Deeanne Gist — Book Review

The book reviews are back! I’ve read several great books lately, so look for more book reviews in the future, but today I’ll be reviewing the author Deeanne Gist, and her three books: A Bride Most Begrudging, Measure of a Lady, and Courting Trouble. All three books are published by Bethany Publishing, and Gist currently has a new book, the sequel to Courting Trouble, in the works. All of Gist’s novels are romances, and all are “historical,” though she admittedly takes liberties with settings, customs, language, and social conventions.

I was introduced to Gist’s work several months ago, when my church’s book club read A Bride Most Begrudging. This novel is set in Colonial America, and our heroine has accidentally found herself traveling from her position of power in Britain to be forced into marriage with an American farmer. While I enjoyed the strong female protagonist, I wasn’t impressed with the character development – most characters seemed one-sided, and their relationships didn’t seem to have much depth. There were also a few graphic sexual moments I thought were a bit inappropriate for a Christian novel. Likewise, the heroine’s “strong faith” was referred to many times, yet we never really saw her engaging in quite times, reading the Bible, or discussing her faith. In fact, when she finally makes the journey to church, much more time is spent discussing her social f’aux-pas than spirituality.

Despite my less than positive thoughts about A Bride Most Begrudging, I decided to read Measure of a Lady when I saw it in the library. Hey, A Bride Most Begrudging was Gist’s first novel and she can only get better, I thought. And she did! I LOVED Measure of a Lady, set during the early gold-mining years of San Fransisco. The characters here have more depth, and all have more personality than her previous novel. This also appears to have been her most well-researched novel, and its richness is enhanced by the inclusion of several real happenings in the city’s early years. What really works in this novel is the heroine’s inner struggle. Not only does she strive to meet the physical needs of her younger sister and brother in a new town, but she also strives to teach them moral and Godliness. Yet, both siblings fall into practices and professions that are less than reputable. She truly struggles to learn how to show she loves them, but still show she doesn’t approve of her actions. She and her love interest have similar struggles, and both most undergo self-examination and compromise in order to make their relationship work. Of the three of Gist’s current novels, this is the one that shows the heroine turning to God and looking for His guidance. This is a great book for all women to read, as it is one that everyone can relate to. How can we learn to “hate the sin and love the sinner,” is the question this book deals with wonderfully.

Courting Trouble is a book I have great concerns with. It started with great promise — a strong, quirky protagonist making a list of potential husbands has great potential! We see her, and her family, going against social conventions, and we see her struggle with sexual purity. I thought this had real potential to be even better than Measure of a Lady, *if* it had been dealt with in an appropriate manner. Half-way through the novel, we see the heroine canoodling, kissing, and fondling with her love interest in the balcony of a theater during a racy show. When the she heads out to a secret midnight rendezvous with him she wears her oldest, rattiest pair of undergarments to “help keep her chaste” and I thought, “yeah, maybe this can work out.” Let me tell ya’ll — IT DIDN’T, and the “big event” was described a little more graphically than I would have liked for a Christian book. Now don’t get me wrong, the act itself is not what makes me have “issues” with this book, but it is the fact that our heroine has no real repentance for her sin. Sure, she decides to throw away all her beloved hats, but her parents convince her otherwise. She tells her father not to set her up on dates, but she ends up being courted anyway. Later, after being proposed to, we see her in prayer about whether or not she should marry this man, but she ends up deciding that God doesn’t want her to marry anyway. So, she does something that should socially keep her from her dream of marriage, but its no big deal because it turns out God doesn’t want that for her anyway. Sin has consequence, and there doesn’t seem to be any for our heroine. Everyone in the town still accepts her, no one looks down on her, and she has a more fulfilled life than she ever did. I’m not saying God can’t turn our sins into victories, but we must first repent, and there will always be missed blessings as a result of our sin. I would have loved to see some real repentance, some thoughts of blessings she may have missed out on. The book does have a lovely moment when the pastor-to-be courting our heroine finds out she is no longer a virgin. Yet, decides to continue courting her, and even proposed to her because if God forgives sinners, he ought to as well. That is a great message indeed, but I hate the idea of putting a message out that when we make mistakes, everything turns out fine. Yes, God forgives us, but moving on from our sin rarely as easy as Courting Trouble portrays it to be. There are consequences to our actions, and we know Biblically that he does not hesitate to allow those to happen. While this book is a good read, I would not recommend it to young girls or immature teens. I plan to read the sequel, and hope that it shows the heroine in some real moments of reflection, remorse, and repentance for her actions.

I love the angle Gist comes at with Christian fiction — the romance aspect, which can really reach many women, but I would like to see her future novel have a stronger Christian message.


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