‘Love Inspired’ – Part 1

A while back my great-aunt passed away, and somehow my grandpa ended up with two boxes full of books.  Almost all of them are ‘inspirational’ romances published by Harlequin as ‘Love Inspired’.  At one point (not sure if you still can) you could subscribe and have a new book mailed to you every month.  Aunt Darby did just that, and now I’m in possession of somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 or so of these ‘Love Inspired’ titles.  Most of them are pretty cheesy but alright for a one-time fluff read.  I’m sure that I’ll binge through some of them periodically.  They’re perfect to grab out of the crate when I’m just looking for a quick, no-brainer book.  However, most of them will probably end up exiting this house after that one-time read, because they just aren’t worth the shelf space to me.  So if there’s one that sounds especially appealing to you… let me know, and I’ll be quite happy to mail you a gift!  ;-)

Oklahoma Reunion by Tina Radcliffe

//published 2011//

This book has what is basically my least-favorite trope of all time – the one where a woman shows up and tells a fellow, ‘oh, by the way, I had your baby years ago and never got around to telling you about it.’  It always fills me with rage when women act like it’s perfectly okay to make these sorts of decisions, especially when the baby was created when the people were in a loving relationship.  How is it ever okay to not tell a man that he’s a father?!?!!?

Still, Radcliffe manages to work around this problem in a way that seems plausible if still aggravating.  Unfortunately, this book was bland as plain potatoes – zero surprises, zero twists, zero anything remotely interesting.  Everyone just got back together and had a few adult conversations and then got along just fine.  Very mature and admirable, but not particularly exciting…

Homecoming Hero by Renee Ryan

//published 2010//

Dude has just returned from an overseas tour in the Middle East.  While he was there, a truck he was in got blown up and he is the only one who survived.  One of his best friends died in the incident, and the dude promised his friend that he would look up the friend’s sister and pass on a message.  Sister is determined to be a missionary in the Middle East, inspired by the life of her brother.  Unfortunately, the final message from her brother, as delivered  by the dude, is that the brother didn’t want her to ever come the Middle East, as things are a bit uncomfortable there.

Overall, this was actually a pretty decent story.  Ryan handled a lot of different issues really well.  I wasn’t sure where she was going with the tension over whether or not the sister should become a missionary, but she did a good job of balancing different perspectives on the issues.  Dude is also (understandably) suffering from PTSD, which I felt was handled sensitively.

But while the issues were done well, the story itself was a little weak, and I just didn’t ship Dude and Sister as much as I wanted to.  Plus, I felt a little let down that the puppy on the cover doesn’t show up until the VERY end of the book.  I mean seriously.  A decent 3/5 read, but not a favorite.

Fireman Dad by Betsy St. Amant

//published 2011//

Marissa is a widow raising her young son on her own.  Her husband was a firefighter and died in a fire; Marissa also grew up with her dad as the town’s fire chief and felt like he was never there for her as he always prioritized work.  When Marissa meets Jacob, she is immediately attracted to him and begins to wonder if maybe there could be romance in her future.  But when she finds out that he’s a firefighter, she’s determined to not get at involved with him, as she’s sworn off of firefighters forever.

Honestly, this book aggravated me quite a bit as Marissa was just a tad too ridiculous.  She was so bitter and obnoxious about her dad, and I kept wondering that if the whole ‘firefighters work too much’ thing bothered her so much, why did she marry one the first time around?  She’s completely unreasonable on the subject, and when her son, who is in kindergarten or first grade, I can’t remember, talks about wanting to be a firefighter, she basically flips out.  Hello?  He’s six?  How many of us have followed our six-year-old dreams – or even remember them??  I skimmed through large portions of this story hoping that Marissa would become less aggravating, but she really didn’t.  A 2.5/5, and another book off my shelves and off to someone else’s!

The Perfect Gift by Lenora Worth

//published 2009//

Goldie is in a car wreck and, dazed and disoriented, stumbles to – and into the nearest house, where she collapses on the couch.  Luckily, the couch doesn’t belong to a serial killer, but a super nice guy, widower Rory who is the father to two sons.  Turns out that Rory knows Goldie’s grandma, and after Goldie recovers from her head-whacking, everyone is on their way to being friends – or maybe more.

I really liked Rory and Goldie’s grandma, and I even liked Goldie – except when she did things that made no sense, like deciding that even though Rory is A+ Awesome, she can’t even go on a single date with him because she is planning to go back to her home in Baton Rouge (she is staying with her grandma during this story) – which is only like an hour away, so it really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Goldie’s motivations never felt natural, so it made the whole story feel a little wonky.

There were also random errors in logic.  At one point, Goldie is helping babysit Rory’s sons and nieces, because he has had a family emergency.  However, she can’t find the one son and starts to look around:

I can’t call Rory, she thought.  She’s just look around the house and yard.  Maybe Sam had gone outside.  But she would have seen him coming through the house since both the front and back doors were in plain sight of the open den and kitchen.

So, having determined that Sam couldn’t have gone outside without her noticing him, obviously Goldie starts by looking through the house, right?  No, of course not – she goes right outside and wanders around in the yard, the driveway, the storage shed, the bayou – for a couple of hours?!  Which would have been fine if she hadn’t JUST TOLD ME that there was no way that Sam could have gone outside to begin with!

Anyway, this was a nice little 3/5 read that was overall pretty relaxing and perfectly fine, but there were little glitches like that that just disproportionately aggravated me.

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Spring Brides // by various authors

The next season in the year of weddings was not quite as enjoyable as the first (Winter Brides), but still had two good stories – the third I really didn’t care for at all.  However, I can’t necessarily expect to like all twelve stories, written by twelve different authors, so I wasn’t too fussed about one bum.

March Bride by Rachel Hauck – 3.5/5 – I know that Hauck has written a ‘Royal Weddings’ series because it has actually been on my TBR for a while.  This story is set in that world, and is actually listed as Book 1.5 in the series.  However, even though my guess is that I would have enjoyed this story a lot more if I had read Once Upon a Prince, it still held up well as a standalone.  Hauck did a good job of (re)introducing characters from the earlier story in a way that helped me, a new reader, understand their relationships, but also in a way that I don’t think would have bored someone who had already read the first book.

I really liked the characters in this story, and felt that their development was done well.  I also liked the way that the Christian themes were handled – it didn’t feel heavy-handed at all, yet was still a crucial part of the tale.  A very enjoyable little story, and one that has me quite intrigued to read the actual series.

April Bride by Lenora Worth – 3/5 – this was probably my favorite premise so far from these novellas.  The main characters have been engaged to be married for a while, and have known each other all their lives.  However, Mitchell wanted to completely his tour in the Middle East before their wedding, something that Stella fully supported.  When Mitchell comes back, he’s suffered a major head injury after an explosion that killed several of his mates.

I felt like Worth handled Mitchell’s PTSD really sensitively, but I wish that he had shared more with Stella of what was going on.  In the end, this dropped from 3.5 to a 3 because it got just a little too angsty/there were some issues that could have been resolved with one decent conversation, but it was still an engaging story.

May Bride by Meg Moseley – 2/5 – mostly, I didn’t like the main dude for this story, Gray.  I felt like he was really pushy and overbearing.  Ellie definitely had some issues she needed to work through with her mom, but it really seemed like Gray assumed way too quickly that his demands on Ellie’s time should take precedence.  The scene where I was basically over this story was when Gray wants Ellie to come with him horseback riding in two days, and she says that she already has plans to take her mom somewhere.  Gray somehow manages to turn the fact that Ellie is being a kind and responsible daughter into this  being another situation where Ellie’s mom is manipulating her.  Later, he kind of apologizes, but it’s this big ‘turning point’ of their relationship, with Ellie realizing how she needs to ‘stand up’ to her mom, etc., that left me honestly a bit livid.  If it Ellie’s mom is taking up too much of Ellie’s time, she needs to start with not agreeing to do stuff to begin with, not cancelling on plans where her mom is dependent on her help.  Gray’s character throughout was just so unreasonable, and it really felt like Ellie was just trading one annoying, overbearing, bossy person in her life for another.

Ellie’s mom was such a caricature anyway that it didn’t really matter.  Despite the fact that these are supposedly Christian fiction, Moseley managed to make Ellie’s mom the most annoying, hypocritical, ridiculous person, and that was quite frustrating.  To top it off, one of the supposed big ‘character flaws’ was that Ellie’s mom doesn’t drive in Atlanta, where Ellie lives, so Ellie always has to go visit her.  Gray continually acted like this was just completely ridiculous, but as someone whose mom doesn’t drive in our big city (and it’s no where as big or confusing as Atlanta), I never could agree with Gray’s opinion, especially since he grew up in Atlanta and has been driving there his whole life.  Complicated city driving isn’t for everyone, and I would personally prefer someone who is terrified and confused to not attempt it!

Anyway, all that to say I really just skimmed through the last half of this story as it continued to get more and more ridiculous and melodramatic.  2/5 for the story and 0/5 chance of Ellie’s future happiness.