Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Soldier For Christmas by Jillian Hart

OK, I have to admit: I was bad and I tried again to get my Christmas mind candy fix. This effort met with slightly more acceptable results than my first effort.

A Soldier For Christmas by Jillian Hart is Christian fiction. I enjoyed that aspect of the story because reading about meaningless, gratuitous sex just doesn't do it for me. Often it is used as a means of avoiding decent plot and character development.

Although A Soldier For Christmas didn't take place only during the Christmas season, that didn't bother me. I liked the sweet tenor of the story. Plotwise, the story was a little different from other romances I've read. Instead of the main characters being thrown together in questionable circumstances and suddenly falling in love, these characters had known each other in high school. So when Mitch, the male lead, walks into the Christian book store where Kelly, the female lead, works in his hometown, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility. It isn't implausable that he is there looking for a gift for his mother since he is visiting his parents.

Kelly, is dealing with issues of trust and worthiness brought on by events in her childhood. Thankfully those events had to do with being bounced from one foster home to another and having an alcoholic mother that dropped in and out of her life instead of the more heart wrenching variety of causes. She is also dealing with having lost her fiance. Thus, when Kelly is leery of a relationship, the reader isn't left scratching her head wondering why.

Mitch, comes from your "typical" family. It's his job that has kept him from seeking a wife. Again, a believable circumstance since he is a Force Recon Marine. His methodical approach to winning Kelly is also believable since I've yet to meet a Recon Marine that wasn't methodical in everything he did.

Having a military background I was a bit wary of how well the author would be able to portray a Force Recon Marine. I was pleasantly surprised. The author doesn't go into a lot of detail, which is probably a good thing since the author has no real experience with Force Recon. However, don't let that fool you. She uses enough detail to tell the story.

The end felt a bit rushed, but let's face it: This is a romance; you know they're going to get together. So, perhaps it is rushed, but who cares? I was reading this for fun and because it had my favorite branch of service in it.

All in all, I'd give this 4 out of 5 stars. But I'm biased. The fact that a Marine featured in the leading male role assured this book of a good review. However, the author's careful handling of Kelly's issues helped a lot, too. And portraying Mitch as something other than a gung-ho womanizer certainly scored points for the book.

So, if you're looking for a good weekend read, read this book. If you're looking for something more substantial, consider the book I'm reading now: My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story as told to Nathaniel R. Helms. Whether you agree with the current military action in Iraq or not, you can't deny that our men and women of the armed forces give up a lot for us to sit here and debate the ethics of this war; some even pay the ultimate price. Reading Mr. Kasal's first hand account of the fight for Fullujah and his fight for his life afterward certainly puts it in perspective.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Moonlight and Mistletoe by Louise Allen

I always start my New Year out with a frivolous read. The rule is it has to be something fun and not very taxing. Usually it is a book that would fall into the "mind candy" catagory.

This year I read Moonlight and Mistletoe by Louise Allen. The book certainly fit the bill of light, frivolous fun. Out of five stars I would give it 3.5. The book wasn't bad per se; I wasn't expecting some great literary genius -- thankfully.

The problem I had with the book was that it tried to be gothic and be a Christmas tale. I don't know about you, but when I think "gothic", "Christmas" is not the next word that pops into my mind. Be that as it may, I wanted to get one last Christmas book in since I hadn't read very many this year. I would say the book is neither gothic nor Christmas-y.

The plot is this: A single woman moves into a sleepy little village and into a house that has a dark past. Prior to her moving in, it is rumored that people saw lights in the house from ghosts rumored to haunt the house.

A few days earlier a dashing earl had moved into the house across the street. And we learn he would like to buy the heroine's house as it has a tie to his family. Of course nobody knows this tie, not even our heroine.

Well the plot unfolds and of course, as this is romance, the hero and heroine notice one another. There are certain plot elements, like how it is Hester, the heroine came to be a "fallen woman", that don't exactly wash. However, when one reads romance one knowingly makes the choice to overlook such things in order to read the book. Likewise some of the other plot elements simply have to be overlooked.

I was disappointed that there was so little mention of Christmas. Lots of references to snow and winter, but not until practically page 200 do we see an actual reference to Christmas. There is a Christmas party, but that's about the extent of Christmas' involvement in this book.

Needing a Christmas fix still, I've picked up another quick read (aka mind candy) that promises to be a Christmas book. We shall see.

As for Moonlight and Mistletoe, check your brain at the door and don't mull over the believability of the plot. Just read for fun and not edification. Some parts of the book were cute and as a quick, fluffy weekend read, you'll do just fine with this book. If you're looking for something really good in the gothic genre, just stick with Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff never fails to elicit a sigh of appreciation!