"Tell me about your Walk with God." "No."

Title: The Nurse’s Secret Suitor
Author: Cheryl Wyatt
Harlequin Love Inspired
Published: October 2013
Reasons I might actually remember this one:  The cringeworthy diologue, to get my one big negative point out in front. But also the masked Benevolent Bandit, and the good use of backstory to explain the characters’ current difficulties, and the willingness of the author to engage with things like death and divorce as painful but real parts of life.

This is a Harlequin Love Inspired romance, and when I bought it (for the cover and title, mostly) I vaguely knew that that meant it was a “Christian romance,” but I didn’t fully grasp the implications of that. The thing is, there ARE other styles of Christianity than the Stuff Christian Culture Likes flavour, and I’m…one of the other kinds. If you are, as well, then you’ll understand instinctively why the following dialogue sounds cringeworthy (also childish, jargon-y, slangy, glib) to me:

“You’re right. Tell me about your wounded faith walk and church experience. Why did you stop going?”

There are a million ways I might ask a person I was very, very close to why religion no longer played a role in their lives, or why church no longer appeared to be a part of their life or a comfort to them, and “wounded faith walk” would not ever be one of them. So the large gap in styles between my religion and this particular expression of Christianity threw me out of the story a few times. Not ALL the time, but a handful. I suspect someone from the particular kind of American church these characters attend wouldn’t even notice–and that’s a good thing, if it’s true; it means the author captured their dialogue and thought patterns accurately. But for me it was a barrier between myself and the story.

But the story itself was captivating enough that I never felt like giving up. It’s a bit of a military romance, in that the heroine is a trauma nurse who used to be enlisted, and the hero is an army medic on the brink of re-enlisting, but combined with admiration of the military there are constant reminders that military life is not what the heroine wants for her future. The hero’s desire to re-enlist is the major stumbling block to their getting together: they resist falling in love because he knows she wants a more secure, stable life when she marries and starts a family.

I really liked that they both knew that marriage and children were what they wanted. I suspect that isn’t an uncommon feature in Christian romances, but it stands out because I’ve been reading a lot of contemporaries in which denying they want children or pretending not to want a commitment is part of how the characters demonstrate their independence. Compared to this book, it makes those other characters mostly look like they’re demonstrating their inability to grow up and make sensible plans for their lives.

The only other negative points were 1) an odd reference to 9/11. That just felt jarring, since it wasn’t otherwise part of the plot at all, but maybe this is ALSO a cultural difference and randomly bringing up 9/11 in church is a thing that happens? I don’t see why, unless you’re also bringing up the other wars that have threatened and killed Americans, unless it’s meant as an indication that 9/11 is part of the current military action, so it’s like…having a poster in a church in 1918 reminding people to pray for the men overseas? I was honestly a bit lost here.

And 2) there was a Plot Moppet. She wasn’t the worst example of the species I’ve ever seen, but real live children (especially ones whose mother has just abandoned them) are not unfailingly cheerful except for those Touching Moments when they exude a single crystalline tear before going back to exuding a Touching Childlike Faith and affection for everyone who enters their life. Real ones sulk, have meltdowns, and do not necessarily charm every occupant of a restaurant. Plot Moppets are as far, far removed from Actual Children as Shirley Temple was, and you either enjoy them or not. I, alas, do not.

But I do enjoy medical romances, and unlike most of those, this wasn’t just “vaguely medical.” There was a good scene of the heroine actually working as a trauma nurse (as opposed to gossiping in a hospital setting, which is as medical as it gets in some medical romances). There were realistic references to things she’d seen and done in the past. There was a sense of the way her career impacted the rest of her life, from concrete things like having to live close enough for a fast response time when she was on call to emotional things like being unwilling to show vulnerability to a member of the trauma team.

So, overall: a good read. I’ve already snagged another book by this author.

Active Ingredients:
Plot Moppet
Best Friend’s Brother
Vaguely Medical
Military
Obligatory 9/11 Reference
“Walk With God”-style Christian Jargon
Masked Hero
Actual Adults Planning to Marry Someday

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