Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Love on the Range by Jessica Nelson

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley

As soon as I saw this book on NetGalley I felt inexplicably drawn to it. There was just something about it that called my name! I resisted it for a while but in the end the impulse to read it won out.

Title: Love on the Range
Author: Jessica Nelson
Series: Love Inspired Historical
Publisher: Harlequin
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical romance
Length: 288 pages

Story: Any other socialite would view being packed off to a remote Oregon ranch as a punishment. But Gracelyn Riley knows that this is her opportunity to become a real reporter. If she can make her name through an interview with the elusive hero known as Striker, then she’ll never have to depend on anyone ever again.

Rancher Trevor Cruz can’t believe his secret identity is being endangered by an overly chatty city girl. But if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that Gracie’s pretty little snooping nose is bound to get her in trouble. So he’ll use her determination to find “Striker” to keep an eye on her…and stick close by her side.

Thoughts and impressions: I find myself very polarised about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the gist of the story, the characters and the narrative voice. On the other hand, I often found myself incredibly insulted by the religious messages that it was pushing. I’m going to start with these.

Gracie, the heroine, is a devout Christian who sees God’s hand in everything. That’s fine, especially considering that this is set in the early 1900’s. But as soon as she discovers that the three male characters on the ranch do not share her beliefs she is shocked and tries to sway their opinion with some God babble. This clearly shows that Gracie has no respect for their beliefs – or lack thereof as the case may be. Even more frustratingly, the story goes down the path of “atheists don’t really not believe in God – they do believe in Him, they just hate Him”. That’s Gracie’s epiphany about Trevor, the hero. This stance annoys me to no end. If you don’t believe in God then you can’t hate Him because you don’t believe He exists. I’d really like to read a story where the religious and irreligious learn to see eye to eye without either giving up on their core beliefs, but I have yet to find one where both characters don’t end up Christian.

There’s a question at the end of the book:
7. Uncle Lou doesn’t talk about God or seem interested in Him. Do you know people like that? What makes someone uninterested in God? Is there a sensitive way to share faith with a person like Lou?
Yes I do – in fact, I know more people who aren’t interested in God than who are. I’m uninterested in Him because I’ve read enough of the Bible to know that I do not believe it to be divinely inspired. There are sensitive ways to share faith with people like Lou, like me, but this author does not manage to get anywhere close. Instead, she – through Gracie - is condescending and does not even try to look at things from the atheist’s point of view. She just pities them for not having her God in their life, not being able to turn to Him in their times of need. This annoyed me so much. I find it incredibly insulting. This is such a shame because when the story actually focused on the plot – Gracie’s desire to meet her hero, Striker, and Trevor’s determination to keep his alter ego from her all while exploring their budding attraction – I really enjoyed it all. But God always came back when you least expected Him. It got to the point where I was seriously tempted to skip whole portions of the story because of this. Instead I just allowed myself to get irritated.

The story itself was fairly transparent. As soon as Mendez, Striker’s enemy, and his means of crime are mentioned, it’s obvious how things will pan out at the climax. Most of the story focuses on Gracie discovering life in the Oregon desert – very different to the busy socialite existence that she was leading in Boston.

I enjoyed her evolution from shallow, annoying Gracie to a much more rounded, better grounded Gracie. The location was also perfect and very vividly drawn. Setting it all against the backdrop of the deadly Spanish flu allowed the author to keep the small number of characters very isolated, which worked in the story's favour. Even how Gracie was trapped in an existence she didn’t want by her over-bearing but well-meaning and old-fashioned parents lent an interesting side to the story as they prevented Gracie from really finding her own two feet. She would practically become another character around them: very quiet, demure and submitting to their wishes, however unwillingly.

Trevor was my favourite character. I liked how he had to battle the horrors of his past in order to be able to get to the point where he could accept the happiness offered to him in his present.

In all, I ended up with two conflicting feelings about the book. I suspect that it will really appeal to Christian readers, but as an atheist, I ended up feeling insulted by its religious message and its treatment of the topic. I wish the author had kept religion out of it all: then it could have been a lovely romance that I would display with some pride on my shelves! It’s a shame that the religious message ruined it for me.

Style: Not as polished as it maybe could have been, but once the author really finds her feet she’ll have a good style.

Final verdict: I swayed between being engrossed by it and frustrated by it. At times I was caught up in a five star read, other times I was reading a very grating 1 star story. I’ll meet in the story with 3 stars.

Extra notes: I don’t think there was any bad language. No sex.


  1. Good for you. Tell it how it is. :-)

  2. Thank you so much for the honest review, Rea. I appreciate it and enjoyed getting your perspective. :-)


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