The Shepherd's Voice
I wasn’t sure why I agreed to read and review The Shepherd’s Voice; after all, I don’t normally read inspirationals. But I couldn’t resist the chance to look at a book by one of this sub-genre’s best-known authors (although she is perhaps more widely known as an Americana author) and I’m glad I did. Too often, romances don’t address the spiritual aspects of their characters’ personalities, and it was refreshing for me to read a book where this was a pivotal element of the story.
Akira Macauley lives in Idaho mountain country, where she carries on the family tradition of farming and raising sheep. The Depression is at its darkest moment, and she’s hanging onto her land with every ounce of determination and faith she’s got. A deeply religious woman, Akira just knows the Lord has a reason for sending a man who appears to be a drifter to her land. Little does she realize what His purpose is.
Gabriel Talmadge has been out of prison for a couple of years, convicted of a horrible crime. Down on his luck, he’s gathered the last of his courage to return to Ransom, to face the father who’s rejected him since the day he was born. Weak with hunger, Gabe collapses on the hillside, thinking he’ll just die there. But Akira refuses to let that happen. She nurses Gabe back to health and offers him a job. It’s obvious to her that he needs more than just physical recovery: his soul needs healing even more than his body. Slowly, Gabe comes to open his heart to the Lord. With Akira’s help, he finds the peace that has eluded him since he was a boy. As he comes to love the Lord, he comes to love His handmaiden, too, which raises a whole new set of complications for both of them.
Even after they marry, their struggles are far from over. Gabe’s father, an avowed atheist, runs the town, and he’s entrenched in his bitterness, eager to wreak vengeance on Gabe. He’s convinced that all his misery – the failing business, the deep unhappiness he knows – all started with a shocking crime, for which he holds Gabe responsible. And he won’t stop until Gabe is completely ruined. It will take all of Gabe’s newfound faith to withstand the temptation to pay his father back in kind, and Akira will be with him every step of the way.
Akira and Gabe are two well-defined characters. At first, it seems that Akira is the stronger of the two in every regard, but as Gabe’s comes into his own, his soul awakens and grows, too, and his belief comes to be as unshakable as hers, in spite of the many obstacles he meets on his walk of faith. When nobody else believes in his intrinsic goodness, Akira is there for Gabe, and he learns he must be there for her, as well. These are two compatible and likable people, well suited to each other. Somebody knew what He was doing when He put them together.
The rural setting is well done, as are the secondary characters for the most part, although I found them somewhat flat. A notable exception is Gabe’s stepmother Pauline. She knows what an evil man her husband is, and for years she’s gone along with him. But meeting Gabe and Akira and seeing the happiness they have, learning where it comes from, gives her the courage to rethink the direction of her life and wonder if there’s something missing. She was more real to me than her husband, who came off as a caricature rather than a character.
At times the dialogue and inner thoughts of the characters struck me as being just a bit too preachy for my taste, but I understand that it’s a convention of inspirationals, and I accepted it and kept reading. I was eager to learn just how Akira and Gabe would navigate the many twists and turns on the road to their HEA. While I haven’t become a convert to inspirationals, I enjoyed reading The Shepherd’s Voice. If you like inspirational romance, this is a book to look forward to.