Author: Karen Witemeyer
Genre: Christian Fiction
Star Verdict: ** (out of 5)
This really isn’t my normal cup of tea, but since I’m on a mission to find good Christian fiction, I downloaded this because it was free, had decent reviews and I had nothing else to read that night. Hannah Richards arrives in Coventry, Texas in 1881 to set up a dress shop and immediately has a run in with grouchy livery owner JT Tucker. It is love/hate at first sight, as JT believes that the fancy dresses Hannah sews will make women vain if they have them and discontent if they don’t, while encouraging men to only value women for their beauty. Hannah believes that creation is proof that God values beauty and that she can glorify Him through creating beautiful things herself.
The philosophical debates between Hannah and JT are interesting, and Witemeyer does a good job of integrating them into the plot and making us think without sounding preachy. Both characters have valid points, and the point of the book is that we need to balance them. The natural world tells us that God loves beautiful things, and He made us in His image with a desire to create and enjoy beauty. Beautiful things in and of themselves have no ability to corrupt, but our own sin nature may twist them into greed, envy, or self-deprecation.
While the philosophical debate in the book is interesting, the plot and romance were a giant cliché. The love/hate at first sight “plot” just drives me crazy—it’s about as subtle as a ten pound sledge hammer. I literally lost track of how many times the heroine tripped and fell into JT’s arms, leading to the inevitable “Oh, his arms are so strong and muscular but oh he makes me so mad but oh I can’t stop thinking about him oooh!” There’s also the requisite heroine-almost-drowns-gets-rescued-by-hero-who-suddenly-realizes-he-can’t-live-without-her scene.
Another thing that had me flabbergasted was when a friend of Hannah’s comes and tells her she’s in love with a man who doesn’t seem to notice her, and Hannah’s solution is to not only make her a new dress (obviously), but put her on a diet and exercise routine so she can “slim down.” Seriously??
In summary, philosophy-wise this book is above average, but plot-wise it is bogged down in shallow clichés.