I have read a handful of romances over the past several weeks. Perhaps I am harder on romance novels than I am on other types, but it's rare for me to really love a romance novel. Too much mush makes me just roll my eyes and start to skim. Too much innuendo or sex and I'm blushing plus skimming. Plus, they seem especially prone to the cardboard character problem.
Now that I think about it, I usually much prefer adventurous books, with a sprinkling of romance on the side. The straight-up romances are harder to swallow, though I keep trying (for some reason)!
So, with that disclaimer in mind, read on!
3 stars: Leah and Alban find faith as they investigate the events surrounding Jesus' death.
Leah is the niece of Pontius Pilate--sort of. Her father was adopted into Pilate's household while a wealthy and rising young businessman. All that wealth is gone now, though, her father lost to disgrace and debt, and Leah herself little more than a servant in Pilate's household. She is half Judean by blood, but was never raised in that religion and feels no loyalty to it.
Leah is shocked and dismayed when she learns that a young centurion--Gaul by birth--has requested her hand in marriage. She has no reason to trust this man and every reason to fear him. His request is doubtless little more than a grab for power as he works his way up the ranks. Then Herod visits Pilate at his seaside home in Caesarea, and convinces Pilate that this potential marriage could be used to get information. Namely, what has become of the prophet Jesus whom Pilate ordered crucified? His body is missing from the tomb, and both men fear revolt.
Soon Leah and Alban--the centurion--become pawns in a game played by powerful men in high circles. They are betrothed, according to Judean custom, primarily to give Pilate something to hold over Alban until he finds the information Pilate seeks. In order to marry Leah, Alban must deliver the info. Meanwhile, Pilate's wife has been troubled with terrible nightmares and headaches, also concerning Jesus, and sends Leah to find out more about this prophet, as well.
As Leah and Alban individually learn more about Jesus, they become convinced that He was more than a man. However, they still have to try to explain and report back on their findings. They also begin to trust each other and hope for a brighter tomorrow together.
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I read this while my kids were playing in an indoor play area. It was perfect for that setting. Kept my interest, but not so enthralling that I couldn't keep track of them. It was not at all mushy, for which I was grateful. It was very interesting reading more about what the political climate may have been like at the time of Christ's death and resurrection. I liked it as much for the history as for the story.
By the way, the title was a bit misleading, as the book's main focus was on the time leading up to Leah's betrothal, then during the betrothal itself.
(Finished reading August 12.)
3.5 stars: Predictable, but more depth than I expected.
Brooke Holloway is still reeling after the death of her husband 2 years ago. She has yet to even clean out his antique store. Thankfully, she lives in a small town, and the owners of the store space are sympathetic. Her two children, 6-year old Meghan, and 10-year old Spencer, have very different views on her possible future love life. Meghan would welcome a daddy and Spencer gets angry at even the thought of it. [sigh] So she continues to run the local hardware store. She can't help but wonder if God has anything more in mind for her than this, though.
Enter Owen Saunders. He's a big-city guy who has gone through a messy and bitter divorce. To spite his ex-wife, he buys an old run-down house in the middle of nowhere, small-town Texas. He's determined to restore it--which necessitates several trips to the only hardware store in town. The owner is an attractive widow, but the last thing he needs is another woman in his life right now.
Slowly, these two develop a friendship. The house that Owen bought supposedly holds a secret--one that Brooke is eager to find, if it's there. As they spend more time together, they both realize that there's potential for this friendship to become more--if either of them can open their hearts and let go of the past enough to take it there.
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Clean Christian romance. I liked how Brooke and Owen's relationship developed over time and stayed innocent. Unlike some romances novels that are all sap and no substance, this one actually had some other storylines and themes going on, which I appreciated. Brooke's father wants to be a part of her life again, after abandoning the family when she was just little, and she struggles with forgiving him. Owen befriends a troubled young man named Hunter and must decide how much to trust him. Hunter has to rise above his abusive home life and become someone worthy of trust. Brooke's kids have to decide if they will allow their mother to love someone other than their late father. If I had to choose themes, they would be forgiveness and redemption.
So while the main story arc was predictable, there was enough happening on the sidelines to keep it interesting.
Content: Some brief descriptions of verbal and physical abuse.
(Finished reading July 7.)
3 stars: Pippa's marriage tournament may reveal more than the winner of her hand.
Pippa will turn 18 soon, which means she is of marriageable age. Unfortunately, she despises the suitor her father has lined up for her: Prince Lionel of Vernow. So she convinces her father to hold a traditional marriage tournament--her hand being the prize to the winner. There are a few who come to the tournament that could be possibilities, but it is Galinor who turns her head. He is charming and gallant and also seems to actually have a chance at winning.
If station weren't important, she would choose her best friend Archer, the stablemaster, over any of the princes. It is important, though. Very. So she'll just have to make the best of a bad situation--and make sure Galinor wins...with Archer's help, if necessary.
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I snagged this one for cheap on a tip from Suzanne. (Thanks!) I read it on vacation a couple of weeks ago. It was a great vacation read. Nothing too deep or serious going on here. A rebellious princess, a few handsome men courting her--some allowed to do so and some not--plus a sweet romance. A little bit of intrigue concerning the tournament and bandits and such.
(Finished reading July 19.)