My Mom (may her soul rest in peace) used to say "If you can't say something nice about someone, then keep your mouth shut". Lately you may have noticed that I've published press releases or blog tour posts on some Christian romances, without reviews. That's because it is tough to write a nice review of a book that you hate by the time you've read the first chapter. I was beginning to wonder if it was me--if I just needed to find some other type of book to read. I've never held any illusions that romance novels, either the Christian or mass-market versions, were great literature. I just like happy feel-good books and romance novels usually fill that bill nicely, but lately I've gotten a bunch that have turned me off by their saccharine sweet, overly pious heroines, preachy heroes or unrealistic plots. I'm pleased to say that Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas) isn't one of those.I started reading it about 7:30 p.m. and now it is 12:30 a.m. and I had a wonderful evening.
The hero is Nate, who is back in his hometown, a small West Texas town where football is king and ranchers are royalty, after serving in the Army in Iraq, where he was injured saving others. The heroine is Jenna, daughter of a rancher and ex-wife of a local football hero who is now in the NFL. Jenna and Nate were sweet on each other in high school but her dad didn't think he was good enough for her. She is getting over having her heart broken and being told that her broken marriage was her fault; he is suffering from PTSD. It is a romance novel so I'll bet you can guess how it ends, but getting there was fun.
It is a Christian romance. The characters are chaste. They say grace before meals. They go to church. When Nate gets help for his PTSD, his psychiatrist prays with him, and he also talks to his pastor. Nate mentions being glad his doctor will pray with him, and how he doesn't know how anyone can deal with this without Jesus, but it really isn't a book about his spiritual life. Nate's conflict isn't with God; it is with his memories.
One thing I like better about Christian romances than the mass-market version, if they are well done, is that the characters, as a general rule, act more like they love each other in the Christian version. All too often in the mass-market version, people who barely know each other end up in bed together.
I'd like to thank Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for sending me a complimentary review copy. Jenna's Cowboy: A Novel (The Callahans of Texas) is available in January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a divison of Baker Publishing Group (and if you buy it by clicking on the links in this post, I get a small commission from Amazon). Jenna has two handsome single brothers and I can hardly wait to read their stories!