There was a time when the heroine of a book meant to appeal primarily to women was pretty near perfect. In time it was thought more realistic if the heroine was dealing with a physical infirmity, poverty, or a great loss such as the death of a parent. Today’s not-so-perfect heroines can be immature, ditzy, or just plain silly. Emotional growth can be an important part of the story. Two very different new novels feature heroines who don’t fit the mold. One, a contemporary, is about a brilliant young law school graduate without much personal confidence the other is historical featuring a woman, more girl than woman, who naively confuses her hopes with reality.
LOVE ON A WHIM by Aubrey Mace
Long ago a fortune teller promised Rachel Pearce she’d one day become a wealthy lawyer, but six months of job hunting following graduation from Stanford and she’s unemployed, lives in a tiny, dingy apartment, and lacks money for groceries. Splurging with the last of the coins in her change jar, she stops at a cafe to indulge with a chocolate croissant she really can’t afford. A man from the past, her best friend’s wealthy former boyfriend, Henry, finds her there and offers her a job, not as a lawyer, but as his secretary. She’s offended, but as her unemployed state continues and she grows more desperate, she finally accepts the offer.
Now along with keeping her best friend’s pregnancy a secret and trying to convince Shannon she should share the happy news with her husband, Rachel tries to keep Shannon from discovering she is “sort of” dating her former boyfriend who nearly got in a fight with Shannon’s husband at their wedding reception. She soon finds herself more errand girl than secretary, buying cookies, searching for colored paperclips, and sending emails to her boss’s mother. Along the way to finding a “real” job as a lawyer Rachel and Henry enjoy a quirky relationship that includes lavish dinners, jet travel, and lots of cookies.
This book is for those with an off-beat sense of humor. It’s light and fun and carries out a theme of life and love being what happens on the way to somewhere else. It shows that neither life nor love comes in neat pre-planned packages. The characters are fun. Rachel is intelligent, but lacks personal confidence, though she has a quick temper. Henry has never felt wanted. He is kind and thoughtful, but assumes others like him for his money rather than for himself. They both grow as their relationship progresses. The background and setting for the story are kept pretty far back and there’s no clear picture of what Henry actually does nor is there a clear picture of Salt Lake where the story presumably occurs. The plot is predictable as is the case in most romantic novels, but the journey is delightful. Readers will find it a satisfying diversion.
Aubrey Mace has lived in Utah most of her life. She attended Utah State University and works in the medical field in addition to her writing career.
MY SWEET DANISH ROSE by Tina Peterson Scott
My Sweet Danish Rose is the second book in a pair of novels by Tina Peterson Scott. The first Farewell, My Denmark came out in 2013 and is the story of the oldest daughter in a Danish family who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then emigrated to America during the nineteenth century pioneer era. This second volume is the younger sister’s story and occurs in the same time period.
Berta Erichsen makes a last minute decision not to go with her family to America. She fancies herself in love with a neighbor boy and is sure he intends to ask her to marry him. When her older sister decides to go instead of staying behind to help an elderly aunt, Berta thinks taking her sister’s place caring for the aunt is the perfect solution to her own dilemma. Her family is reluctant to allow the fifteen-year-old to remain behind, but she is adamant that she stay.
Staying behind doesn’t come close to her idealized, romantic expectations. The elderly, senile aunt can’t support herself and Berta only has the small amount of money that was supposed to be her dowry, but pays for food instead for her and her aunt. When the authorities come for the aunt to take her to the poorhouse, Berta is left homeless and without money. She has no choice but to become a maid in the home of the wealthy man who cheated her father out of the agreed upon price for his farm. Three men take on important roles in her life: Jens Larsen, the young man she has loved since they were small children; Anders Jensen, the stable boy who stole her Book of Mormon; and Mr. Isle, her abusive and domineering employer.
The background for this story is a fascinating glimpse of mid-nineteenth century Denmark. The plot is somewhat predictable. Berta is depicted well as a fifteen-year-old girl who knows little of life, is part woman-part child, willing to work hard, but is unrealistic in her expectations. Her testimony of the Gospel is still in the formulating stage. It wasn’t unusual for a girl so young to marry at that time nor for employers to be like slave holders over their employees. Still it’s hard to imagine parents who would immigrate to the other side of the world, leaving behind a child as young and immature as Berta without even checking into the aunt’s circumstances.
Tina Peterson Scott was raised on Grimm’s fairytales and the stories of Hans Christian Anderson. A native of Arizona she has a soft spot for her father’s ancestral land of Denmark. She is married and the mother of seven children and grandmother of a growing number of grandchildren.
LOVE ON A WHIM by Aubrey Mace, published by Covenant Communications, 252 pages, softcover, $15.99. Also available for e-readers.
MY SWEET DANISH ROSE by Tina Peterson Scott, published by Foutz Fables & More softcover $14.99. Also available for e-readers.