The Pastor Takes a Wife
At its best, Anna Schmidt’s writing is truly lyrical. I’m primarily familiar with her through her Nantucket-set historicals, but with The Pastor Takes a Wife, I had a chance to experience her contemporary writing. This was a sensitive and very sweet story of love and redemption that really works well. Though the heroine frustrated me on occasion, I still enjoyed the story.
Early on in the book, we learn that Megan Osbourne grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Singing Springs, Wisconsin. In high school she dated the town golden boy, but her life derailed after she got pregnant and he denied being the father. He went on to college and a successful life; she remained in her little Wisconsin town raising her baby and finding a home and employment with a local innkeeper. Her daughter is now a teenager, but Megan still feels the scorn of the town and is unable to move on.
When she meets the new pastor, Jeb Matthews, she feels comfortable around him. He treats Megan with respect and sees her as a whole person rather than judging her based upon her past. Still, when he asks her to take the lead in putting together a youth center at the church, she is reluctant because of how she believes the town will perceive her. Jeb is persistent and patient, though, and gradually Megan starts to come out of her shell.
The romance between Megan and Jeb worked because of how they communicate with each other. They speak openly about the issues they have and the reader can feel a real connection growing between them during the times they spend together. The problems that arise in their relationship feel real and uncontrived – things such as healing from past relationships, dating while raising a teenager who may or may not approve, a new pastor finding his way in the community, and so on. I also appreciated the interactions that Megan had with secondary characters. They felt like actual conversations people would have with friends and acquaintances.
Unfortunately, this book has its weaknesses, too. First of all, I had a hard time believing that, in the face of the father’s denial of paternity, Megan just played the martyr and let the townpeople believe the lies about her behavior. I know that this novel is set in a small town, but even small towns have court-ordered paternity testing as a matter of course. In addition, there is a plot introduced in the second half of the book that felt a little cheesy. It helped to move along the author’s forgiveness theme, but it also seemed very unbelievable in a Hallmark card sort of way. Needless to say, I don’t consider that a plus.
Even so, I genuinely liked the romantic story at the heart of this book and, in spite of my frustrations with the heroine’s doormat tendencies, I found myself cheering her on as she finally finds the strength to come to terms with the past and move on. If you like sweet romances, The Pastor Takes a Wife is certainly that.