Tuesday, February 26, 2013

At Least There's Chocolate ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There are many words one could use to describe 25-year-old Jillian Parrish:  rigid, controlled, guarded, disciplined.  Flexible isn't one of them.  Adaptable or easily amused don't really fit either.  So, when Scott Gentry pulls a silly prank to get Jillian's attention, it backfires.  Big time.  Jillian's surprised by his sudden interest, but not at all impressed with his immature attempt at asking her out.  She'd rather spend the weekend cozying up to a bag of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears, thank you very much.

But a quiet weekend is not in the cards for Jillian, a would-be novelist who works for a small publishing company in Portland, Oregon.  When Jillian's long-lost younger sister shows up on her doorstep, cradling an infant, all chances of relaxing disappear.  On the run from her drug dealer boyfriend, 20-year-old Evie needs a place to hide.  Despite their estrangement, Jillian will do anything for her little sister.  Then, Evie disappears, leaving baby Shiloh behind.  Totally unequipped to deal with the situation, Jillian freaks out.  Her strictly-managed life is officially out-of-control.  

As Jillian struggles to cope, she discovers she's not as friendless as she believes herself to be.  With the help of her bishop's family and the (annoyingly) dependable Scott Gentry, she might just find her sister—not to mention the happiness she's been denying herself for so long.  But, with an angry drug dealer tracking her every move, a needy baby zapping all her energy, and a man she doesn't want to trust begging her to do just that, Jillian's becoming increasingly desperate and confused.  How can she wrangle herself and her niece out of the mess Evie's created for them?  The problem's too big to solve with chocolate, so the fiercely independent Jillian might just have to rely on the exact things she usually avoids—trust, love and the grace of a loving God.  

 It's no secret that I'm not huge on LDS fiction.  I want to be, I really do.  But the truth is, I can only stomach it once a year, when judging time for the Whitney Awards rolls around.  I wish it weren't so, but by nature, LDS fiction seems to lean toward the cheesy, the preachy and the melodramatic-y.  Of Grace and Chocolate, a romantic suspense novel by Krista Lynne Jensen, is just such a book.  The premise sounds intriguing, it does, but the plot relies way too heavily on coincidence and other contrived situations.  Flat characters don't help matters; neither does the far-fetched action or the tell-not-show writing.  Of Grace and Chocolate does move rather quickly, making it an entertaining enough read—as long as you don't care too much about character or plot development.  Which I, unfortunately for this book, totally do.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other LDS romantic suspense novels, although no specific titles are coming to mind since I usually avoid this genre like the plague)

Grade:  C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril/violence and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Of Grace and Chocolate at last year's LDS Storymakers Conference with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

4 comments:

  1. I just checked out several of your a-list recs, though two of them were missing from my library. (Wanna see the YA librarian get obsessive? Ask her if a new YA book is shelved somewhere else only to have her realize that it seems to have walked off on its own.) So heart your blog.

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    1. You DOUBTED a librarian? Shame on you! No wonder she got a little crazy ...

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  2. I've started to think that of those failings you mentioned--which I hate too--as genre conventions. It's like they're actually what LDS readers/publishers want in books. Do you think that's true? What do you think causes that?

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    1. Well, yes and no. I think LDS readers want a clean, faith-promoting read -- I do, too. However, I don't understand why we can't have that along with complex characters, suspenseful (but not melodramatic) plots, and just all-around good writing. All readers appreciate those things, no matter what the genre. Right? A good story is a good story.

      I know there are authors out there (Melanie Jacobson comes to mind, as does Carla Kelly) who are capable of writing a decent LDS story that is not just uplifting, but also entertaining and surprising, using prose that doesn't make me cringe.

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