Monday, March 31, 2014

Regina Jennings' "Caught in the Middle" - a tender story about trust

Cover Art
In the third novel of her Ladies of Caldwell County, Regina Jennings follows what happens to Anne Tillerton - a woman who killed her husband.  After growing up in a house of neglect, Anne married into a home of abuse.  Now a widow, Anne has shunned society to be a buffalo hunter; only the need to track down a cook sends her into town, where she encounters the brother of the closest woman she could call a friend.  When the cook disappears again, this time leaving Anne stuck with her squalling baby, Anne has to depend on Nick to help with the infant and track down the babe's irresponsible father.  In the meantime, Nick is juggling a booming business, filling in as a county commissioner, and just possibly running for election in a few weeks - not exactly a time he would pick to aid a disreputable woman who dresses like a man.  Who knows - maybe this disaster will be the best thing to happen to them both?

Jennings does a great job with character development.  While both of the main characters had been introduced in the previous two books, she really digs into their personalities, histories, and motivations.  My favorite character ended up being Nick.  Based on the previous books, it is clear Nick is a nice guy, and the beginning of this book reiterates too.  A bit of a gambler at heart, he has business savvy and is good with people.  But when Nick is forced to make serious decisions that are not just straight business, he becomes a man worthy of great respect.  I was impressed by his choices even when they could affect his health, wealth, and happiness.  He is an appealing hero. 

As Nick discovers, it is easy to follow God when the going is easy.  It's easy to trust when content.  But God wants us to trust all the time, to depend on Him regardless of the circumstances.  And sometimes, doing the right thing has major consequences; being a christian does not make one exempt from the actions of others in this corrupt world.  As Jennings points out, God is to be loved apart from His gifts, to be obeyed regardless of the consequences.  Through her story, she turns that into a powerful message. 

There were definitely several moments of humor in there - Anne's wild ways translate into some pretty funny social situations with a stuck-up society matron.  The journey of love that Anne travels with baby Sammy and Nick is a tender tale, and my eyes did not always remain precisely dry while reading it.  A strong, tender, God-honoring story - 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Ladies of Caldwell County
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Love in the Balance
Caught in the Middle

Related novel: For the Record (Ozark Mountain Romance, book 3)

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