Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Preacher's Wife

Cheryl St. John
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books - June, 2009

While I must confess that I run across periodic factual mistakes and illogical moments in many romance novels, the level of the writing itself is predictably good. The writing in some is remarkable. That’s the case with Cheryl St. John’s The Preacher’s Wife. Maybe that’s why St. John is a national award winner in both the contemporary and historical genres. Her proliference may also be a contributor. To date she has penned some 20 novels, though The Preacher’s Wife is her first Love Inspired Historical.

Regarding the word “proliference,” if novelists dare to write entire novels jam packed with a maelstrom of words, reviewers ought to have earned the right to coin a single word or two. If, because of my extensive reading, I have earned the right to critique our authors’ handiwork, my occasional coinage certainly invites equal time. Turnabout is fair play. (Not my phrase.) Tit for tat. (Not my phrase either.)

Set in Durham, Nebraska (1869), The Preacher’s Wife is a satisfying story with characters you really care about (about which you care?); but even the remarkable St. John is unable to dodge the “widow/widower syndrome.” I can’t tell you how many romance novels show their main characters embarking on take-two lives—all for generally good reasons, mind you (often with disarmingly cute offspring as plot points)—but it’s like our authors see richer possibilities in second-chance stories. For the record, however, I must say I can’t think of any third-chance romance novels, and I’m rapidly approaching my third thousand reads.

Josie Randolph was a widow. She’d had a rather unpleasant marriage and had no children. Her mother-in-law blamed her for that. Josie thought of herself as a helping person. Not a beauty. She longed to have a family but thought that would be impossible. Therefore, she kept busy taking care of the local preacher who had fallen off the roof of the church and had several serious injuries. While that was somewhat monotonous, she was diligent in her serving.

Samuel Hart arrived on the scene. He was the preacher sent to help Rev. Martin through his convalescence after which he and his family would continue west to his new assignment. His wife had drowned while traveling west. He and his daughters were grieving and having a difficult time of it. Josie helped them however she could and however they would let her.

The story is warm, real, and painful. She and Samuel grew slowly closer. His oldest daughter was hesitant to allow Josie to get close to her. She felt she should be the new mother. Thru good times and bad they each grew in their own way. Problems were present thru to the end of the story. But, you’ll love the ending! Thanks, Cheryl St. John, for an excellent piece of writing!

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