Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Out of Control by Mary Connealy

Out of Control
Out of Control by Mary Connealy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't mind flawed characters in Christian fiction. What I mind are those supposed spunky heroines who don't have a lick of good sense and run off into danger at the drop of a hat paying no never-mind whatsoever to their sweetheart's words of advice. That's what I hate and that's what describes uppity Miss Julia Gilliland. The thing is, I believe the author intended us to like Julia. I'm sure she must have because no author really sets out intending their readers to dislike their heroine. So, I give Mary Connealy the benefit of the doubt that she didn't want me to dislike Julia. But I do. She comes off as, at best, distracted to the point of recklessness. I like my heroines to be relatively practical and Julie does not fit that requirement.

Then there is the supposed hero of this mixed-up historic romance, the dashing Rafe Kincaid. I disliked him already when he started bossing around a woman he had no right to boss around. He's often thinking about how desperate he is to marry her, but he doesn't know her at all, and what he does know about her, like her obsession with fossils, irritates him. He kisses her just to keep her quiet and that is a bad way to start any relationship. I'm supposed to cheer for Julia and Rafe, but the problem is, I don't like either one of them. Their relationship was a failure for me.

This book gets positive reviews, as does Ms. Connealy. Many readers love her work, and that's fantastic. I just don't find enough substance in the relationships to have enjoyed investing my time in this book. Most Christian fiction is relationship driven so you must, absolutely must, get that part of the story right. On a purely stylistic level, Ms. Connealy feels merely mediocre. Her descriptive vocabulary is extremely limited, often repeating the same descriptive terms in abundance. Let's just say that I expect more out of my fiction because I've invested my time in the story.


  1. Hehe, I'm glad now I didn't download this book. I saw it was a free ebook, but thought the synopsis a bit blah. But your review describes many things I'm often annoyed about in (Christian) fiction, so I'm definitely not going to read this.

    1. I was just glad it WAS for free. I don't know, maybe I'm too harsh on her, but I expect much from my authors. It's sad when they disappoint!

      What types of fiction do you like to read? I can recommend some pretty historic Christian authors. :)

    2. Ah, so you downloaded it for free as well. That's good then! No, I absolutely also have high expectations of my books. Reading is my greatest hobby, I want to have a good time of it and not plow through mediocre books. I love historical fiction, both Christian and secular mixed with a classic now and then and a little bit of fantasy here and there ;-)

    3. Yep, it was free, thank goodness.

      Well, since you like historic fiction, have you tried Deeanne Gist or Karen Witemeyer? Both are a little fluffy, but I think their writing styles are a cut above the rest. Certainly a cut above Mary Connealy. I've also heard good things about Siri Mitchell, but haven't given her books a try just yet.

    4. Yes, I've tried both Deeanne Gist and Karen Witemeyer. I didn't like them that much, I'm afraid :-S I found Gist's works to be a bit on the physical side, I like my hero and heroine to be attracted to each other by more than just their pretty face or strong arms.... I've only read one book by Karen Witemeyer, so I should give her another try. I've especially been reading a lot of good things about Stealing the preacher around blogs.

      Siri Mitchell is really good, but different. I've read two of her books and was impressed by her historical insight. She writes in first person, at least the two I've read, which makes for an interesting reading experience. My favourite Christian historical authors are Lynn Austin, Maureen Lang, Francine Rivers, Julie Klassen and I've just read one book by Sarah Sundin which I've loved.

  2. First and foremost, Christian fiction needs to also be good fiction. Adding a dollop of Christianity into the mix doesn't mean you can ignore the rules of good writing, any more than tossing in some romance or some action or some suspense does. I actually quit reading Christian fiction for a while because I was getting so frustrated by the huge quantity of bad writing I encountered. But writers like Kristin Heitzmann and Sarah Sundin have restored my like of Christian fiction somewhat. Whew!

    But what I really wanted to say here is that I was so amused when you said this: no author really sets out intending their readers to dislike their heroine. I'm a writer, and my very first novel featured a heroine I actively disliked and didn't expect anyone else to like. That was ten years ago, so I can't really remember my reasons for having an unsympathetic heroine anymore, but I felt like mentioning that sometimes, authors truly don't intend for you to like their characters. You never know -- it might have been intentional in this case too!

    1. I couldn't agree with you more about Christian fiction! In fact, I dislike Christian fiction that throws in obscene amounts of purposeless preaching. Too many of the authors do that and it is not to their credit.

      Unfortunately, she wanted her heroine to be likeable. And there were moments, a very few, where I almost felt I could like Julia. And then she would lapse back into the reckless distraction that puts herself and others in danger, and I just lost all respect for her. You're right, some authors don't want their main characters to be liked, but in this case, she really intended Julia to be well-received. Most readers who like this book think Julia is spunky where I found her obstinate. I know spunky, and if that's what Ms. Connealy was aiming for, she missed her mark for me. Sad!

      I've been wanting to try Sarah Sundin's books and now you've given me incentive!

    2. Ohhhhhhhh, heroines who are meant to be spunky, but are merely daft! I loathe those! I had the very same problem with Vanished by Irene Hannon. Intelligent, likable, gutsy heroine who suddenly removed her brain and deliberately went careening into danger. I hate that kind of thing -- I stopped reading Kathy Reichs' books because the main character in them was always, always, always doing that.

      I recently read some really good writing advice on this very subject from sci-fi/fantasy author Holly Lisle. She said that to write a good "spunky" female character, you should mentally switch her to being a guy and see if the things she does are still spunky and fun, or if they're now stupid, annoying, or worse, abusive and mean. I find that to be completely brilliant advice.

      I've only read one of Sarah Sundin's books, "A Distant Melody" (my review is here), but I really enjoyed it. The writing is good, the characters are so likable, and it has a realistic amount of Christianity in it, if you know what I mean. The characters pray and read the Bible and use God's Word to guide their lives, but they don't spend every waking moment preaching and proselytizing. Now that my library is open again (it was closed for 2 months getting a new roof put on), I plan to read more of her books!


Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...