The theme for this month’s TBR Challenge is Sugar or Spice (closed door romance or spicy romance). I picked The Captain’s Daughter by Jennifer Delamere. I have read very few books that I would classify as part of the Inspirational or Christian Fiction genre and it is always good to try something new, and it was there waiting for me in my TBR. In trying to come up with the keywords for this review, I discovered that Inspirational and Christian Fiction are in fact not the same, and that Christian Fiction is a subset of Inspirational Fiction. I have therefore decided to go with what Goodreads has classified this book as – Christian Fiction, as the librarians there know better than I which is the best fit.
I can only recall reading two books that I would place in the Christian Fiction category – one was so horrible, I have intentionally forgotten it’s name. It took place in the old west, and involved a man whose first wife left him to became a prostitute and as a result was dying a horrible death. The woman who the hero wanted to have a relationship with found out about the wife and forced the hero to take his wife back and care for her. This sounds very caring, but the religious language used to describe all of this was very Old Testament and over-the-top and the rest of the plot I found to be quite bonkers. It felt like religion was used as a cudgel for any and all behaviors, and I found it quite unpleasant. It helped me realize that just because a book was on sale, it did not mean I would enjoy reading it. The second was Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist, which I had thought was Inspirational (as Gist has written many such books), but which the author herself told me was Historical Fiction. It is a lovely book, and I highly recommend it. I tell you about my experience with these two books because I think it is important that you are aware I am not a regular reader of Christian Fiction or Christian Fiction authors, and this may influence my review. I grew up Presbyterian, but I am very lapsed, and while I try to be a good person, at this point my knowledge of all things biblical is based on very hazy memories and many watchings of Jesus Christ, Superstar.
In an author’s note at the end of the book, Delamere indicates that she was inspired to write this book by the story of an orphan’s home opened by George Müller in 1840s Bristol. The home was run without ever soliciting donations or money because Müller believed that God would always provide. She wondered what it would be like for someone to grow up in such a home, with such expectations. In The Captain’s Daughter, Rosalyn Bernay and her two sisters have grown up in Müller’s Home for Orphans after their father’s ship disappeared and their mother died when they were young children. They must leave the Home at 17, and the majority of the book takes place when Rosalyn is 23 and has to leave her place as a Lady’s Companion under distressing circumstances.
I found Rosalyn’s expectations that the Lord would always provide for her the most difficult part of the story to accept. She did have troubles, some quite serious, but she always seemed to extract herself in a short amount of time. Her setbacks, including (but not limited to) losing her luggage and being robbed after arriving in London by train, all seemed to be resolved in less than 24 hours. (There is also something worse that almost happens, but I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot.) This may be where the religious aspect of the book does not serve me, a basically non-religious person. I may have had an easier time accepting this if her struggles took a bit longer to overcome, but she always had the expectation that the Lord would provide, not even seeming to pray for such assistance. There are lots of people in the world, Christians and non-Christians, who would benefit from such luck or good fortune, but there seemed to be a lack of explanation as to why all of these good things kept happening to Rosalyn when she needed them. My annoyance at this may explain my lapsed Presbyterianism.
Apart from that aspect, I did enjoy the book. The writing is well-done, and while I would have liked a bit more character development for the hero, I finished the book quickly because it was an entertaining read. Rosalyn ends up working backstage at the Gilbert and Sullivan production of H. M. S. Pinafore, and the details about Victorian theatre were quite interesting. I was a bit surprised that a religious person of the time would not have thought that actresses were less than respectable people, but that was not the case in the book. In fact, Rosalyn tries her hand at singing on stage and sees it as a future profession.
The hero, Nate Moran, has survived an injury as a soldier in India, and is working as a stagehand at the H. M. S. Pinafore theatre temporarily, while trying to decide if he should rejoin his regiment. He is a decent man, conflicted about the issues surrounding his injury. The book is decidedly Rosalyn’s story, and while some time is spent on Nate and his conflicted feelings about rejoining his regiment or staying in London and pursuing a relationship with Rosalyn, he is not given as much story time. I would have liked to see more detail about him and his changes over the course of the story.
In any event, this is an enjoyable story, and I would read this author again. I don’t think I will ever become a dedicated reader of Christian Fiction, but this book has redeemed the genre for me – I am glad to see not all books are like my first experience reading that western with its heavy-handed religious attitudes and instruction.