BY SEAN CLARK
Author: Beth Wiseman
2009, Thomas Nelson
Filed under: Romance
Is your idea of a happy ending a sexless marriage between a submissive yet nosy woman and a rich, pushy doctor in which they adopt a child before their third kiss? Oh it is? Well boy, do I have the book for you. Plain Pursuit is full of flat characters and boring, predictable events. It was clear from the beginning how it would end, and Beth Wiseman, picking up the Daughters of Promise series where
some other author wisely she left off, writes competantly, but as if she’s on auto-pilot, merely filling in the blanks between mandatory plot points.
To be fair, I am clearly not the ideal reader for this book. To be honest, if not as fair, I find it hard to believe there is an ideal reader for this book. Judging from the jacket copy, Amish-centric stories are a burgeoning sub-genre in the Christian romance section of whatever bookstores have Christian romance sections. But I’m hard pressed to buy that even the most vacuous readers (if there are such things) will find something to enjoy in reading multiple versions of drek like this. I got this book for free from the somewhat dubious Booksneeze.com. They offer free copies of their faux-religious books if you agree to post your review on a commercial site like Amazon. So I’ll be posting this review there as well; I hope it drives sales up.
Here’s the premise. Carley’s a newspaper reporter in Texas. Her mom dies in a car accident and this makes her so sad she needs a change of scenery. So she takes a month vacation to Lancaster County, to stay with her old friend Lillian, who has converted and married Amish. Lillian’s stepson, David, falls ill and has to visit an Englisch doctor, who happens to be his shunned uncle, Noah. Noah’s shunning turns out to be a main point of contention in the novel. Carley has a crush on Noah, and he tries to use her to get back in with his family. Carley eventually begins to champion Noah, and meddles with his family in the hopes they will break their religious rules. She spends much of the book gushing about their pastoral way of life, yet she displays little respect for their ways or wishes. Most of the book concerns the just-the-tip reconciliation of Noah and his family as it builds toward an obvious reunion that piggybacks on the obvious union of Carley and Noah.
That’s a boring plot, but it’s passable at least. The same can be said about Wiseman’s writing. (I understand that romance novels do not often rely on intricate plotting or writing full of flourish.) Where things really collapse irreparably is just how vapid the whole thing is. There’s a lot of talk about God, and how important he is to the lives of all the characters. But none of the characters express any sort of intelligence when it comes to whatever religion they subscribe too. It’s like listening to a sermon from someone who goes to church twice a year and feels righteous about it. Even if you’re a Born Again, that’s got to be annoying. Like this:
Almost instantly, Lillian’s explanation about the light switch and God game into her mind. Carley knew she had been guilty of an on-again, off-again relationship with God. She pondered if she had also been guilty of convenient love, only turning to God during times of trouble. Or just the opposite–turning her back on Him because she felt betrayed by Him when events became too difficult to bear. Who was she to judge anyone? Only God could do that.
That is seriously the deepest moment of introspection or reflection in the entire book, and it’s pretty shallow. If you disagree and find that moving, then this is definitely a book for you. If, like me, you saw the cover picture (there are no young Amish lovers in this book, despite what the picture implies) and scoffed, then follow your gut and don’t read it or even go near it or anything like it. The fact that so many colorless, unimaginative books like this are being published, when even the slightest effort on the part of a competent editor or writer could make them at least unique and, well, good rather than facile, says a lot about the grim state of publishing today.
(Oh. There’s a bunch of yummy Amish recipes printed at the end of the book. That is by far the best thing about Plain Pursuit.)