I didn’t realize, when I picked this up for review, that it was published by an evangelical Christian publisher (Barbour Books). Their mission statement is ‘to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses’.
Now, there is a huge market out there for Christian romance. That audience… generally does not include me. While I was raised a Protestant, and I do still believe in God, organized religion isn’t something I care for.
Nonetheless, I’m no quitter and I resolved to give this anthology a go. There are many ways in which one can express faith without being heavy-handed and that’s what I was looking for here; a romance where two people who share a common faith find love and comfort in each other. Some of the stories did that much better than others, and consequently I’ve decided to write a quick individual review with star rating for each.
First Comes Marriage by Amanda Barratt
A hasty marriage between a young girl compromised by a rake and a young man ordered into it by his father is an inauspicious beginning, especially when the reluctant bridegroom immediately goes to sea with his Navy ship for three years. When he comes back, he has found God and is determined to make a go of his marriage.
To be honest, this was one of my least favourite stories in the book. We never did find out exactly how the hero ‘found God’ and at the first sign of a challenge to his authority, he reverted back to being extremely dislikable. I struggled to warm to him, and Charity was a little bit too good to be true. I’m rating this one three stars.
Masquerade Melody by Angela Bell
This was a gentle, heartwarming story about a young lady living in reduced circumstances after the death of her father forced her into service to her bossy cousin as a companion and chaperone. Adelaide reminded me of a caged bird, desperate to be free with her music, and Colonel Glenmire was a perfect hero for her even if the romance in the story didn’t really become apparent until the very end. Sweetly charming. Five stars.
Three Little Matchmakers by Susanne Dietze
Caroline Dempsey meets her childhood friend Henry, the Earl of Marsden, once again, but this time she is nothing more than the governess for three orphaned children placed into his care. There were hints at abuse in Henry’s past which have conditioned him to guard his emotions, and watching his walls come down as Caroline and the children determinedly loved him was rather charming. There were some hilarious escapades – one particular one involving a sheep in the ballroom had me laughing out loud. A hardened heart has no chance with three determined plot moppets on the case. Five stars.
The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
If you like Poldark, you’ll enjoy this one set on the rugged Cornish coast with smugglers and excise men aplenty. While nicely written, I quibbled with a few things such as Helen’s becoming engaged immediately after her father’s death with no mourning period, and the fact that there was no real resolution with the invisible antagonist of the plot. Enjoyable but probably needed to be about double the length. Four stars.
When I Saw His Face by Nancy Moser
A widow in her forties receives a proposal from an eligible bachelor once her stepdaughter marries and moves away, but meeting a handsome stranger makes her rethink her wishes for the future.
Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I’m not a fan of either insta-love OR love triangles, and this story featured both. Honestly I couldn’t get through it fast enough, and I had to go back to it to refresh my memory when writing this review. Two stars.
The Highwayman’s Bargain by MaryLu Tyndall
Kidnapped on the way to her own wedding, Sophia is shocked to find that the highwayman who took her is her childhood sweetheart, Nash, who tells her some unpalatable truths about her future husband.
Now, I liked Sophia well enough. She was doing what she felt she had to do for her family, and was truly caught between a rock and a hard place. Nash behaved like the worst kind of (censored) (bleeping) MAN, asking her to make the biggest call of her life without any information or reassurances from him whatsoever. I genuinely wanted her to push him off the cliff at the end. Two stars.
Jamie Ever After by Erica Vetsch
Absolutely my favourite story in the bunch, this was a really strong one to end on. William, the Earl of Beckenham, has returned from war with serious scars to a fiancee who immediately cried off their marriage. Convinced no woman would ever want him, when his sister asks him to offer marriage to her best friend, in danger from a determined rake, William does so… only to finally discover that the woman who can see past his scars has been right under his nose all along.
There’s nothing better than a scarred hero and the feisty heroine who sees the real man beneath. I adored this one. Five stars.
Overall I can only say that this was a very uneven collection. Depending on personal taste, you’ll probably find at least one story in here which hits the spot for you, but I honestly doubt that anyone would really enjoy all of them, even if Christian romance is your preferred genre. For an averaged rating, I’m giving it four stars.
Guest review contributed by Caitlyn Lynch. Want an honest reviewer? You’ve got it. Caitlyn tells it like it is in her book reviews.