusion to the story; part of that is to be expected, since the remainder of Jennifer's life is detailed in the following novels.  However, it could have been tied up a little more satisfactorily without compromising the series.  Also, given that a fair amount of the novel is devoted to Jennifer's patients, I would have liked to see more attention given to what happens with the little girl Veronica, for whom Jennifer cares so much.  I don't remember her from the novels (granted, it has been some time since I read them), thus it would have been nice to find out more - her surgery appeared successful, but not conclusive since there was something strange about the tissue they removed.  Was it successful?  Does the tissue indicate she has some worse problem?  Is she cured?  Does she die?  In any case, the author seems to forget all about her in light of Jennifer's troubles. 

If one has not read the O'Malley books, this would be a fine introduction to Jennifer, and if one has read the books, it's nice to read just to acquaint oneself with Tom a bit better.  However, it doesn't really add to the series, and to be honest, I don't think it can stand on it's own.  2 stars.

Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this novella for the purpose of this review. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Stealing the Preacher" steals your heart

Once again, Karen Witemeyer has written a spectacular novel - Stealing the Preacher is a delightful blend of sweetness, humor, seriousness, and thoughtful reflection as Crockett Archer gets kidnapped from a train as a birthday present for an ex-outlaw's daughter and finds himself on a slightly different track than he thought that God had called him to. One of the most attractive aspects of the book is the spiritual maturation of the main characters, giving us examples to follow besides lessons to learn.

Stealing the Preacher  -     
        By: Karen Witemeyer
One of four brothers orphaned at a young age, Crockett grew up needing to be a man's man - to accurately use a weapon for both food and protection, to care for a ranch, to doctor the wounded, and even to be a spiritual guide for his brothers.  Lessons he learned growing up lends him a maturity to deal with so many different situations in his flock, from a neglected boy to a hardened father, from an overly flirtatious young woman to a severe middle-aged spinster. 

Crockett's reasons for falling in love with Jo epitomize his spiritual maturation; while other girls may be prettier or pander his ego, Joanna shows an intense love for the Lord and desire to to follow His ways, and that proves far more attractive than any physical beauty or flirtatious ways.

What impresses me is how true to life Witemeyer portrays the characters' walk with God.  Crockett and Joanna both are mature Christians who are adept at following the Lord's leading, but both struggle with the occasional uncertainty.  Joanna has prayed for her father daily for years regarding his salvation.  Eventually she feels prompted to tell him about it, but his reaction leads her to believe she pushed too far.  Was that really the right time to speak up?  Was she really following God's timing?  Was she too pushy?  It's so common to have doubts, even when we know that what we did was prompted by God.  When a person is a new Christian, of course we expect them to have doubts about hearing God, but it really is common among the "mature" too.  When you know that you know that God wants you to act, don't let the first result trick you into doubting God's ability to use you; trust Him and watch for fruit.  It may be seconds later or a long time in coming, but it will be there.

Be sure to read Witemeyer's Short Straw Bride, about Travis Archer!

Both inspiring and delightful to read!  5 Stars!