Sunday, December 1, 2013

A review of A Light in the Window by Julie Lessman

A Light in the Window

Don’t you love reading Christmas books during the holiday season? I do! Recently, I finished A Light in the Window by Julie Lessman. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston's most notorious pursue her, she encounters a tug-of-war of the heart she isn’t expecting. Sam O’Rourke is the childhood hero she’s pined for, the brother of her best friend and a member of the large, boisterous family to which she longs to be a part. So when his best friend Patrick O’Connor joins in pursuit of her affections, the choice seems all too clear. Sam is from a family of faith and Patrick is not, two rogues whose wild ways clash head-on with Marcy’s—both in her faith and in her heart.

While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen—A Light in the Window—Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to both men, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the "light in the window," meaning the message of Christ in her heart. But when disaster strikes during the play, Marcy is destined to discover the truth of the play’s message first-hand when it becomes clear that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has truly responded to “the light in the window.”

And now, my review:

I’ll never forget when I read Julie Lessman’s first inspirational title, A Passion Most Pure. Hers is a different voice in Christian fiction. She has a fluent prose style and her understanding of the human heart and relationships is apparent in every one of her stories. She’s also well known as the “queen of romantic tension.” (My phrase. Read on to see what I mean.)

After her first series, Julie wrote the Daughters of Boston series. Two of her key characters were Marceline and Patrick O’Connor. But, because they were the parents of the generation at the center of her series, we didn’t get to know their previous romantic history. Until now. That’s one of the reasons I had to read this book, that and it’s a Christmas title. And because I found it for $0.99 on Kindle! (Check link below to see if it’s still on sale. Of course, it’s available in print form as well as this is a full-length title.)

Her husband created the book trailer, which also won me over. Such a great job! Check it out here:

I enjoyed this story. Julie’s style is unlike anyone else's in Christian fiction circles. She unashamedly writes strong romantic tension. She even teaches workshops on this aspect and has written the book on it as well. (Writers, check out Romance-ology 101: Writing Romance for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets). Though I enjoyed the story, the writer in me had a couple issues: there is head-hopping (POV missteps). We switched into omniscient point of view often, as if we were watching a movie. But the advantage of books is that we’re in one person’s POV, digging deep and finding a satisfying experience. Or we should be. She still manages a satisfying romance, though, and most readers (non-writerly ones) may not even notice. The other issue was over-writing. The paperback weighs in at 407 pages, and the Kindle version had something like 6740 locations/length. Some scenes dragged because of all the repetition (circular scene constructs/conversations, etc.) I confess I did skip some screens as I read on my Kindle because of this issue. I highlighted repeated phrases as well because the editor in me cannot help herself. 

But overall, this book is a gift to Julie’s fans, to readers of her books, especially the Daughters of Boston series as we get to watch Marcy’s romantic journey. She has to choose between the dream she carried as a youth and the best option for the future. Sometimes what we thought we wanted, we don’t. Sometimes our dreams are hazy apparitions without substance when we get close. 

One of the best aspects of this book is unlike her other series work, you don’t have to read the earlier titles to “get” this one. You’ll be able to follow everything because all this book’s characters are first introduced here. 

I recommend this novel for its heart and romance. And if you haven’t tried Julie’s work, this is a great place to start.

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