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HisWriters lurkdom to become more involved in the group, which isn't large but is comprised of authors (published and unpublished) who write European historical inspirational fiction (mostly romances).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?