Sunday, December 30, 2018

His Secret Child (Rescue River #2), by Lee Tobin McClain

Love Inspired, ISBN 9780373818938, January 2016

Fern Easton is a librarian with ambitions to be a children's author and artist. Right now she's dog-sitting and house-sitting for her friend Angelica and her husband, who are on a second honeymoon in Europe with their two children. They run a dog rescue, so Fern is caring for not only their own three-legged dog named Bull, but also all the dogs currently in their rescue, housed in what used to be the barn on their property. She's also caring for her foster daughter Mercedes, just four years old, orphaned daughter of her friend, Kath.

Carlo Camden is a former soldier, former mercenary, now a missionary. A few years ago, he was married, very unwisely, to a woman who threw him out, while spiraling down into an ever more misspent life. He's also Angelica's brother.

He has just recently received a latter from his ex-wife, written as she was dying, telling him that she was pregnant when she kicked him out the last time, and asking him to come home to Rescue River to care for their daughter, Mercedes.

Of course he shows up at the door of his sister's home as a major snowstorm is closing in. He's sick, still suffering from Dengue fever and about to push himself into a full relapse if he doesn't get rest and care. Fern is naturally cautious about letting a strange man into the house where she's alone with her little girl, but it's also not acceptable to kick him out into the storm. Fern manages to reach Angelica in France, and after a conversation in which she never hands Carlo the phone for Angelica to talk to and which objectively does nothing to confirm that he really is Carlo, agrees to let him stay.

What follows is in many ways a sweet and charming story, of good people who have personal history to overcome and don't always see their own strengths--and Fern in particular has some well-earned problems with trusting other people.

I like the characters. I like the story. However, this is a "Christian" book in which it's all too clear that the author defines "Christian" very narrowly. These are sweet, kind, decent people who think being saved is a discrete, transcendent experience, that you can know for sure whether you're saved or not, and, push comes to shove, believe that most Christians in this world need to convert in order to be Christians.

There's a lot of Christian romance out there where the author either doesn't share those particular attitudes, or even if they do, doesn't ladle them on so heavy in their books. They've got room in their worldview for good people who don't share their exact beliefs and aren't just waiting to be "saved" in this one particular way.

So--a mixed bag. I like these characters and their story. I just wish the author had a lighter touch with attitudes and assumptions only some of which I share with her.

So perhaps--recommended with extreme caution?

I received this book free from Harlequin as part of a promotion, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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