RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge Review: Finding Her Way Home by Linda Goodnight


Title: Finding Her Way Home
Author: Linda Goodnight
Publication Info: Steeple Hill/Harlequin 2010
ISBN: 9780373875719
Genre: Contemporary Romance

RITA®, and the RITA statuette are service marks of Romance Writers of America, Inc.Lisa reviewed this book for the RITA® Reader Challenge, and unfortunately found it to be a difficult review to write in some respects.

Book CoverPlot Summary: Welcome To Redemption, Oklahoma

The idyllic little town Cheyenne Rhodes has chosen for her fresh start is almost too welcoming. After all, she’s come here to hide from her past—not to make new friends.

But single dad Trace Bowman isn’t about to let Cheyenne hide away her heart. He can’t ignore the special way she has with his daughter, Zoey—or how she’s reminded him of the power of real love. Now he needs to convince Cheyenne that Redemption is more than a place to hide—it’s also a way to be found….

NB: I think we need to start keeping track of all these unbelievably cute and eerie small town names for posterity’s sake. They’re like plot moppets (™RedHeadedGirl) only town names. In fact, I bet Prosperity is the name of a town in a romance somewhere! Anyway.

Here is Lisa’s review:

(Reviewer’s Note:  I am going to say up front that I am not the target audience for this book, but I hadn’t ever read an “inspirational romance” before, and figured this was a good opportunity.  Accordingly, I will stick to my opinions of the literary aspects of the book.)

I find that it’s the most difficult to review a book that is only so-so—and unfortunately that is what I find with this book. The romance felt almost like an afterthought, and was not particularly satisfying.  The characters were likeable enough, but nothing outstanding.  Goodnight falls prey to an all-too-common problem in romance: Cheyenne has no real faults other than situational ones. This prevented me from caring much about her relationship with Trace.  The townspeople while well-meaning are pretty one-dimensional, and so aggressive with “fixing” Cheyenne that it became rather creepy.

The thing I thought the book did best was to address, fairly bluntly, domestic violence and sexual assault.  A survivor of sexual assault, Cheyenne becomes an advocate for other women suffering domestic violence by the end of the book. The times the author dealt with this issue were the most moving and genuine of the entire text.

By far, the strongest feeling I had about this book was irritation—in several instances the author uses sloppy diction (use of the word “irony” when in fact the situation was “apt,”) and displays a verbal tic that really pushes my buttons: use of the German separable prefix “über-“ outside of the German language by a character who is neither a) German, b) a teenager, or c) a teenager in German class.

Overall, I would say that this book was distinctly average—I’m not sorry to have read it, but I have no desire to seek out anything else by the author.  I am not left with a lasting impression of the story, but rather a lingering wisp of irritation brought on by the author’s style.

Final Grade:  C.  An average grade for an average book.

This book is available at Kindle | BN & nook | All Romance | Book Depository | WORD Brooklyn’s eBookstore | Sony | Kobo

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kismet says:

    Just thought I’d mention there really is a small town here in SW PA that is named Prosperity. Carry On. ;)

  2. 2
    Donna says:

    So, sounds like it would’ve been a better book without the romance. I guess you can’t really recover from trauma without a HEA.

  3. 3
    Michelle says:

    I tried really hard to read and like inspirational romances.  (My Sister-In-Law reads nothing but.)  I spent an entire summer as part of an agreement with her where I read exclusively inspirational romances, and she read secular books at my suggestion.  I could read contemporary, historical, whatever, so long as it was inspirational.  I have to say, with a few notable exceptions, they were almost ALL populated with heroes and heroines who have no flaws but situational ones, and an entire cast of secondary characters that are flat as well as creepy with their obsession to “fix” everyone who is not saved.  And the romance does indeed usually seem to be an afterthought.  I have often thought that if the “message” of the book had been the focus of the book (abortion, dealing with death or disability in the family, domestic violence, crisis of faith) and the romance aspect left off entirely, nearly every book would have been better for it.  I may not have agreed with the writer’s position, but at least the book would have been crafted better.

  4. 4
    quichepup says:

    Can’t say I’ve read any inspirational romances besides the Janette Oke books my aunts had foisted on, er, gave me. The stories were decent and the romance part was usually a natural extension of the story, at least in memory. A couple were set in Canada, woo, exotic location! Much, much better than smalltown OK, been there, been bored witless.

    I’m sure there are inspirational romance readers who could recommend books. I do have to give Goodnight props for naming her characters, I’ve encountered people named Trace and Cheyenne (though I’ve never met a Cheyenne person named Cheyenne).

  5. 5
    Kate Hewitt says:

    Bethany House has some interesting inspirational romances. I’ve recently read Deanne Gist’s Maid to Match and Julie Klass’s Lady of Milkweed Manor. They’re both historical and the conflict in each is definitely not just situational.

  6. 6
    Deb Kinnard says:

    For flawed characters who act like actual people in inspirational romance, pick Sharon Gillenwater’s books, or Allie Pleiter’s, or Maureen Lang’s, or Siri Mitchell’s. Mind you, only a few of these are published by Harlequin. But for my reader’s dollar, they can hold their own for sheer storytelling ability against any romance novel in any subgenre whatever.

    Captcha: find34. You can find 34 better inspies than a C grade any day of the week.

  7. 7
    Janeau says:

    That TOTALLY ROCKS!  I wish librarians where I live were that progressive!  I have an ebook out myself, at Amazon, that I’d love to see land in some library Kindle collections.  The book is a time-travel romance short: The Stem of Time.  It’s only .99 cents, so it would be easy for librarians to afford!  Hey (waving to very progressive librarians) if you want to take a look, you can find it here: http://amzn.to/frOQ2u

  8. 8
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I have to say, with a few notable exceptions, they were almost ALL populated with heroes and heroines who have no flaws but situational ones, and an entire cast of secondary characters that are flat as well as creepy with their obsession to “fix” everyone who is not saved.  And the romance does indeed usually seem to be an afterthought.

    I agree. I read several inspirational romances back in the day before I became a (much happier and less stressed) godless heathen, and they were pretty much all like that. I seem to vaguely recall liking Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy, but that may have just been the exotic setting (imperial Rome, a few decades C.E.) and the very sexy gladiator who appeared in at least two of the books. But then he “got saved” and lost all traces of personality, so I wasn’t so happy with him after that.

    I don’t want to recommend the series because it’s been a while since I read it, and for all I know, it could suck monkey balls. It has five stars on Amazon, but that means very little when avid fans of religious books are writing reviews; they seem to think it is sacrilege to have a negative opinion about something that is ostensibly Christian.

    ETA: Just browsed through some of the reviews of the Rivers series, and they reminded me of what I disliked about that series. Please don’t take my preceding comment as a recommendation.

  9. 9
    TaraL says:

    I’ve tried 4 or 5 inspirational romances and don’t think I’ve made it all the way through any of them, mostly because of the reasons other commenters have given. I pretty much decided they’re not for me and haven’t tried to read one for several years.

    I guess a good rule of thumb might be: If you’re comfortable saying the phrase “could suck monkey balls,” you’re probably going to be uncomfortable reading an inspirational romance. :o)

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    Although I have never read a romance of this type, and would find the basic assumptions and beliefs too alien to be comfortable, in a purely objective way, I don’t see why a religious perspective should necessarily lead to the kind of faults mentioned by the reviewer and by others who have read ‘inspirational’ romances (what a ghastly label that is!  Why don’t they just call them ‘religious’?  Or better still, ‘Christian’, since I bet not many pagan, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist ones are written in the USA!  Maybe Jewish examples?  I wonder.)
    For example, I should have thought that intrinsic character flaws and a catalogue of past errors of judgement, rather than external problem situations, would be exactly what a plot needed if the author wants to bring out the allegedly improving and strengthening effects of religious faith.

  11. 11
    Inspie Yid says:

    Being a (mostly) Orthodox Jew, the Christian fiction romances are most of what I read, especially since so many pop up as Kindle freebies all the time.

    They are undoubtedly a mixed bunch in terms of quality, but then again, so are ‘regular’ romances, as evidenced by all the sub-par books reviewed on this site!

    The best ones are sweet, tender, non-explicit and thought-provoking, and never have the hero/heroine irrationally falling into bed before learning each other’s names. And they never have surprise menage scenes either. Good times.

    Melanie Dickerson’s “The Healer’s Apprentice” and Karen Witemeyer’s “A Tailor Made Bride”, both recent Kindle freebies, were utterly wonderful inspirational books.

    And WHAT is with the gorgeous covers on Christian fiction books?? They are STUNNING (not the Harlequins tho).

  12. 12
    Maria says:

    I read a romance once that started in Good Times, GA, (I think) but there were no good times to be had, the heroine had to escape with her baby sister’s baby, from an abusive boyfriend of her mother’s who she thought she murdered in her escape. (That was quite a mouthful). From there she eventually ends up in Decline, GA, where her erstwhile husband was from, after he disappears and is presumed dead in a plane crash. Here is where she meets the actual hero of the story. (Is it the erstwhile husband, or somebody else? I’m not saying). Everyone in the story line is getting some, and the southern style drama is thick and kinda fun to watch. Most distinctly I remember that the hero and heroine had some serious issues to discuss, but every time she tried to discuss them with him, he was like, MUST HAVE SEX NOW!, YOU FIT ME LIKE A GLOVE.

    The title? I so know this, but it is not coming to me right now.

  13. 13
    Vicki says:

    Well, Maria, when you think of the title, let us know. I am starting to think I want to read that even though I tend to avoid romances set in the south (I tried to move there once…..).

    As a Christian teen in the ‘60s, I did read some of what passed for inspirational romances (from the Review and Herald Publishing Co). Mostly nurses who met doctors who wanted to be missionaries. Since that was the story of my mom’s life, they seemed OK to me. As an older, more experienced, worldly woman, I am not enjoying inspirational romances any more.

  14. 14
    Gabrielle says:

    Thanks for the review.  Uber-funny.

  15. 15
    Appomattoxco says:

    I love redemption stories in romance. I also like characters who have faith of whatever flavor. [I was just listening to my favorite Dresden Files short story “The Warrior” it’s a very Christian story told from a heathen’s POV.]

    so I should love IR but I mostly don’t.

    The reason some IR fails, I think, is in using faith/the path to redemption to create conflict. You’d think with the Bible as an example they wouldn’t wholesome a story to death.

    works69 not by works alone, and no 69 your until you’re married ;)

  16. 16
    liz talley says:

    I’m a Chrisian, but I don’t read much Christian/Inspirational romance beyond my friend’s books. I have to say I recommend Francine River’s books. I’ve read The Mark of Lion series – it’s luscious and realistic and I think Ms. Rivers is a fine writer (she got her start in romance and it shows in her story telling.) Her books don’t shy away from realistic situations, including lust. I’ve also enjoyed DeAnn Gist. I suppose I tend to like historical Inspirationals more because it seems somewhat fitting for many set in the American West – religion defined that time as much as gunfighters did. Or maybe that’s my Little House on the Prarie preference showing.

    I’ve thought to try my hand at it, but something stops me every time. Not my faith, but the restrictions. Christians today struggle and fail as much as the rest of society and to pretend that it’s any different seems hypocritical. I really don’t think I would do an admirable job, but I do think many of the Love Inspired books meet the needs for many people today and it’s an important part of the romance market. One of my chaptermates hit the NYT bestseller list with her Love Inspired Suspense…so people are liking them and buying them.

  17. 17
    Maria says:

    I found it! The Best Revenge by Stella Cameron.
    I did the unthinkable and sold all my romance novels at a garage sale. (gasp!) including this gem.

    I think I’ve only read one inspirational and decided it wasn’t my cup of tea. There might have been angels bringing them together and I definitely remember it was by Debbie Macomber but nothing else stands out.

  18. 18
    Bronte says:

    I’m another who enjoyed Francine Rivers Mark of the Lion series.  Its basically the only inspirational romance I’ve read. Its heavy on Christianity for those who are thinking about reading.  I think the romance between Hadassah and Marcus was well written and nice and angsty, and although the books are (pretty) chaste there is some serious lusting.  I think one of the things I really liked about both Hadassah and Marcus was that they weren’t perfect, and it wasn’t just about external circumstances (although they played a role).  I also thought the dynamic between Master and Slave was well done.

  19. 19
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I have two problems with the Mark of the Lion trilogy: the first is the insanely anti-feminist rhetoric, and the second is the portrayal of GLBT characters as evil, depraved, diseased sinners. Once the fog of years began to clear and I remembered more and more of the plot, I remembered how much I hated that. It’s pretty hard-core fundamentalism, and to this bleeding-heart liberal agnostic, pretty offensive.

  20. 20
    Susan says:

    II’m surprised no one has mentioned the town of Intercourse, PA.  Yes, really.  And when I looked it up on Wikipedia, the article mentioned another town in PA called Blue Ball.  Now, I know there is a joke here, but I can’t quite come up with it.  Y’all take your best shot.

    Don’t think I’ve ever read an inspirational romance.  I think I picked one up by mistake at the library once but DNF.

  21. 21
    StephB says:

    I haven’t read this book so can’t comment on any of the rest of the review, but I do have to admit that although I’m not a teenager, not German and not in German class, I (and various friends) do use “über” in exactly the way described…so it actually can be a realistic dialogue usage (even if it makes me and my friends total dorks, which was maybe the reviewer’s point? ah, well).

  22. 22
    Karen says:

    I belong to a group of folks who collect and use vintage and antique sewing machines—the people-powered types: hand crank and treadle.  We just had our annual gathering last weekend at the Blue Ball Fire Hall :) (It’s a nice venue, btw).  And we spent a good bit of time in Intercourse, because of the fabric/quilt shops there, as well as our annual ‘Welcome” tea at Ye Olde English Shoppe.

  23. 23
    LizW65 says:

    Going really Olde School here, but do any of you remember the works of Grace Livingston Hill and Emilie Loring, and would those be considered “inspirational romance”?  I was a child when I last read any of these authors’ books, but I seem to recall that many of them had some religious aspect to them; also that they were pretty decent reads if a trifle insipid.

  24. 24
    JoyK says:

    LizW65—Yes, I read Grace Lingston Hill and Emilie Loring.  I’m not sure that either would exactly be called, in their day, inspirational romances.  The heroines were virgins, there was no sex before marriage and no explicit lusting.  I believe they might be called “sweet romances”. 

    My understanding of inspiration romances is that there will be explicit mention of their religious faith and its place in their lives and romances.  Some (the best) treat it as just another apect of their lives although an important aspect.  Some get pretty preachy and you feel like you’re listening to a sermon—sigh—rather than reading about a developing relationship that includes their faith as it is an important part of their lives.  Some have a nice reformation aspect where as the h/h’s faith grows and is tested, their relationship grows and their understanding and love grow.  These are particularly nice to read if you are in the mood. My 2 cents.

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    @Inspie Yid: “And they never have surprise menage scenes either. Good times.”


    That is all.

  26. 26
    Aurora85 says:

    I’m Jewish and although I never read or touched Inspirational Fiction, (if I ever desire to listen to Christianity or learn about Christianity then I can call my friend and pester him about it…) but I’m curious if there’s any inspirational romances that are Jewish themed with Jews staying Jews (Jews from Orthodox up to Reform)? If its an inappropriate question for the topic my apologies but thanks in advance.

    Catpch (sorry don’t know how to spell that) : myself22

  27. 27
    AgTigress says:

    And WHAT is with the gorgeous covers on Christian fiction books?? They are STUNNING (not the Harlequins tho).

    Really?  You wouldn’t know it by the cover of the one reviewed here, which is ghastly, like a very insipid 1950s greetings card.

  28. 28
    AgTigress says:

    I’m curious if there’s any inspirational romances that are Jewish themed with Jews staying Jews

    Well, if Religious Romance is an established genre, as it evidently is, then I certainly think that all the major religions should get a look in.

  29. 29
    Sandra says:

      And WHAT is with the gorgeous covers on Christian fiction books?? They are STUNNING (not the Harlequins tho).

    Really?  You wouldn’t know it by the cover of the one reviewed here, which is ghastly, like a very insipid 1950s greetings card.

    I looked at it and immediately thought …Thomas Kincaid, who is, of course, also insipid. Pretty but no depth. Not that the usual man-titty clinch covers have any depth either, but at least they have eye candy.

  30. 30
    Kelly L. says:

    I was just at dinner with my BFF and she said “uber”-something casually in conversation. I thought of this review instantly! I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who’s neither teenaged nor German who says that.

    But the book, in general, sounds like it is not for me.

    were35: We nearly were35 but still said “uber.”

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