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Maggie Boyd
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Quirky – Read a book with a quirky hero or heroine, such as a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book. Bittersweet Cathy Marie Hake

Ms. Hake writes humorous Western Inspirational romances with unique characters but in this case, the tale fell quite flat for me.

Christian theology can be a difficult thing. We have numerous denominations because we interpret and prioritize the teachings of Jesus in different ways. Even seemingly simple issues – such as forgiveness – can be fraught with issues. We can agree that a murderer repenting of his crime is a cause to rejoice however few would argue that such repentance would require that his sentence should then be set aside. Many know that God requires of us that we welcome the alien and sojourner but check any Christian magazine comment section, Facebook page or letters to the editor and you will see there is a hot debate about how the church should respond to illegal aliens in America. Is justice our priority or charity? These are tough questions to be looked at with prayer, discernment and intense study of the scriptures.

Which is one reason why I tend to be cautious in reading Inspirational fiction. Many authors can not resist the opportunity to sermonize on a favorite theology within their texts and yet many times, that theology winds up being misrepresented or being completely ill thought out. That was the case with this novel. I think the tale was meant to be about forgiveness but it had many cultural undertones and unclear doctrine which made it extremely difficult for me to read.
Galen O’Sullivan has always treated Laney as his best friends barely to be tolerated kid sister. When it became clear she had a crush on him, he responded with minimal tolerance. His father’s recent death has him working long hours on the farm, so when he finds some drifters on his land he wants to make short shift of them. Christian charity forces him to rethink things and let them stay on his land. The two kids (young adults) prove to be hard workers and he treats them with increasing charity. His mother and brothers do as well and so does Laney’s family. Having the extra help on the farm and the easing of some of his tension allows him to finally see Laney as a real possibility for his wife. Before he can pop the question though, Ivy (one of the squatters), forces Galen to marry her.

I had had struggles with the text before that. The level of preachiness was high from the beginning, with the author often taking the opportunity to intersperse the story with both the salvation message and numerous points of morality. But this was where my struggles really began. I was angry that Galen’s mother, who had been a whiny, weepy character to that point, turned so quickly on her son and accepted the word of a vagrant who had until recently been aiding and abetting a criminal. I was horrified that she overruled Galen’s decision to remove Ishmael and insisted on essentially giving Ivy the very thing she wanted – a nice home for her family. I was angrier that everyone simply accepted that Ivy’s life-altering actions required reactions of forgiveness and charity from the very people she had wronged. It was theology at its worst – a reenactment of messianic principles with no explanation of the cost of the cross or the price of discipleship. It was what Bonhoeffer termed “cheap grace” in all its beautiful abundance.

Ms. Hake was one of the first author’s I had read when coming back to Inspirational romance and I enjoyed her novel “Whilwind” enough that I continued to read in the genre. It was a huge disappointment to read this story, which could have been an interesting look at growing up and moving on and finding it to be a jumble of poor theology and poorer plotting. A saccharine ending made a bad situation even worse. I have several other of her books in my TBR and I’m hoping and praying they aren’t as bad as this.

Cocktail Challenge – complete
Letter Q – 15 down, 2 to go