Redeeming Love

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love is not new to the shelves–it was published in 1991–but it is worth reviewing.

The Christian romance novel adapts the story of Hosea and Gomer to the time of the California Gold Rush. (Short version: Godly man told to marry prostitute; prostitute keeps running back to prostitution.)

The most important characteristic of the novel is that it is incredibly moving. The beginning and Angel’s last attempt to run away are particularly affecting. Angel’s slow transformation and God’s hand in her life are both comforting and inspiring. It is also an interesting book in terms of plot and setting and the adaptation is very well-done.

Still, Redeeming Love is not without a few less-than-redemptive qualities. One such quality is the constant repetition of thoughts.

Hosea: If God wants her to be my wife, she’ll be my wife, even if I struggle with it.

Angel: There is no God and I must run away to enjoy my independence.

I understand that these thoughts and movements keep the story similar to the Biblical account, but is it truly necessary to repeat these same thoughts so many times? The novel may have packed even more of a punch for me if it dropped 100 pages of these repetitive concepts.

Also, why shouldn’t Angel want to enjoy her independence? I understand that “independence” as it means “return to prostitution” is not to be desired, but she is essentially forced into marriage and, as a result, into traditional feminine roles she has little taste for. I understand that, at the time, women had little freedom to call their own, but Angel’s idea of freedom–a cottage to herself–is made to feel impossible and almost laughable.

I love that, near the end of the novel, she gains some independence and makes a proper job for herself, but this independence isn’t lasting, either. I can’t say anything more on the matter without spoiling the book. I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I prefer reading a story with more empowering female characters.

I’m also very annoyed with what happens to Paul–but again I can’t say much without giving the story away.

This is yet another novel where all the characters are physically attractive. Which bothers me because how can they all be so attractive when they lack indoor plumbing? Wouldn’t smelliness and oily hair detract from one’s attractiveness?

Also, the epilogue feels incredibly rushed. It reads like the end of a touching “based on a real story” film where the screen lists each of the character’s happily-ever-afters rather than tell it all through a believable, satisfying story.

Still, the faults of Redeeming Love don’t negate the fact that I couldn’t put the darn book down.

Recommendation: Fans of Christian romance and historical fiction would probably enjoy this read most. Victims of abuse might want to be careful with this one.

Esther–A novel that will be queen of Christian fiction this year

This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: Confession–I’ve never read a book about a character of the Bible. But this book has me interested in reading more.

The story of Esther is one many Christians know by heart. The virgin Jewish girl is captured for King Xerxes to either become his wife or become his concubine. She manages to win his heart and secure her place on the throne while keeping her Jewish heritage a secret. Her cousin, the king’s accountant, reveals to her that Xerxes’ adviser, Haman, has convinced Xerxes to sign an edict to kill and plunder from all Jews–men, women, and children alike. Esther must choose to either speak up for her people at the risk of her own life or remain quiet and allow her people to be slaughtered.

Not only did Rebecca Kanner do the research for this novel; she also managed to bring the characters to life.

To become queen to a man like Xerxes, I believe Esther must have been one of the most intelligent, independent women in the Bible. She had to fight other concubines for the throne, earn the king’s favor enough to also earn his ear, and be wise enough to turn the king against one of the men he favored most–all as a woman who took the place of Queen Vashti, who was dethroned because she “disobeyed” her husband.

Kanner paints Esther not only as the cunning woman I believe she was, but also as someone who could march beside a target without flinching from the arrows. Someone who could keep moving forward in the face of tragedy. Someone who could watch men be tortured. Kanner’s Esther has a ferocity which rivals her beauty–a trait I believe puts this interpretation above all others.

Though I’ve known this tale since early elementary school (thanks, VeggieTales), the plot felt new to me. Kanner added suspense not only through Esther’s fiery personality, but also in her strained relationship with her husband, her attraction to one of the king’s most loyal soldiers, and her conflicts with other girls in the harem.

One of the most interesting traits of this book is that it actually had sex scenes. I expected Kanner to do as most Christian authors do and leave off at the bedroom door, but she went a little further. She wasn’t graphic or obscene; she simply wrote what she thought may have happened between the king and the woman he made his wife. And really, why shouldn’t Christian fiction have simple sex scenes? Too often Christian fiction authors shy away from the subject. I understand if they’re uncomfortable with writing it, but God created sex to be a good thing, under the right circumstances. Heck, Song of Songs is about sex, and it’s in the Bible! But I digress. Don’t worry about the book being too scandalous; if it were a movie, it’d be PG-13.

The reason why I withhold half a star from my rating is because–despite the plot holding my attention–certain sections felt too long. The walk Esther is forced on at the novel’s start drew on a little too long for my liking, as did the part where Esther decides to train in self-defense. Moreover, the ending felt too happy. Perhaps Kanner was just trying to show that God rewards those who serve Him? Or perhaps I am used to novels that end on more of a low note.

Recommendation: I’d recommend this book for those ages 18 and up who are interested in Biblical adaptations or even just interested in historical fiction with a strong female lead.