Perfect people don’t become the characters readers remember and love. That honor is reserved for people with whom the reader can identify, those with flaws, those who make understandable mistakes, and those who grow and learn or who succeed in spite of their shortcomings.
These flaws can be physical or emotional. Care needs to be taken on the writer’s part in creating a hero or heroine with flaws to not go overboard to the point where the reader actively dislikes or is irritated by the character so much he/she can’t finish reading the book or change his/her opinion of the character. The same can be said for flaws so minor the reader is turned off by making a big deal of a minor quirk. Today’s reviews are of books in different genres by some of the best LDS authors with flawed heroes or heroines. In the hands of less talented writers these characters could have doomed these stories to failure. Instead they rank among this year’s best novels.
Rick Street doesn’t have much going for him. The product of more foster homes than he can count, he’s now homeless, poorly dressed, unemployed and has difficulty communicating with others. He dreams of one day going to school, having a family, and owning a home. In spite of all the strikes against him, he steps out of the shadows one night to save a young girl from a man he suspects is a killer. Inadvertently, he interferes with a police sting operation and winds up in jail, charged with attempted murder. He is cleared of the more serious charge and the judge accepts a deal placing him in a new state program closely monitored by Miranda Martinez.
Through the efforts of Miranda and a Catholic priest, Rick finds a job and enrolls in Salt Lake Community College. For the first time in his life Rick begins to believe his dreams of a “normal” life might be possible. As he gets closer to Miranda, he learns she is being threatened by a stalker.
A note found in the pocket of a jacket donated to the shelter leads Rick to the discovery of family members he didn’t know existed and places him and them in the crosshairs of a murderer.
Drawing on a lifetime of social work, the author creates flawed characters facing realistic dilemmas and gives them the ability to share with the reader the torn emotions, the self doubts, the hurt and anger of real people along with their hopes, dreams, and minor triumphs. He shares the life of “street people” in a way most of us know little about and creates a compelling mystery along with a hopeful story of self-redemption.
Sadie Hoffmiller, the heroine in Kilpack’s Culinary Mystery series, began the series as an obnoxious, snoopy, busybody I wasn’t certain I could ever like. In her fifties, she considered herself old, took foolish chances, and was a pain in the neck. As the series progressed she gained a lot of insights, was humbled, even frightened at times, and fell in love. With the twelfth and final book in this series, Wedding Cake, Sadie has become a loved and greatly admired character. Flaws become compassion and courage. She deserves a chance at happiness, but there are all those clues and unfinished business from the previous eleven books that need resolution. Resolution is delivered, former characters appear, and the reader receives a delightful, edge of your seat reading experience that is far more than a nostalgic reminder of past volumes.
Wedding days are supposed to be special. Sadie, her children, and her friends have put a lot of effort into making her day special, but someone is out to sabotage the wedding and threatens her guests, loved ones, and Sadie herself. Terrible things happen, danger escalates, and a nasty surprise is in store. No longer is Sadie the old busybody the reader hopes gets her comeuppance, but a dear friend wished only the best.
The book begins with a warning to read the other volumes first. In fact I would suggest reading volume 1, then the next ten books can be in any order, but Wedding Cake should definitely be read last. Once again each chapter ends with a page or two of recipes.
Jennifer Moore has created a spin off story to her popular Becoming Lady Lockwood in her latest release, Lady Emma’s Campaign. Lady Emma Drake is the younger sister of the new earl, William Lockwood, and is everything I find tedious about Regency romances. She’s overly proper, dresses to perfection, manners are to be observed at all costs, and she is hopelessly naive. She’s also in love with her brother’s best friend, Sidney Fletcher, a military sea captain who coddles her and treats her protectively like a little sister. She’s wimpy and boring.
Emma receives a marriage proposal from one of the most eligible bachelors in the ton, but puts off answering because of her feelings for Sidney. Word comes that he has been killed in a battle between France and Spain and she is broken hearted until a group of sailors arrives at William’s home. They bring word that there is a possibility Sidney was captured and may be a prisoner. William sets off in his own ship to determine if his friend is alive and if so, arrange for a ransom or exchange to secure his release. Emma, with some prompting from her sister-in-law, hides aboard the ship. William is furious when she is discovered.
In keeping with her naive assumption that everyone observes the formal manners of English society, she sneaks off the ship in Cadiz, a Spanish city overtaken by the French and where the enemy has established a large prison. She finds Sidney, but is brutally struck in the face and also taken prisoner. At great risk they and two others manage to escape, then face many days of traveling by foot through the war torn country and over mountainous terrain where soldiers from both sides, gangs of robbers, and guerilla fighters might discover them. Sidney is suffering from PTSD and the terrible experiences and sights they encounter affect Emma deeply. As the story progresses she gains a backbone and grows or matures into an admirable character the reader can admire.
Betsy Brannon Green returns to the characters she created in her Hazardous Duty series and turns upside down the reader’s past perception of Brooke Clayton who appeared in Proceed With Caution. Brooke should be the ideal heroine. She’s the niece of the commander of a Special Forces team, in love with Corporal Hunter “Owl” Ezell, a member of that team, and recently was the target of a murder attempt. Unfortunately she has a bad habit of lying, making flippant comments, and has a number of unsavory and illegal actions in her background. She also has a knack for taking stupid chances and keeping secrets.
She jumps at an offer to go undercover for the FBI to expose the leader of the group’s criminal activities (Rex) in exchange for immunity from prosecution for her own past crimes. Doing so not only jeopardizes her own safety, but that of Hunter as well. Hunter knows the big secret she wants kept from Rex, who not only heads the extremist group which is more involved in scamming for money than saving endangered animals, but is outraged to learn she lied to him about the extent of her involvement with the group.
Brooke is afraid of losing Hunter, but to protect her secret, she doesn’t dare antagonize Rex or his new girlfriend, so she continues to work with him setting off a chain of events that jeopardizes the entire Special Forces team.
Green creates a character the reader will both cheer for and want to shake some sense into and she does it in charming, chatty Southern style.
In each of these novels the lead character begins as someone the reader sees as flawed, then comes to understand, and finally to embrace and cheer for. As the character is better understood, grows, and matures the reader forms a bond with the him/her as though the reader, too, has gone through the growth process and become a better person.
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DEADLY SECRETS by Frank Richardson, published by Covenant Communications, 267 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.
WEDDING CAKE by Josi S. Kilpack, published by Shadow Mountain an imprint of Deseret Book, 284 pages, soft cover $17.99 Also available for e-readers.
LADY EMMA’S CAMPAIGN by Jennifer Moore, published by Covenant Communications, 212 pages, soft cover $15.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.
DANGER AHEAD by Betsy Brannon Green, published by Covenant Communications, 294 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.