Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist

A Bride in the Bargain
Deeanne Gist
Bethany House Publishers
2009
✯✯

Official Backpage Synopsis

In 1860s Seattle, a man with a wife could secure himself 640 acres of timberland. But because of his wife's untimely death, Joe Denton finds himself about to lose half of his claim. Still in mourning, his best solution is to buy one of those Mercer girls arriving from the East. A woman he'll marry in name but keep around mostly as a cook.

Anna Ivey's journey west with Asa Mercer's girls is an escape from the griefs of her past. She's not supposed to be a bride, though, just a cook for the girls. But when they land, she's handed to Joe Denton and the two find themselves in a knotty situation. She refuses to wed him and he's about to lose his land. With only a few months left, can Joe convince this provoking--but beguiling--easterner to be his bride?

My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
Joe Denton needs a wife in order to keep from losing half of his land and Anna Ivey wants to start a new life away from all the mistakes of her past.

Along her journey, Anna does discover that she actually wasn't responsible for the death of her father while he served in the Civil War, nor did she make her brother run away to join the Union, or her mother to give up hope. She is not God and so she cannot possibly take responsibility for another person's actions.

Joe learns that it is just possible something else matters more than the land he loves so much.

Okay, there's the theme. I was really hoping for something more than just basic stuff, but really, this is it. Oh well.

The Characters
It took awhile, but I did finally reach the point of liking Anna. Not loving her, but at least liking her. She has a great capacity for compassion and loves to take care of others, a trait that I understand. However, she is incredibly foolish in her beliefs about other people and her beliefs about herself. She felt entirely too self-centered for her own good, making decisions for other people that she really didn't have a right to make. I also don't know why in the world she was assuming Joe only wanted to marry her because of  the land. Um, no, anyone reading could tell he wanted her.

And that's Joe's problem. All I got out of him is that he loved his land and lusted after Anna. His behavior towards her was entirely inappropriate most of the time, and way too gratuitous for a Christian romance. I felt myself inwardly cringing at times because of how he looked at her, or touched her, or kissed her. It felt . . . invasive. And yes, very crude.

And then you have the local doctor who helps both Joe and Anna. Doc Maynard would have been likeable. He's the founder of Seattle, got the ball rolling as it were, attends church with his lovely wife, is very fond of Anna and Joe. And he started the first whorehouse in Seattle. Which I'm sure he must have since he's an actual historical figure. Why even mention that? It feels like we're simply excusing that part of his life simply because he goes to church. I could not excuse him and so, frankly, even when he's doing "good" things for other people as a healer, I still couldn't let myself like him because I knew he brought prostitutes into Seattle. Such a fine, upstanding Christian man.

The Writing
While Deeanne Gist is an excellent writer, I just didn't like this book. I also feel it wasn't her best effort. A few of the plot points felt entirely too convenient, and overall it just felt rushed without anything of real long-lasting value added to the story.

Final Thoughts

This book really disappointed me. Just like in Fair Play, the lead characters were too focused on sins of the flesh. Faith of any kind was an after-thought. Oh, Anna prayed, but it was never in a "God, please lead my path, give me Your instruction, guide me to where You would have me go." No, it was never like that, it was always "God, give me strength as I tell him this." She never asked God for wisdom or anything, just prayed for strength to carry out her own choices. The only real spiritual advice she received was from Doc Maynard and you already know how I feel about him.

I'm finding that Deeanne Gist's books are really hit-or-miss with me. When she adds waaaaaaay too much sexual innuendo and heated looks and heat pooling in the back of stomachs, then I immediately start to lose interest. I'm not reading a trashy paperback, but a Christian romance. There needs to be a distinction and she doesn't quite make it.

4 comments:

  1. So... they never discussed the prostitution or dealt with it in any way? He never talked about how much he has changed and how he regrets that part of his life?

    If that's the case, that's truly sad -- what a terrific opportunity to go deeper into a man's transforming relationship with God and how it changes him utterly, missed.

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    Replies
    1. Nope. It was a single sentence, dropped into explaining his connection to Seattle's founding. It read something like, "And he started the first whorehouse which won him the undying affection of all the men in Washington Territory." Great. Love it.

      So we have no reason to trust that the man has changed because nothing has ever been said or proven that he's not still involved in the whorehouse. It's like the sentence was just a fun fact, when actually, it makes him very vulgar.

      Delete
    2. The heroine really should have struggled with that, as you did, and either it should have been left out or led to some kind of resolution inside the narrative.

      Delete
  2. I've only read two of Deeanne's books, and i generally felt the same as you: they do feel like a trashy paperback with a Christian 'sauce'

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