Friday, October 12, 2012

"Deeply Devoted" Review

When Catharine Olsen ventures to Wyoming in 1887 to become a mail-order bride, she brings along more than her future husband, Peter Andersen, ever bargained for:  two sisters and a past that still haunts her.

Wanting a new start in the booming town of Cheyenne, Catharine puts all of herself into becoming the wife of a wheat farmer while still remaining devoted to her sisters, who have no one else in the world to care for them. Peter is patient with his new bride and committed to supporting this new family of his, odd though it may be.

When Peter’s mother, Clara, begins to interfere in the marriage, Catharine is afraid that her secrets will lead them into ruin. Will Peter and Catharine be able to remain devoted to each other, or will mistrust and past fears win out?

Deeply Devoted is the first in a new series, “The Blue Willow Brides,” by Maggie Brendan.

I’m a sucker for novels about mail-order brides, most likely because the book that really made me fall in love with Christian fiction was Janette Oke’s A Bride for Donnigan, which is still one of my favorites. So when I discovered that Deeply Devoted was also a mail-order bride tale, I was excited to start reading it.

One thing that I really liked about this particular mail-order bride story was that the two characters had corresponded with each other (how many letters could have crossed the Atlantic in six months time in 1887, I do not know…) prior to their face-to-face meeting. While I know that many people who found their mates this way knew virtually nothing about the other before they married, I still liked the fact that Peter and Catharine weren’t necessarily going into this relationship totally blind. There are things that come out later that reveal that they were not totally truthful in this correspondence, but that’s another part of the story.

I also enjoyed the fact that Catharine and her sisters were from Holland. Being Dutch lent another element to the story that was interesting, since not only was Catharine getting used to being a mail-order bride, she was also adjusting to life in America and in Wyoming.

As for the characters, I’m not sure I completely connected with either Catharine or Peter. This is probably because I was a bit frustrated with them for not coming clean about everything in the beginning. I also thought that they were very childish at times. I kept wanting Peter to just stand up and be a man. Insert a prickly mother-in-law into the mix (Praise the Lord that I don’t have one of those!), and my irritation grew. Especially when that mother-in-law acted like a lovesick teenager throughout the novel.

While the story in this novel was interesting, if predictable, I thought the writing style was a little distracting. I never got bored with the story or bogged down with details, but the prose was not always smooth. There were several times where the sentences felt awkward, and I had to go back and reread them to get the point of what was going on. I also thought that there were a lot of superfluous exclamation points!

The spiritual side of the story brought on mixed feelings for me as well. I loved that Catharine and Peter often prayed and looked to the Bible for their guidance and hope, but they also seemed to rely on feelings quite frequently. This is the second Christian fiction book I have read this month that has mentioned dreams as a source of direction from God, and I just think that is a slippery slope to be on.

I also feel that I have to mention the physical side of this book. While I believe that physical intimacy between a man and woman in marriage is a beautiful, God-honoring thing, I just appreciate a novel much more when it implies this relationship rather than focuses on it. There were so many mentions of them being in bed and their physical characteristics that it was really distracting. They seemed to be more in love with each other’s bodies and how they made each other feel rather than being in love with the other person. There are no explicit descriptions, but there is talk of making love and of silhouettes underneath nightgowns. Again, I do not think sex in marriage is something that people should avoid talking about if done in the right context. I just thought the physical situations often overshadowed the rest of the story.

The story in Deeply Devoted captured my attention; I just wish the execution of that story had been a bit better.

I will give Deeply Devoted ... 2 ½ BookWorms.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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