by Karen Witemeyer (Goodreads Author)On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he's forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man's daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he's haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind--a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.
For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the person is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna's outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?
My Review: 8.5/10
I absolutely loved 90% of this book. I was frequently chuckling or smiling to myself over the sweetness of it all. The "stealing" of the preacher was a fresh idea and the characters had substance. I liked that Crockett was drawn to her unorthodox beauty right away, but was attracted to other women as well; it was realistic. I felt that his falling in love with her was natural and I loved that he had deep, concrete reasons, as opposed to the flimsy ones that are typically used in books of this genre.
I loved that Silas' story had just as much significance as the romance. I thought his progression was realistic as well; any Christian could relate to a loved one rebuffing God. I appreciated the messages of steady patience and prayer as the remedy.
Short Straw Bride was one of the first historical christian romances I read and I really enjoyed it. Over time, I have come to appreciate it even more when compared to others of its kind. This book took off so quickly, that I really thought Jo and Crockett would get married early on the book. That would have been so refreshing. I mean, why is it that romance authors seem to think the story *ends* with marriage?! That's when it just gets started! Not to mention, it would have thrown more weight into Silas' relationship with Christ. Oh well.
But what really got me was the extreme melodrama at the end. All of sudden, there's an attempted hanging and before you can blink, another man getting carted off to prison. These instances were just too extreme for my taste, because they cheapened and undermined the message of steady faithfulness and they just weren't relatable nor realistic. I didn't buy into Silas' reaction to his faith being tested so harshly and so swiftly after beginning to believe the gospel.
For me, the last ten percent, starting with Holly showing up with a "peace offering" all the way to the end is where everything unraveled. The ending may not have been as "exciting" but it would have been more impactful if it had been better grounded in humble reality.
*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*