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on August 7, 2013
This book is entertaining, contains moments of sigh-worthy romance, delivers a few solid morals and faith lessons, includes a few interesting twists and turns, but I don't know how to rate it. Overall, it was a nice fluffy read with one big caveat: sexism.
While there is a little sexism in all of Susan May Warren's books (the little fragile woman needs to be saved by the big strong man), this book has some of the most dangerous generalizations of any of her novels I have read. The novel features a woman fire chief--the idea of a strong female lead doing work that goes against her gender stereotype attracted me to the book, but as I read I noticed many disturbing sexist themes. 1) The woman is of course small and fragile looking. Of course having a tall bold woman, or even and average size woman would be out of the question! 2) The female lead, Ellie, falls apart as soon as challenging situations arise and thus needs constant rescuing and reassuring by the male lead. Then she sulks about the fact that most of her all male crew doesn't respect her. C'mon would you take a leader seriously--one who literally has your life in her hands--if every time you saw her she could barely keep her emotions under wraps? Ellie cries and pouts and looks sad and vulnerable all the time and yet the audience is supposed to believe that this woman is a competent fearless trailblazer who stares down danger on a regular basis! 3) The most dangerous theme in this book is that a woman should give up the thing that she is good at, the thing that forms her identity and makes her unique in order to garner the affections of a man and raise a family. In her conversation, Liza, a business woman and local artist has this to say, "I can't imagine doing anything other than [her craft and business] but if I met the right man, I might consider surrendering it." Really this is the message to women!!!! The problem with this book is that it pretends to be progressive all the while delivering a triple shot of outmoded gender roles and gender limitations.
This book is a missed opportunity. Instead of crafting a character than oozes the inner strength, competence, and confidence needed for a difficult job, Susan creates a character than cries, pines, and whines her way through the story. Sure, she says some strong things, but in the end she NEEDS a man in order to meander through her messed up life.
The overarching message seems to be that yes, women CAN do any work that men can do, but that they SHOULDN'T! They need to get back to their pre-assigned gender boxes and stay there. When he sees Ellie mopping the floor, antagonist Mitch says, "Now that looks more like women's work." His comments are intended to capture the chauvinistic attitudes of the fictional world of Deep Haven, but they end up becoming a major motif in the book: THAT is a woman's first place and anything else she achieves is just extra. To drive the point home, when the mayor suggests that a woman leader makes things uncomfortable for a male crew and that Ellie was essentially responsible for her own abduction simply because of her gender, Ellie agrees with him, takes off her fire chief hat, and thanks him for his chauvinism.
Women readers don't need to support writers that stereotype women. And women writers, even romance writers, need to learn how to create strong heroines that are feminine, yet confident, respectable, bold, and secure--whether they have a man or not.