The Preacher's Daughter
Cheryl St. John is keeping the flame of Western Romance alive almost single handedly and doing a wonderful job of it. Her latest, The Preacher’s Daughter, is sweet, romantic, and just plain sigh-worthy. It came thisclose to being a DIK, but fell just a tiny bit short. Can I rate it a B++?
Lorabeth Holdridge’s life is stricter than that of a cloistered nun. At least nuns have some free time during the day for recreation – she does not. Her minister father, although not cruel, disapproves of what he terms frivolous activity which for him is everything but work and reading the Bible. As the book begins, Lorabeth’s father has agreed to allow her to live with and work for Dr. Caleb Chaney and his wife Ellie (see The Doctor’s Wife for their story). Ellie is about to have baby number five and needs the help.
Lorabeth moves to the Chaney home, where they treat her like a member of the family. While she is with them, she works, but she also goes to parties, reads books, and has fun like other young women her age. She also meets Ellie’s brother Ben, the town veterinarian. Ben falls hard for Lorabeth and, because of her sheltered upbringing, he appoints himself as her protector. Together they go for walks and to young people’s parties and they find themselves falling in love. Ben protests his unworthiness but Lorabeth knows her mind and knows what she wants – a husband, a home, children, and Ben.
Ben’s past was horrible. He and his siblings lived lives that no children should have to endure. Their mother was an alcoholic prostitute. After her death he was fostered with an abusive family and might have died if Caleb hadn’t adopted him. Ben went to the university and now is a much loved and respected veterinarian. He’s wealthy, very good looking, and seemingly is a paragon of successful manhood. But his early years scarred him; he thinks men (himself included) are animals with only a thin veneer of control that keeps them from reverting to their true nature. Because of his upbringing – and an incident in his past – Ben is sure he is no good, unworthy of love, and especially unworthy of such a sweet woman as Lorabeth.
Lorabeth is a true innocent. Her father raised her in the strictest possible way and all she knows of the relationship between men and women is what she sees of the Chaney’s happy marriage and passages from the Song of Solomon. Lorabeth may be innocent, but she’s not foolish or silly – she is intelligent and wants to know and experience all of life that she can. Her faith is a part of her life and she sees it as a source of love and joy (she’s not rigid like her father). Lorabeth is filled with good common sense and she slowly but surely works to make Ben realize that he is a good man who is worthy of love.
I must also mention that it would have been so easy to make Lorabeth’s father an evil man, but he’s not. He’s stern, he’s unbending, but he’s honest and upright and he does love his children.
The Preacher’s Daughter is a sweet story of redemption and the healing power of love. Cheryl St. John is without peer in her ability to tell this story and she is practically perfect here. The only quibble I had was that Ben went from tortured to forgiving himself with neck-snapping speed. If only this book had a couple of more pages. But that is the most minor of quibbles. This is one of the sweetest and most romantic books I’ve read this year and its going straight to the comfort read shelf.