Book Review: Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings (2014)
5 of 5 stars
Anne Tillerton, a buffalo hunter who wears men's clothes, finds herself tracking down a runaway cook to Garber, Texas, successfully thwarting a train robbery/murder in the process. What she didn't expect is that she would actually know the man she saved from a lifetime ago. Or that she would end up caring for the cook, Tessa's infant son when she heads off into the great-unknown with her latest paramour. Anne is stuck with a baby in a strange town and the only chance for a job comes from Nick Lovelace, the man from the train, who would like it very much if she would please consider wearing a dress to the office. Anne's life isn't easy, at least compared with Nick's, but if there is one thing Anne does well it's make other people think outside their comfort zone. And Nick finds himself questioning his motivations. He builds railroads, yes, but how far is he willing to bend his conscience to please his only employer? Will Anne's influence finally help Nick realize that there's more to life than money and tat he can make a living in other ways that don't include kowtowing to corruption? And what about Anne? Can she be tamed and her heart mended from the heartbreak and abuse she's suffered in a past she would rather forget?
I already knew I liked Regina Jennings' style of writing when I read her novella in A Match Made in Texas. I mean, out of the 4 authors included in that collection, Ms. Jennings' characters were the ones I loved the most. When the opportunity came along to review one of her full-length novels, I jumped at the chance, and she completely lived up to my expectations and then some.
Give me a heroine who is more than fluffy skirts and biblical proverbs spouted at inopportune times and I'm a happy woman. I need meat in my historic romance, something very few authors are able to fully provide, so that sets Ms. Jennings a little higher than most in my estimation.
Anne Tillerton is not your average prairie fiction female. She's tough as leather, clad in it too, and she wears her independence as proudly as she wears her revolver. But she's more than a woman who's more masculine than feminine. She's a woman who has suffered through very little fault of her own. The face she presents to the world is a way of protecting herself. She doesn't want men to look at her and she doesn't dress to impress. A combination of things drew me to Anne. First, she's spunky. Some writers add too much spunk or not enough, but Anne's spunk was just right. Second, she's more than her appearance suggests. Like most women, her heart yearns for love and acceptance, for protection, and for motherhood. Anne is the perfect heroine because she's a mixture of ideal woman and hurting, abused soul. She's real.
Connecting to Nick Lovelace was harder because his goal, at least in the beginning, is money. He wants financial solvency, and while there's nothing wrong with that, sometimes the Lord has other things in mind, like sacrifice and suffering. Yes, Christians are called to suffer for their faith, for standing on their principles. Nick is called upon to do so, and he discovers that he possesses a greater strength of character than he imagined. Nick starts out as the type of man I would consider self-absorbed and then has his horizons broadened by circumstances and the Lord's leading. Not a perfect hero, by far, but, like Anne, a realistic one. Because no one is perfect.
Ms. Jennings, like many of the authors I'm reading now, is fairly new to Christian fiction. And for my own selfish sake, I hope she sticks around for a good many years to come. It's possible that I only loved Caught in the Middle because I identify with the heroine. Sometimes I like an author, but don't always like every book they've ever written. But Caught in the Middle is a real winner with me and I can hardly wait to try my hand at another of her delectable books.
- I received this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
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