Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: "Angel Harp" by Michael Phillips

Summary from Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

It's been a while since I've read a Michael Phillips book. I was all about the Journals of Corrie Belle Hollister and the first 3 books of the Russians series back in the 90s but since then I really haven't picked up one of his books. I know he's one of the juggernauts of Christian fiction but to me he always seemed to be the type of Christian fiction that I don't read anymore. I don't fit the audience that he writes to so I had been pretty much avoiding his books. I decided to pick this one up because as it had been so long I wanted to give him another chance.

The overall premise of the story is interesting. It sort of reminded me of The Secret Garden in a way as it takes place overseas and includes a lot of heartbreak, secrets, mysteries and a sickly child. Marie plays the harp, an instrument I find extremely fascinating and beautiful. Reading the cost of how much one of them costs was eye-opening as it's going to take a lot of dedication and money to be someone who plays the instrument for a living. When she decides to go to Scotland, I was enthralled with her discoveries of the country and learning about the history and culture though the constant references to Mel Gibson and Braveheart grew old after a while.

A lot of the dialogue of this book is written in the Scottish dialect which means the words are written the way they sound. For me, this made it very difficult for me to read a lot of the book. It was taking me a very long time to decipher what the people were saying and that frustrated me. Even though there was a glossary at the end of the book to help explain the words, I didn't want to keep flipping back and forth during an entire passage. I'm really not a fan of authors doing this in books. The argument could be that it makes the story more authentic but it makes it harder to read the story, at least for me.

There were two sermons that were placed around the middle of the book. This is a technique in Christian fiction that I really cannot stand. I do not want to feel like I'm being preached at and neither do I want to read a long sermon that's placed in the middle of the story. A lot of what was said during these passages also seemed repetitive and quite boring. Maybe the characters got something out of it but I didn't. If a non Christian were to pick up the book, they would be quite bored or turned away by this section. I also wasn't really a big fan of the love triangle in this book. Actually I'm never a fan of love triangles because someone is always going to get hurt. This one didn't really make me feel like Marie truly wanted to be with either because right until the very end, she was still flip flopping between the two men. I felt that the reason why she chose who she did had some feelings of guilt attached with it.

After finishing the book, though while written beautifully, I still don't think I'm the right target audience for Phillips' books. I feel like I've outgrown this type of Christian fiction because I want something more than just romance and discovering God. I want more meat in my story and see characters acting like I would have. Other readers will probably love everything that I didn't so if you are a fan of harps and Scotland, you will enjoy this book very much.

Angel Harp by Michael Phillips is published by Faithwords (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

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