Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Love in the Balance" Review

It’s 1879 in Lockhart, Texas, and Molly Lovelace finds herself in a quandary. Her parents want her to marry well (i.e. for money), but Molly is hopelessly in love with Bailey Garner. Bailey is a nice, handsome, hard-working fellow – he just hasn’t found exactly what he wants to do with his life. And until he settles down and makes some money, Molly just doesn’t know if she can marry him.

Bailey wants more than anything to find his purpose in life, and if that life includes Molly, then that’s even better. But Bailey just can’t seem to figure out what God wants him to do. It doesn’t help that an intriguing visitor to Lockhart, Edward Pierrepont, has caught Molly’s eye.

When circumstances lead Molly to make a hasty decision, all seems to be lost for Molly and Bailey. Will they ever be able to find the balance in life, and in love, that they desire?

I read Regina Jennings’s debut novel, Sixty Acres and a Bride, last year, and although the plot was good, I thought the writing was a bit awkward. The writing was much improved in Love in the Balance. It was still a bit disjointed and out of control at times, but it wasn’t as vague on the details as her first novel was. There were still a couple of times when I would read a paragraph and think that I didn’t know at all what that paragraph was trying to say, but this sort of thing happened much less often than in her earlier offering.

The main character, Molly, is quite silly throughout most of this novel, which meant that I didn’t connect very well with her from the beginning. I liked that she was a whiz at math and with numbers, but that didn’t make up for her immature ways. I’m still not sure I actually like her, but she definitely grew tremendously over the course of the novel, which is a very good thing.

The main plot of this novel was the romantic back and forth between the two main characters – he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not – but this plot didn’t have much of a backbone. There didn’t seem to be any reason for them to be apart except for her parents’ possible disapproval, which came across as pretty flimsy. And then there was the aspect of the Great Miscommunication. When one of the main characters put all of her hopes and dreams (and the entire romantic plot) on the guarantee of a note getting delivered properly, then I pretty much just gave up on that part of the book.

The various other plotlines in this novel seemed to just be thrown in without much of a connection to the main story until the very end. These disjointed plots made the book feel “up and down”. It would get interesting for a few pages, mostly due to these out-of-left-field subplots, and then it would go back to the same old back and forth main romantic plot. Even though I didn’t really understand the connection, I was actually more interested in the subplots than the main one. Overall, I felt as if this book didn’t really know what it wanted to be. Did it want to be a light romance with a flighty female lead, or did it want to be a heavier drama with hints of suspense and weightier themes?

When the book finally got around to it, the themes of forgiveness and acceptance and God’s grace were actually presented very well. The last few chapters of this novel redeemed it somewhat and helped bump up the rating a bit. The whole thing finally settled down and came to a satisfying conclusion. I just wish the first 90% of the book had had the same sort of control and was as interesting as the ending.

I will give Love in the Balance … 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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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