Summary from BN.com: In the first book of the Irish Angels series, we meet Laura Foster, a woman with the darkest of pasts, and Reverend Brand McCormick, a man with everything to lose by loving her. Having escaped a life she never chose, Laura Foster is finally living her dream. But even after four years of posing as a respectable widow in Glory, Texas, she is always afraid someone from her past might reveal her true identity.Believing no man could love her if he knew the truth, Laura tries to resist Brand's courtship. His reputation would be shattered if Laura's former life is discovered. But it's not only Laura's past that threatens to bring him down---it's also his own. As they open their hearts to love and faith, will Laura and Brand find the depth and power of forgiveness from their community?
I was pleasantly surprised after finishing this book. I knew that Jill Marie Landis was a popular general market romance author who was now dabbling in inspirational books. I don't have any problems with romances but I usually tend not to read them. Also with the way that a lot of Christian historical romances tend to go, I was expecting a rather tame and clean read that had a lot of overused cliches and predictable storyline. Boy was I wrong.
The story starts off with two young girls being sold off to a brothel by their uncle. Right from the beginning I grew angry. I hated how their uncle did this to them. Anyone who sells off a child into prostitution has no soul. It also makes me sad to think of how mistreated orphans were back during this time period. One of the girls grows up to be the main protagonist of the story. Laura Foster has become a respectable woman but has a past she wants to hide forever. She's been able to keep up this persona for several years but suddenly it all starts to come crashing down.
Laura and Brand's characters are both flawed but realistic characters. They have secrets that they are hiding from each other but in this case I can understand why they don't want to reveal them. I found it highly ironic that the pastor also seems to have a hidden background as well. It was rather nice to see a preacher being shown as having a human side. The townspeople however drove me insane because they were incredibly judgmental and condemning. It was almost like they never did anything wrong and wanted their pastor to be perfect.
I think this book used the word whore in just this story alone than most Christian fiction books I've read combined. It's quite interesting at the double standard that involved prostitutes and the men who frequented them. The townspeople are all for burning Laura at the stake because of her past but do they say anything to the men who go to the women for their services? Or even to the owners of the saloons and brothels? Nope, because it's always the women's fault. Part of me wonders if their is so much animosity to these women because 1) they are making money 2) women whose husbands visit these places might not be having a good sexual relationship back at home so they are ashamed or 3) hypocrisy among Christians. Whatever the reason, this book gives a lot to think about how we view others who might be in less desirable situations than us.
This isn't just your typical Christian historical romance. As I said, there's quite a lot to take in and a lot to think about afterwards. I found Landis' writing to be very engaging and I really found myself swept up in the story. I only hope that the rest of the series is as good as this first volume turned out to be.
One more note: I'm not sure if this was a typo in just my copy or if it was corrected later on, but there's a big typo that really irked me. Laura is a reader and during discussions of books, Jane Austen is mentioned. BUT for some insane reason, it's spelled as Jane AUSTIN. Not once, but twice. I am appalled that no one caught this during editing. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and it saddens me that it went unnoticed.
Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis is published by Zondervan (2010)
This review copy was provided by the publisher