Redeeming Love is a classic in the Christian market and straddles the genres of romance and Christian fiction. The story, first published in 1991, is based on selected chapters from Hosea, a biblical book from a minor prophet, in which God asks the prophet to marry a prostitute, a marriage that symbolizes God’s steadfast love for His people. After the book’s first publication for the general romance market, Ms. Rivers edited the manuscript several years later to enhance its biblical connection, and Multnomah Press republished it in 2001. I read the original 1991 version of Redeeming Love and found it unsatisfying. However, with a motion picture release scheduled for 2022, Multnomah has re-issued the author’s 2001 edited version. Having read the re-issue, I can say that If you haven’t read the novel, now is a great time to dive in and experience a powerful story of faithful love.
The first time Michael Hosea sees the striking woman and her brawny escort on the streets of Pair-a-Dice, he is struck by her beauty and self-possession, but also hears God’s voice, clear and strong, telling him that she is the one, the one who must be his wife. As a man of God, Michael is agreeable, but questions the request when he learns that the woman is Angel, the most sought-after prostitute in the town. But God’s message is firm. Michael, a frugal and prosperous farmer, has enough gold dust saved to visit Angel every night for nearly a week, talking to her, trying to convince her to go away with him.
To Angel, Michael Hosea is a fool, and is no doubt using his words to entice her into some kind of sexual relationship. Sold into prostitution as a child, Angel has never known a man to want anything else from a woman than sex and to lie, deceive and use force to get it. She turns Michael down repeatedly, but when he finally runs out of gold dust and returns to his farm, Angel reviews her situation and concludes that her life is worthless. She taunts her bodyguard into brutally beating her and hopes that she will die. When she regains consciousness, it is Michael Hosea’s face she sees and through the haze of pain, agrees to become his wife. Now, on Michael’s farm, begins the long journey the man of God and the prostitute take together. He teaches, cares, and loves while she chafes, stubbornly resists, and runs – again and again.
The novel begins with the series of events that bring Angel to her current profession. The basic romance arc is then ready to play out: two people meet, there are conflicts to overcome, and there is the hope of a happily-ever-after. The problems this couple face move the story into the realm of Christian fiction. God stands in the center. His message is firm, His love unending, His presence undeniable. The plot is simple and circular. Michael loves, Angel runs, Michael finds her and brings her back to show her his continuing love. Angel’s belief in her own unworthiness pushes her away from Michael and any thought of God, while the story reveals that only God’s love will be enough to bring her back to Michael permanently.
Although the retelling of Angel’s childhood provides the motivation for Angel’s resistance and is a good piece of writing, I felt that the retelling slowed the pacing and was not absolutely necessary for the story to work. In the writing, there are also some perspective shifts that are unclear and some places where a quick re-read is needed in order to work out who is speaking, but overall the author has a firm hand on the storytelling and the theme, never losing direction. The descriptions of life in Gold Rush country from both Michael’s and Angel’s perspectives are heart wrenching as well as heartwarming with details that bring the scenes to life. Michael’s almost superhuman persistence is a beautiful analogy for God’s unfailing love. The spiritual and emotional struggles of the characters are expressed through a good choice of words and phrasing that keep the reader engaged. I’ve rated the sensuality as Subtle because of the emotional wording surrounding scenes in the marriage bed.
Redeeming Love is a book that resonates long after reading it, and the story is worth experiencing more than once for its visual, emotional, and spiritual impact. I can definitely recommend that you pick up a copy of Redeeming Love.
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