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June 17, 2024

Review in Haiku: A Family Forever

By Katrina Stonoff

Christian girl, pregnant!
Marry fiance's brother?
Give baby his name?

I faithfully read Brenda Coulter's blog, No Rules. Just Write. I love her outlook on life, and she's funny too, without being mean. Plus, she writes books, and you know I love books!

Unfortunately, she writes inspirational romances, which you know I would never read. I mean, really! "Love stories celebrating traditional Christian values?" Heck, I'm not even a traditional Christian. But addicted I am to her writing, and now her bad influence has led me to read three (count 'em, three) inspirational romances, the latest of which was her novel, A Family Forever.

Relax, I'm not going to become an Inspy fan. I'm still going to be a wiseacre poking fun at (almost) everything.

But I'm also going to be a fan of Brenda Coulter's. Yes, the book was cheesy and predictable and all those things you'd expect from a novel where the imprint's name (Love Inspired) is higher on the cover and larger than the book's title.

I originally read about this book ... you guessed it ... in Brenda's blog, but when I went to Amazon to pre-order it, I couldn't find it. Turns out they'd confused the title with the imprint, and it was listed under Love Inspired (they've since fixed the problem). Oh, and when I got the book? "Love Inspired" was even printed in a fancy red script. At least the "i" isn't dotted with a heart, not quite.

But here's the thing ... I fell in love with Tucker Sharpe. Well, OK, maybe not real love, not the kind that sustains through 3 a.m. vomiting and stretch marks and makes a perfectly healthy widower die within days of losing his wife, but a major crush at least.

The plot goes like this: three weeks before the wedding, Shelby Franklin's fiance (Tucker's brother, did I mention Tucker?) is killed in a motorcycle accident. Turns out she's pregnant (she's a "good Christian" girl, of course, but the fiance was so sweet, and so loving that he, like many good Christian boys, was able to convince her it was OK in God's eyes to have sex just once because they were "almost married" -- or is it "practically married?" I never can remember).

I am? I'm being sarcastic? Oh, sorry. I'll try to be sweet.

Anyway, Tucker apparently sees (literally) that Shelby's pregnant, even though she's not showing yet, so he convinces her to marry him. You know, like it says in the Bible: if a man dies, his brother is to marry the widow and their children will count as the dead guy's. Except this couple won't have any children because this is a sexless marriage he's proposing (wait ... am I allowed to say "sex" when I'm talking about inspirational romance?)

Shelby doesn't want to marry him. After all, he doesn't even like her! He's arrogant and chauvinistic and judgmental. Plus, who wants a no-sex-until-death-do-you-part relationship? (Oops, said it again.) But obviously, a single girl can't just have a baby by herself, right? So Shelby agrees.

Oh, dear. I'm doing it again. Being sarcastic See, cheesy, predictable plots just make me squirm. And if I could just say I hated the book, I could say it proudly! That's what I expected to think, and I would have politely kept quiet about having read the book at all, ostensibly to save Brenda's reputation (I really like her blog) but mostly to save face with all my intelligent, sophisticated readers.

But I can't say that. Because I loved it. I moved into Tucker and Shelby's darling stone cottage, bustled around in the kitchen and just purred. Well, actually, when Tucker came into the kitchen, it was more like a "Mrowwrrrr!" Because of course it turned out that he's not only a sensitive guy who gave his wife a fairytale wedding and who has a dog (a fluffy lap dog!), he also quietly mentors a budding juvenile delinquent who's stealing from his store.

I really liked Shelby too (well, I would have liked her if the green-eyed monster hadn't reared up to remind me that she was married to the most wonderful man in the world -- sans my husband of course; hi, honey!). Both characters were fully developed, with flaws and shining moments; both made bonehead mistakes and once in a while got it perfectly, heartstoppingly right.

And Coulter's writing is wonderful. Her verbs are strong and active; her descriptions paint a vivid picture. And her voice -- the wonderful, slightly sardonic, sincere-without-being-earnest voice of No Rules. Just Write. -- permeates the story. So it's sweet without being sticky, optimistic without being Pollyannish, devout without being legalistic. Plus, you gotta love a book that opens with a description of a woman eating breakfast and trying not to barf.

So here's the sum: my sarcasm? It's just indicative that I'm a lot more sentimental than I want to admit. I loved the book. I loved every page of it. I screamed at both characters, "Don't be stupid! Can't you see what you have here? Do not -- do not -- throw it away!" I got teary-eyed in all the right spots. And I was sorry when I turned the last page.

So Brenda? If you ever happen into my little corner of the Internet, I am sorry! I just couldn't help myself. The sarcasm slipped out, all by itself. Just ignore it, OK? And ... uh ... tell me, when does the next book come out?

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-07-31
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