The Covered Deep
I met Ms. Vallance at a book signing in a local Mardel bookstore, and since I love Christian historic fiction, I splurged and did something I almost never do, bought her book without reading it first. I can feel Ms. Vallance's passion for her work, and the eagerness with which she developed both her storyline and her characters. Her writing exudes a strong familiarity with scripture and a profound love of the Holy Land.
Now to explain the 3 stars, and I am being generous and forgiving because I realize Ms. Vallance is a new author and will, hopefully, continue to grow in her trade.
For me personally The Covered Deep just didn't work. It did up until the heroine, Bianca Marshal, met the hero, Paul Emerson. At that point, any common sense the young lady had previously exhibited flew out the window. Her journey to Israel, a place of incredible history, became merely a chance to win Paul's heart. That side of the story, which really is most of the story, truly disappointed me. I expected more depth, not merely a "he loves me, he loves me not" mentality. Bianca was every bit as frivolous, flighty, and emotionally overwrought as all of my least favorite heroines. She began her story with promise and quickly plunged off the abyss of absurdity.
The book itself, while mostly well-crafted and well-written, lost me during the climax. Everything culminated at once in ways that did not make sense and left me scratching my head in bewilderment as to why that plot thread ended there. Or why that character did this. I never did understand why a young woman who loves gothic novels as much as Bianca does could possibly have been so mortified at Paul's worldliness before he became a Christian. She was positively harsh and judgmental for no good reason. Christ had removed Paul's sins as far as the east is from the west, covering them with His shed blood, and so she literally had no right to behave in the manner she did, as if the very idea of sin shocked her. Come on, if you've read any of the Bronte novels, sin is prevalent in each and every one!
While the historic research performed was adequate in most instances, it's the little things that bothered me. Like using purse instead of handbag. This book takes place in the 1870s. I doubt they would have used the word purse, and even if they had, it's not a word modern readers connect to historic fiction. Also, I seriously doubt a young woman all trussed up in a corset could lift a full-sized horse's saddle and sneak off without waking up a man sleeping merely a foot away from it. But it was the Sherlock Holmes reference that troubled me the most. The beginning of the Holmes' saga is so easily researched. What year did the great detective first put in an appearance? A complete and full decade after the events of this book supposedly occurred. That's a 10 year discrepancy so easily avoidable.
Don't get me wrong. The writing is good. Ms. Vallance has skill for the trade. I just wish her to grow her skills in a positive way that includes better historic research and deeper depth of character. Once I realized the villain's motives, I lost all belief in the story because no one would possibly fund a trip to Israel just for that. I'm sure many readers will find great enjoyment from The Covered Deep, but I hope this book will pale in comparison to the ones she writes in the future. I do wish her the absolute best in her writing journey and will keep myself apprised of any upcoming releases.
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