by Gina Welborn
On average for every three romances I read, I like one. I am a picky reader. Which is why I was more than a tad surprised when I began inventorying the romances I've read this year and realized how many of them I liked. Egad! What happened to my average? Here's my liking list in no particular order:
~Books Gina Read in 2010 and Didn't Want to Throw Any at a Wall and Many of Which She Repeatedly Recommended to Friends~
(For the sake of...umm, well, only inspirational or sweet romances are listed.) ((*Updated 11/17/10 after I remembered several others I'd read earlier this year.))
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
Double Take by Jenness Walker
Better than Gold by Laurie Alice Eakes
A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman
Seasons in the Mist by Deb Kinnard
Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer
Montana Rose by Mary Connealy
A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman
When the Snow Flies by Laurie Alice Eakes
A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund
Angel's Den by Jamie Carie
Back in July, Jamie Carie came out of HisWriters lurkdom to become more involved in the group, which isn't large but is comprised of authors (published and unpublished) who write European historical inspirational fiction (mostly romances). Well, Jamie and I got to chatting offlist about something I can't remember but am sure was utterly fascinating.
Jamie being in tune with the Holy Spirit recognized my spiritual gift of receiving and sent me a book for my birthday: ANGEL'S DEN. Yay, Jamie! Yay, Holy Spirit! Yay, me for having such an awesome spiritual gift!
Now I wish I could say I did the grateful thing and read ANGEL'S DEN immediately. Umm. Nope. At the time I was reading my way through Patricia Veryan's Golden Chronicles series because Laurie Alice Eakes told me to read them to study Veryan's writing style and how she took six books to turn a villain into a hero. (Far harder when the novels aren't inspirational with a salvation scene.)
Long story short and four months later, I finally worked my way through books Laurie Alice told me to read as well as books I bought (like The Healer's Apprentice). I read Jamie's book.
In ANGEL'S DEN, the heroine Emma falls in love with, well, the perfect man. Ryan Reynolds..only with darker hair and a tendancy not to walk around shirtless. He had looks, wealth, charm. But once the mariage vows were taken, the mask came off. Thus began a woman's journey through abuse: verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual.
Now that kinda makes the book sound heavy. Morose. Trust me, I avoid women's fiction novels for a reason. I don't like angst. Can't remember when I last watched a Lifetime movie.
Because Jamie had the skill to engage me into her narrative and to endear her heroine to me, I gladly went on the journey. When I was ready for Emma to be less of a victim, she grew strong. When I needed Emma to struggle with her emotions, guilt, shame, grief, etc., she broke...because no woman could endure what Emma did and tackle it with the courage of Joan of Arc. It's not realistic. She had to struggle. At times, she had to be a victim because she was a victim.
Reminds me of the new Alice in Wonderland movie. The Hatter said to Alice, "You've lost your muchness." Sometimes I think authors, in wanting to make their heroines strong, forget that it takes time to develop strength. To regain your muchness, to gain muchness, you must first recognized you lost it...or don't have it.
Emma had to realize she didn't have it. But she could develop it. (More on this later.)
Jamie also crafted a story that gives readers a glimpse of abuse while showing God's desire to bring the abusee and abuser into healing and freedom. The journey isn't easy. The journey doesn't always have a HEA. Which is why, for me, the epilogue isn't needed. It doesn't fit the story. However, I'm guessing Jamie's editor said, "Write an epilogue so the reader can have a concrete HEA." Hmm.
I'd love for anyone who's read ANGEL'S DEN to respond. Do you think the epilogue was needed? Would you have been satisfied with how the book minus the epilogue ended?
Back to "muchness."
In a Titanic-esque boat scene, Emma (like Rose) struggles with living dead verses dying to live. Like Jack did with Rose, the hero in ANGEL'S DEN (Luke) takes our heroine's focus off what she wants to escape and off what she thinks she wants. The difference is that in Titanic, Rose found who she wanted to be in Jack, in an imperfect, fallible person. Luke could have easily done the same thing. Dare I say that in the average ABA romance, the hero would have done the same thing.
In this novel, Luke did the right thing: He took Emma's focus and directed it toward God.
Oh, he wavered at times. What man in love doesn't want to say, "Look at me. Trust me. I will be your hero. I will rescue you."
ANGEL'S DEN is also a man's journey. Luke had to learn he couldn't...no, he wasn't supposed to be Emma's hero. He had to learn to let her go so she could find her real hero: Jesus.
Jesus was all Emma needed. Jesus is all you need. H is perfect. He is infallible. He is Freedom, Healing, and Peace.
To me, what Luke did was the greatest love a man can demonstrate to a woman: to point her to Jesus. Show her Jesus. Help her be more like Jesus.
I close this review of ANGEL'S DEN with this...
My almost-empty To Be Read pile has now grown into a stack again. Why? Becasue I've found a new favorite author...who just so happens to have written a good number of books that I haven't read. Yet.
If you've read any of Jamie's other books, which one is your favorite and why?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! There have been some really great Christian fiction books published this year, and I love the romance genre. :)ReplyDelete
I have read several of Jamie Carie's other books, and I think my favorite would have to be Snow Angel. It is a beautiful love story and an exciting, inspiring adventure story. I really enjoyed it!
I also really liked The Duchess and the Dragon. It was very different and unique, and it delved into some deep issues (like trust within marriage). It wasn't really a "fun" read, so to speak, but Jamie Carie knows how to keep the reader invested in the story.
I've also read Love's First Light and Angel's Den, but they weren't my favorites by this author.
Gina, as always you make your review relevant and personal. I'm with you- angst makes me nervous!! I really do avoid it like the plague.ReplyDelete
I have not read anything by Jamie, but will be on the lookout to give her books a go.
I like the bunny version of Titanic best.
I've only read one so far - The Duchess and the Dragon. This was back when I was discovering Christian fiction again. The title and cover drew me in and the story helped me realize the depth and variety possible in this genre.ReplyDelete
I am definitely looking forward to reading this one. Thanks Gina and a shout out to Jamie and all her successes!
Sounds like a great book and another reason for my TBR stack to grow.ReplyDelete
Gina, you always make me laugh. Thanks. And, this post brings me comfort because now I think you will like my women's fiction. It's not angsty, and there's lots of romance and spiritual growth.
On epilogues, I had the same feeling about Sandi's new book. Maybe I should add that to my review. Just pretend the epilogue with its heavy handed HEA isn't even there. I was thinking exactly what you said, I bet the editor asked for this. She did put a funny little twist on it, though, which I appreciated. Otherwise the book is executed beautifully.
No, I haven't read any of Jamie's books - yet.ReplyDelete
Wow, does this Emma ever remind me of my Emma in the book I just submitted. Ugh. I hate when that happens. I wish this book had come out about 2 yrs earlier - then my heroine would've been called Maggie or something.
Well, I'm surely looking forward to reading this one now.
Thanks, Amber, for sharing your thoughts about Jamie's books. I'd love to discuss why you liked a couple of her other books better, but, alas, I haven't read any of them. However, I intend to so the next time I do a review of one of them, please pop in and chat with me. I enjoy hearing what another person liked (or disliked) about a book.ReplyDelete
LOL, Cheryl. Writing book reviews hasn't been my thing, but Dina created a templete to help me. Only I haven't been too good with sticking to Dina's templete. I'm working on it though.ReplyDelete
Thanks for appreciating the "personal and relevant" aspect of my review. I try. LOL
My 11-year-old son is sitting next to me as I type. He asked me what the bunny version of Titanic was. Fios on-demand has different micro-mini versions of movies, in which the characters are bunnies. I'll have to go show him the Titanic one.
Dina, I want to like women's fiction. In fact, one year I was determined to appreciate it more so I judged the category in a few contests. Not unbearable. However, I have the mindset of a romance writer so I had to constantly remind myself "this story isn't a romance and that's okay."ReplyDelete
I wonder how many readers/non-writers read epilogues and think "tacked on" or "bet her editor asked her to add this." Is it that we do because we're writers? Hmm. I don't think the epilogue weakened the story. I do think I was content with the story's end minus the epilogue.
Anita, unless you made massive changes to your Emma from the version I read of the opening chapters, I think I can safely say your Emma isn't the same as the heroine in Angel's Den. Your Emma has a determination to succeeed/achieve that this Emma didn't, and that was okay. Different stories.ReplyDelete
Deb, I've wanted to read The Duchess and the Dragon for a couple years now, because I remember first seeing the cover and thinking "I want to read that book." Only there was always some other book on my To Buy list...or I just didn't have any extra $ to spend on a book that month.ReplyDelete
I've discovered that by requesting my local library buy more Christian fiction, they actually buy the books. Nice knowing there's not a discrimination against Christian fiction in public libraries. At least not here in Richmond.
I want to read this book. First is Love's Firt Light, since Jamie gave me a copy at the ACFW conference. It's siting right in front of me.ReplyDelete
I actually love women's fiction. I think, like the mysteries I devour, they are so removed from the romances I write I'm not constantly trying to rewrite the book in my head as I read.
I don't think romance in the CBA writes enough about abused women, not realistically anyway. I can see Jamie being realistic.
Epilogues and prologues are generally not needed, but I did have my agent suggest I write one. I tried to make it relevant rather than superfluous, and that's not really easy when the story is essentially over.
Thanks Gina. I appreciate you saying that. And although I did make massive changes, they were mostly about the ones my Inky sisters pointed me in the right direction for. :D (Thanks for that, too.)ReplyDelete
Laurie, I tend to read ABA fiction because I don't tend to re-write it like I with CBA fiction. Although I don't do the latter so much becuase I've read several books this year that I didn't think about rewriting. :-)ReplyDelete
Anita, I empathize with reading something and thinking "uggh, that's just like my hero/heroine/plot/etc."ReplyDelete
I remember judging last year (or the year before) where in three contest, I had four or five entries with Cat as the heroine's name/nickname. I'd like to read a story where the heroine's name has "cat" in it but she doesn't go by the shortened version and despises it when someone calls her "cat." Oh, and two of those entries had the heroine being a thief. Really made the name cliched.
Not that I'm inferring Emma is overused or cliched. LOL. Not at all. I love the name. :-)
I don't love Cat.