About the Book:
Widow and mother of three, Angela 'Jel' Cooke is full of regret about her marriage to her late husband. Her close friends can see that she is keeping busy to avoid her pain. But no amount of cooking, baking, volunteering or late-night games of Yahtzee with her BFF can bring her any peace. When Jack Bartolomucci walks into her life, he challenges Angela to face her demons head on. What follows is a poignant, sometimes hilarious tale of hope and healing.
I really enjoyed reading this very Catholic romance. That being said, this romance was VERY Catholic. When looking at faith-based fiction, I always consider how much is too much. As Catholics, indeed as Christians of any ilk (or for that matter people of any faith tradition), our faith is supposed to be part of who we are and an integral part of our lives; not just something we do for an hour on Sunday morning (or whenever we worship). However, I'll admit that the folks who talk about Jesus all the time, who have houses that look like they robbed a church, or who otherwise stand out from the crowd due to public displays of faith make me uncomfortable. Perhaps that's why this book often rubbed me the wrong way.
Since her husband's death, Angela has come to realize that her marriage left a lot to be desired. Because she has volunteered to work with youth ministry at church (along with a bunch of other ministries, which are described), the parish sends her to a series of classes on The Theology of the Body, which for those not familiar with it, is a work by Pope John Paul II that deals with sex and intimacy in marriage and how it images the love of Christ for the Church. It presents what are often seen as oppressive rules against fornication, birth control or homosexual acts in a positive way--as in doing right will give you far more happiness than doing wrong, rather than "you'll go Hell if you do wrong". Of course as readers, we get to listen to parts of the class. She falls for the teacher, and eventually they begin a very chaste courtship. During the course of the story we learn that both Jack and Angela attend daily mass and pray the rosary regularly. Angela starts the day with the Morning Offering. She gets spiritual direction from her pastor and we sit in on a couple of sessions. At one point Angela gets very mad at Jack, kisses him passionately (without his permission) and then slaps him. The next day she won't go to communion because she needs to confess. Every time they have a meal together, the fact that they say grace is mentioned. Angela's husband had been run over by a drugged out man. There is a scene in which she makes a statement in the courtroom at his sentencing. She forgave him--as opposed to the family of the other victim who spewed hatred. When Angela and Jack are having a major disagreement not long before the wedding, they go and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and of course afterwards are able to work it out. Their wedding night includes prayer. In short, Catholicism penetrates every part of this book and Creedon is clearly trying to both educate her readers about Catholic sexual morality and convince them that it will bring happiness in this life, not just save them from damnation.
Jack obviously cares a great deal for Angela, right from the beginning. He is almost a God figure--he knows what's best, he insists they do things the right way. He is there for Angela, but doesn't push himself on her. He wants to take care of her. As they grow closer, he insists on emotional intimacy and vulnerability. He urges her to do things she needs to do to get her life in proper balance. I read somewhere that it is our vocation as spouses to lead each other to heaven. Jack is clearly trying to do that to Angela.
So, the final verdict? Good story, lots of romantic tension since they did not kiss on the lips until after they were engaged, and then quickly decided to wait until they got married because it flared so much passion. Characters were very religious people who sometimes didn't seem quite real--well, Angela seemed to struggle a little with Jack's limits on physical intimacy, but she wanted to do it right this time. It is a very religious story that is clearly trying to teach about Catholic sexual morality and push Catholic spiritual practices. In short, if you don't like religious fiction, this is far too religious to recommend to you. If you are a firm believer in the sexual moral teachings of the Catholic Church and want to read a romance novel that comports with them, this will be right up your alley. If you want to learn about the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, this is a pleasant wrapper, though I think you'd learn more reading some of the books listed at the end of this book than from reading this story. If you want to know how the average person in the pew lives Catholicism, well, maybe I'm not average, but I think these two are too good to be true.
I got this book when it was an Amazon Kindle freebie though I'd like to thank Ellen Gable Hrkach for calling to to my attention. Grade: B--.