Book Review: Courting Trouble

Deeanne Gist
Bethany House, 2007
330 pages
trade paperback


I failed to notice when I picked this up off the library shelf that it was a Bethany House book. I have no problem with that, but I do think it's interesting how the style of writing in "Christian" books is (to me, at least) very distinct. I started reading this one, and not more than a couple pages in I looked to see who the publisher was. Bingo! Courting Trouble is a Christian period romance.

It's not hard, mind you, to keep things chaste in period pieces, since the mores of those past eras were strict to begin with. In this case, Courting Trouble is set in Corsicana, Texas, in 1894. Being from that area of Texas myself, I enjoyed reading a fictional take on its past--though author Gist actually does use a great amount of factual information to shore up her story.

The story itself is of Essie Spreckelmeyer, farouche daughter of the town judge, who has turned 30 and has no marriage prospects. Therefore she takes it upon herself to find a husband. The makings of your typical fluff piece of romantic fiction, yes, but the tale becomes heavy-handed about halfway through. While early on there are the sort of name-dropping indicators that the book is Christian in nature--i.e., Essie wondering what denomination the new man in town is--later in the book there is more hit-you-over-the-head moments of people telling Essie to have faith in Jesus that He has the right plan for her life and so on. Again, I don't have a problem with this really, but I did feel it was all laid on a bit thick. Though, too, since this book is from a Christian publisher, I suppose at the core they desire the kinds of manuscripts that have some "teachable" material in them, whether they be fiction or no.

All in all, Courting Trouble is a well-written and nicely plotted story. I wouldn't say no to reading more such ones (and according to a note in the back of the book, Essie will be featured in another upcoming book this year), though I'd certainly put some other books between them. Otherwise I might feel suffocated by the underlying agenda.

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