Welcome to Random Books (and Coffee) Reviews. Hope I didn’t leave you waiting too long. Having a sadistic and capricious muse doesn’t help with these sort of things. Neither do house panthers and deciding on what other things to post about besides book reviews, which takes more time than I expected. Any suggestions will be helpful in growing this blog.
Anyway, I’ve got a new book up to review. Today’s offering is Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist. This is stated as a Historical Christian Romance, so off the bat there are going to be things that people are not going to agree with in terms of fiction, the theme, or meaning. If that’s the case I won’t hold it against you if you’d rather skip this review. If that doesn’t bother you, then I hope you enjoy your stay.
The book is about Essie Spreckelmeyer, a thirty-year-old woman in the late 19th century South taking her romantic future into her hands and begins pursuit of a husband. As she’s not the typical woman society expects her to be, the chances of marriage are not that great. Having her father be a judge in a small town makes societal expectations higher than usual for the average woman, which further adds to her disappointment in her spinsterhood, hence the husband-chasing.
The story itself is interesting, with Essie going about courtships with different men with different results. The situations that she gets in, either on her own or due to others, has their own humorous charm, such as when mice are let loose in the general store where Essie works. While the novel is labeled as a romance, I have to say that it doesn’t read like one. I won’t go into spoilers right now, but I will say that it doesn’t take away from the quality of the novel.
Essie herself is an interesting and complex character, being both feminine and a tomboy. She’s a rebel of society as she rides a bicycle, catches snakes, and wears big fancy hats while still wanting to be a wife and mother. She’s also suborn, forward, intelligent but without concern for social propriety, not to mention naïve in love, lonely, and with a strong faith in humanity to a fault. Combined, these result in a variety of complications in her courtships and her life.
As with any novel there are things that will limit readership. Like I said, the Christian aspect of the novel, even if it doesn’t become more prominent until halfway into the book, will limit readers. What will further limit readers is that there are moments that are, ahem, less than squeaky clean. No graphic details, don’t worry, but there are suggestive moments. The most prominent example is Mrs. Lockhart: churchgoing woman and unashamed reader of dirty books such as Only One Sin. I’m not even joking. It’s a given that descriptions of clothing will confuse people as it’s a historical novel, so that might be a problem for readers. Also, readers will more than likely dislike Essie for the simple fact that she is desperate for a husband and children to the point that she would accept a proposal from any random man, at least early on in the book.
Like any novel there are things I didn’t enjoy about the book, and not because I found this book during my historical fiction phase of reading years before. The book has its moments of tedium, making it feel annoyingly long. As I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t read like a romance. It’s more like a coming-of-age, which I don’t mind except that its labeled as a romance. I have a sinking suspicion that it was called a romance in order to boost sales.
And now for the spoiler part of the review. Oh boy.
Essie’s actions through the story, specifically with the well-driller Adam, are frustrating, but not because of poor writing, but because the reader knows what’s coming and she doesn’t. Said actions result in a, shall we say, less than spotless outcome. Yep, she gave in to temptation because she thought Adam loved and would marry her. Not a smart move, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already. Adam skips town to avoid marrying her, and Essie is heartbroken and views herself as tainted.
What does come from this experience is a stronger bond with God and her parents and self-acceptance. Essie realizes that sacrificing what makes her who she is isn’t worth a husband who doesn’t love those parts of her. Her relationship with her mother changes from a battle of how Essie should live her life to a more loving friendship where they bond over Essie’s bicycle club. This shows how relationships, even between family, are meant to be based on trust and acceptance of the other, which doesn’t occur in any of Essie’s courtships. With Hamilton he doesn’t appreciate her outgoing personality, preferring a more demure and proper lady. With Adam she sacrifices her morals in an attempt to keep him. With Ewing she would be forced to tone down her personality and what she enjoys in life in order to be a pastor’s wife.
End of spoilers for those who skipped that part.
Now for what would make the story better. Taking away “Romance” from the genre description will vastly improve the story’s message and the story itself. To keep the “Romance” genre as a part of the book, the novel and sequel (yes, there is one) should be put together as a Part 1 and Part 2, since the sequel seems more like a romance than the original. Also, shortening the story will hopefully take away the tedium of reading it, or at least take out what isn’t necessary to the plot and message.
The novel itself shows that there is no one-size-fits-all to happiness and life fulfillment, a message I personally enjoy. It shows the dangers of wanting to be in a relationship to the point that you change yourself in an attempt to keep the relationship going. In the end one can be happy doing what they love and being with family and friends.
Thank you for visiting my Book Cave, and hopefully I’ll have a new post soon, whether it be a review or something bookish or coffie-esque.
Rating: 3.8 Coffee Cups out of 5 as a Coming of Age, 2 Coffee Cups as a Romance
Recommended For: Readers of Historical Fiction, those who want to read a coming of age from an older woman’s perspective
Coffee Recommendation for Reading: Hints of brown sugar and cinnamon, light to medium strength, recommended with Cinnamon Roll, Sticky Bun, or Apple Fritter creamer