June 11, 2010

A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher

As a rule, I usually avoid Christian romances. I only read them when my mom lends them to me and I feel obligated, and they're almost always nauseating. Particularly annoying to me is the cover art. I've noticed the same thing on cover art for Christian music CD's. Christian hair and make-up is just a little more plastic, a little more Mattel. It almost looks like it can be snapped off and replaced à là Potatohead.

The cover for this book is not an exception, as you can see. But the rest of the book is, sort of. Like much of Christian romance, the subject matter is not deep, though it does go past the wading area into that section where the floor of the pool begins to slant and you have to lift your chin to stay above the surface. The language is basic, but it's not sappy or sentimental, which I appreciated.

Best of all, Hatcher managed to create a fresh story while continuing to follow the requisite romance formula (say what you will about formula, it sells for a reason). Her characters are well-rounded without excess description, and defy stereotypes without also defying nature or history, a trap many romance novelists fall into (i.e. pants-wearing sword-waving medieval princesses). The only time I felt like muttering "blah blah blah" was when the heroine and her hero get holed up in a cabin in a snowstorm. It has to happen in every romance novel. One gets sick or injured, and the only possible nurse is the love interest. It has to be either that or a tandem horseback ride. I challenge you to find a romance novel that doesn't contain one of these two scenes.

I suppose you'd like to know what the book is actually about. This is the third of a series called The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs. Daphne McKinley is a 27 year old unmarried, independently wealthy "spinster" who writes dime novels under a pseudonym in her spare time. Her novels are based on real local stories she picks up from old-timers. The grandson of one of her characters lives in St. Louis, and when he finds out someone is writing unfavorably of the grandfather he knew to be a good man, he wants to find the author and demand a retraction. You can guess the rest.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. It was a light refreshing read that I had a hard time putting down. I finished it three nights ago, and I keep getting the urge to go back to it, then feel disappointed when I remember there's no more to read. I will definitely have to read more by this writer.

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of review.)

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