Told You So
Let me preface this review with the announcement that Told You So was my first real experience reading an inspirational romance. I picked it up because I’d heard Kristen Heitzmann had earned good reviews at AAR in the past and figured there probably wouldn’t be a better time to make my first foray into the sub-genre. I didn’t go in with too many expectations, but having finished it I can say that yes, I would (and will) pick up another inspirational romance sometime in the future.
I don’t know if there’s a particular usual setting for Inspirational Romances—I suppose I always pictured them taking place out in the countryside, surrounded by nature. It was a pleasant surprise to find that Told You So takes place, essentially, in my backyard—that is, New York City. As it opens, bestselling romance author Grace Evangeline is in the process of finding a playwright to help put her renowned stories up on stage. She’s chosen Devin Bressard to aid her in this endeavor because he’s earned critical acclaim several times with his shows, and she expects he can do something similar with her books.
Unfortunately, Devin doesn’t exactly see things the way Grace does. He tells her that the stories that were so moving to Grace and all her fans were hilarious to him. Insulted by his rejection, Grace proceeds to first throw a glass of sweet tea in his face and then…well, then she goes a little crazy stalking him for a couple of days. She’s out to prove that the drama Devin laughed off as ridiculous in her books could easily happen to him in real life. In the process of this harmless stalking, Grace meets Eileen O’Hare, one of Devin’s associates in the world of theater, and finds a new friend in her. Eileen, seeing sparks fly between Grace and Devin, meddles (as friends are wont to do) and convinces them to write a play together for her to produce.
It’s at this point that Grace and Devin start really digging into each other’s characters—a delicious thing for any reader. Grace is an eternal optimist and has a strong faith in God that keeps her centered. Her books have become known worldwide for their signature style, wherein heroines go through hardships, wait until marriage to have sex, and have outlandish weddings that are always described in detail. She lives by this code herself, doing her best to make moral decisions and remaining steadfast in her belief that God is important, and that there is a sort of God-spark in everyone that leads to creativity.
Devin challenges most all of Grace’s beliefs. Although his father intended to become a priest, the day Devin’s mother left her son on his doorstep Eddie Bressard decided he had a different calling in life. Devin has always had trouble with this, angry that his mother gave him up and angry that his father had to give up so much to raise his son. That anger and cynicism has made its way into many of Devin’s plays…and into his relationships. As he and Grace battle over the eventual outcome of their piece, it becomes clearer and clearer that Devin is going to shy away from a real relationship with her due to his inability to get past the circumstances of his birth.
Looking at this from a religious/Inspirational Romance standpoint I really liked the book. It was clear that faith was an important piece of the story, particularly as Grace tried to talk to Devin about his, but I liked that religion never overwhelmed the story. For most of the book it was just a fact that Grace cared about her faith, and even at the end when Devin was working through things it was clear that Grace pushed the issue out of love for him and a desire to see him work out his own emotional issues. Everything was handled gracefully, nothing forced….so yes, I would definitely be up for another Inspirational Romance, based on my experience with this one.
I would also be interested in another book by Kristen Heitzmann, judging from the quality of this one. However, that is not to say that there were no problems here. I really loved the beginning of the book—Grace and Devin truly do have sparks, for one thing. For another, I was amazed by my series of first impressions when it came to Grace. Initially, I thought she just overreacted to Devin’s criticism when she threw the tea. Then I thought her silly, based on his description of her dramatic stories. Then I thought she was a crazy stalker. Yet she bounced back from all of those initial opinions, proving to be an honest, likeable character! That was why the end of the book saddened me some—after such an interesting beginning, where I went through so many mixed emotions about Grace, I was sad to see a sudden explosion of drama from Devin. His tragic backstory gets tied up, providing a decent ending, but not something that matched the rest of the character-driven story. I suppose one can’t always have everything, though. Certainly I won’t let one less-than-perfect ending stop me from reading Ms. Heitzmann’s next book.