An Unexpected Wife by Cheryl Reavis: Book Review
An Unexpected Wife by Cheryl Reavis was published in July 2013, in the Harlequin Love Inspired Historical series. If you're not familiar with Love Inspired, it is romance with a Christian worldview and with an inspirational message that is always subtle, never heavy-handed.
These are my favorite kind of stories.
In this book that takes place right after the end of the Civil War, there is a lot going on! We have the heroine, Kate Woodward, who had a child out-of-wedlock, and the hero, Robert Markham, who feels terrible guilt about being unable to keep his brother from being killed in battle. Indeed, Robert felt so terrible about it that his family, and his intended (not Kate), believed him to be dead for over two years.
Making matters more complex, Robert's sister is married to Kate's brother, and each family fought on opposite sides of the war. So we have a house full of people with opposing loyalties, festering resentments, dark secrets and heavy, guilt-laden hearts. There are numerous secondary characters as well. None of their stories is gone into in any depth, but some of them do make life difficult for Kate and Robert.
Truth be told, I had a hard time settling into this book. The characters felt believable, realistic and likeable. The situation seemed plausible, but the pacing was, for whatever reasons, terribly slow. But because I felt the characters to be so real, and I because could tell that Cheryl Reavis (the author) is a person of great wisdom and insight, I didn't give up on it. And when I say "give up on it" that is a measure of my own shortcomings as a reader with an unfortunately short attention span, and not because of any serious faults with the story.
So I finished it, and was rewarded by reading it. As writer myself, I felt the plotting could've been improved. I was also disappointed that there was absolutely no sexual chemistry shown between the hero and heroine, and not even a kiss on the final page, when they are married.
By definition, inspirational stories leave most of that behind the scenes. But there was so little longing shown between them, that it was hard to imagine that they really did love each other in the the way most of us feel toward our spouses. Both felt unworthy of love, and so maybe it will take being married for a while for each of them to feel loved and to be able to freely give love.
If you're not an impatient reader, and if you're okay with a romance that almost falls outside of the definition of romance (but is a good story nonetheless), give this one a try.