First of all, why would an atheist read Christian romance? Apart from the fact that it’s absolutely no one’s business but my own what I read, I do actually have a reason for trying this. I know that Christian fiction is generally clean content-wise, with heat rising from perhaps a forbidden kiss but no sex before marriage. Since I was sexually assaulted as a child and didn’t lose my virginity until I was 22, I’m not interested in reading about teenagers having sex, simply because I can’t relate at all. I’m much more interested in reading a romance with no sex – if I want sex, I’ll read erotica.
That’s not to say that I don’t approve of sex in YA, just that I prefer my reads clean. So that’s my reason, if you needed one, for trying Christian romance.
The Swan Princess meets Robin Hood as beautiful, kind Odette poaches the king’s deer in Thornbeck Forest to feed the poor, starving children of her village. When the new forester, Jorgen, enters her social circle, she can’t help but be mesmerised by his handsomeness and wholesome personality. But Odette needs to marry a rich man to help feed the poor, and whatever would Jorgen do if he found out his beloved Odette was the one sabotaging his career?
The book was set in about 1300s Germany, but apart from the very occasional use of Germanic words (although ‘ja’ was used a lot) it was very hard to say there was much other worldbuilding. This is because the writing was exceedingly bland, unpoetic, and not very descriptive. Clothing was only described in detail when it either appeared on Odette or Jorgen, and left up to the imagination to everyone else (‘gaudy’ was used to describe someone’s clothes, once, I believe, but nothing to explain <em>why</em> they were gaudy). I suppose the use of chamber pots and chewing mint leaves and having a servant brush hair is part of worldbuilding, but I suppose this could have been set in any pre-industrial village. There weren’t even very good descriptions of the forest where so much time was set, although there was an awful lot of time dedicated to characters dancing.
Odette was a pretty special character. Even though she broke the king’s law she believed she was doing the right thing by God by feeding the poor. I would have something cynical to say about the fear of God and Christian superiority but I actually enjoyed the book. I believe if Odette was atheist she’d still be poaching in the forest, but maybe not have her faith in a higher power that she’s doing the right thing even though it’s illegal.
Jorgen was a brilliant character as well. He was just so amazingly handsome and kind and caring and wholesome that I can’t even. Are these characters common in Christian fiction? Absolutely perfect, flawless beings? Seriously, they had no flaws. Not even their poor backgrounds held them back. It was just God making them suffer before he could make them happy, or something.
Odette and Jorgen’s clean romance was a delight to read. It certainly wasn’t instalove, although they were both young adults instantly attracted to each other. They took the time to get to know one another through discussion and spending time together, learning to rely on each other and turn to each other for help and guidance. It was actually a nice change to read something different to the usual YA books I read where the guy generally treats the girl like shit and she pants after him like a bitch in heat anyway. The romance wasn’t exactly forbidden, but the two getting together was an impossibility because of Odette’s stature and Jorgen’s lower class. Of course I figured out how it was going to have a happily ever after ending and was pleased to see it come to fruition, for I can’t think of two characters that deserved each other as much was Odette and Jorgen, even if there was a certain level of deceit throughout the courtship.
Apart from the occasional preaching which I believe could have been left out with no detrimental effects, I actually enjoyed my first foray into Christian romance, and despite the unimaginative way the tale was told I am quite looking forward to reading the other Melanie Dickerson books I have in my collection.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.