Friday, September 23, 2011

Book #63

Highland Blessings, by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Paperback.

I am not the target audience for christian fiction -- I am a dude, and the vast majority of christian fiction is either inspirational or romance, sometimes both at once. Do these genres dominate because the overwhelming proportion of purchasers of christian fiction are women, or are the overwhelming proportion of purchasers of christian fiction women because these genres dominate? Hard to say which came first.

But this does raise a question -- why do I read so much of it?

Well, I am a Christian, mostly an evangelical, and I choose to participate in some aspects of modern christian culture -- and that means including christian fiction in my reading mix. And I do read some mainstram "chick lit," so some books in this genre, although not targeted at me, are within the bounds of what I read.

But on to this book in particular, a historical fiction set in 15th Century Scotland. I found the book overall to be better than average among christian novels. The research and prose style were both particularly strong, especially for a debut work.

My issues were in the story structure itself, where relationships take precedence over action and suspense. There were many opportunities where "stuff" happened, and I would have preferred more time spent on those scenes, but the "stuff" scenes moved on quickly to relationship scenes. The book inlcuded murders, investigations, kidnappings, and war -- but these were merely brief stops as the romance train rolled on.

Another issue I had with the book was that none of the characters seemed to actually be 15th century Scotsmen. I mentioned previously that the research was strong, and this shows up in language, clan structure, geography, and dress. But the characters seemed to all have the beliefs, practices, and worldviews of 21st century American evangelicals. They were thoroughly modern, and the men in particular seemed to be people out of time. One of the roles of fiction is escapism, and in this way I suppose christian romance serves the same function for many Christian women (although less erotically) that mainstream romance or urban fantasy serves for the mainstream female audience.

Both of the issues mentioned above are not at all particular to Highland Blessings, which again is an above-average work within the genre. They are common issues for me within christian fiction. As I said, I am just not the target audience.

Again, this book was strong in areas where christian fiction is not always strong, and despite a few misgivings, I expect that I will read the sequel.


  1. Alan you must read George MacDonald! Are you familiar with him at all? he was a Scottish pastor in the 1800's. The presbyterian church thought he was too radical and threw him out so to support his family he started writing novels. They are wonderful! Lots of theology through out and wonderful characters and set in Scotland of course. He is my favorite writer. Michael Phillips re edits his works for todays language and tones down the heavy brogue but if you can read unedited original it is well worth it! He also writes non-fiction. If you read any let me know what you think!

  2. I have never read any MacDonald, but certainly you are not the first to recommend him. I will put some works of his on the to-be-read list!