Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Captain's Christmas Family by Deborah Hale

Earlier this year I read another of this author’s books. While Bought: The Penniless Lady failed to blow me away, it did provide me with an evening of enjoyable entertainment and it drew me in to the point where I wanted to know the outcome more than I wanted to sleep. So when I saw that the author would be releasing a seasonal story that was still on the cheap side, I decided to go for it.

Story: With the recent loss of their father, Cissy and Dolly Radcliffe find themselves orphans and with no male heir, their property passes to the next male in line. This happens to be Captain Gideon Radcliffe – a man who devoted his life to serving his country but was recently embroiled in a scandal that saw his ship taken away from him. He doesn’t know how to interact with such young children after so many years of having to keep a tight rein on his ship’s crew, but the girl’s governess, Miss Marian Murray, spies something in him.

She brokers a deal with him that the girls will get to spend one last Christmas in their family home, secretly hoping that he will grow to love them enough to want to challenge their aunt – who is in no way capable of taking care of such young children – for custody. And maybe they’ll both find love in the process.

Thoughts and impressions: Really, before I even started, I should have realised that this book would contain a significant Christian message. I didn’t expect to be whacked over the head with it quite so much, though. As someone born in the more secular Europe and raised by atheist parents, I’m sceptical of religion and religious texts. Sometimes the message bordered on insulting for me – I think at one point Marian wonders how Gideon can deal with all his problems without leaning on God’s love. Those of us who do no turn to God manage perfectly well without him thank you very much. The fact that she pities him because his faith is not strong enough really didn’t sit well with me and led to several frustration-riddled moments.

It is also implied that prayer has an effect. All tests done on prayer have shown that it doesn’t change anything, but the author uses this as prolepsis and often announces future events in the characters’ prayers.

I understand why religion plays a role in the story, but at times the whole thing seemed to revolve around religion and nothing else, which was just too much for me and started to put me off the book.

The children are pretty stereotypical, though fitting different moulds. Dolly is outgoing and boisterous while Cissy is quiet and reserved. They were cute but at times too cliché for my tastes. Occasionally they were blatantly used to further certain parts of the relationship between Gideon and Marian and once or twice their actions or speech felt particularly unnatural.

Gideon and Marian have the communication problem of the year. One of them says something and the other hears the exact opposite of what they meant. I know authors use this technique a lot to further certain situations, but rarely have I seen it used this much.

The book is classed as being a love-inspired historical but for me it’s a clean historical romance. The history doesn’t have much to do with it beyond being a period setting – well, except for the traditions (which were very well researched). The budding romance, however, is everything. Both of the characters are prone to drifting off into endless monologues questioning their feelings, the other’s supposed feelings, the other’s supposed actions, and so on. They do go on! Sometimes I felt that there could have been more of an obstacle introduced as the two “obstacles” that are presented don’t really get much attention when compared with the other.

Also, the synopsis of the book is misleading. It mentions a “battle of wills” but there’s no such thing. The story is about the captain coming to love this new and very different life away from the sea.

I’m sure that Christian fans of a holiday romance read will enjoy this book, but circumstances just weren’t right for me to enjoy this. It wasn’t my cup of tea but I wouldn’t say that it has put me off giving the author a third chance at some point in the future.

Style: I have nothing in particular to say about the style.

Final verdict: Not for me. I could see the good in it but the frustrations eclipsed it. 2 stars

Extra notes: No bad language. No sex.


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