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Calming the Storm (A Marriage of Convenience) Kindle Edition
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(Though reviews are inherently subjective, I prefer to provide some organization to my opinions through the use of a personal rubric. The following notes may contain spoilers.)
Plot and Setting: 4 -- Plot has unique elements and no major holes, but a few shaky bits and/or a slight lack of focus. I actually quite liked this story, though it's definitely in the realm of cliche/hard to believe: poor woman with a child to raise is rescued by a well-off man; marriage of convenience turns into love. That kind of thing. I think Rachel's growth as a person redeemed the cliches. Setting is clear and believable. Timeline may be a bit hard to follow. One spot where the timing didn't exactly work (planning to start preparation for something on Monday to meet a deadline on Friday -- but the conversation is happening on Tuesday).
Characters: 4 -- Main characters are relatable, realistic, interesting, and dynamic. Brandon is one of those almost-too-good-to-be-real heroes, though he had some moments of confusion that made him likeable. Rachel's growth is good: she goes from thinking she needed to prove herself worthy of love to accepting she is loved, and even being able to extend grace to people she had viewed as enemies. Some minor characters have depth, while others may be slightly stereotyped or simplified. Mostly we get to know his family members, some better than others. Definite strong points in the relationships between characters.
Mechanics and Writing: 3.5 -- Scattered typos, punctuation issues, and word errors, but nothing that seriously hinders understanding. Awkward phrases that don't quite say what they mean to, as well as some things that slipped past in editing, like a random lonely a at the end of a sentence. Good use of POV (Rachel and Brandon). Average writing, with strong parts and parts that struggle.
Redeeming Value: 5 -- Well-developed, central, uplifting themes. Rachel's hard childhood left her believing that she wasn't worth loving, and no one would ever want her around permanently; Brandon and his family, through their words and examples, show her that not only do they value her for who she is, but God loves her, too. Brandon seeks to follow God's will, and does a lot of praying--both alone and with his parents and brother--as he enters his unconventional relationship with Rachel. Sex, alcohol, violence, etc, are not glorified at all--very little mention, even.
Personal Enjoyment: 3 -- I liked it. It was enjoyable and entertaining. I wouldn’t mind re-reading it someday, but it’s not a priority.
I enjoyed this sweet romance. There were some unexpected twists and a strong Christian theme, but it came together nicely, with a tender happily-ever-after. I liked our two main characters, Rachel and Brandon. Sometimes in books I can get frustrated when one character seems to keep putting up emotional walls or because they keep shutting out other people it can start to feel unrealistic or frustrate the flow of the story. This is NOT the case here. I didn't think Rachel was too much of any of that, but I think maybe I'm a little biased, knowing Rachel's history.
Rachel grew up without a real home, going from one foster home to another. This hit a nerve for me, as I'm a foster parent myself and have adopted two of my children from foster care. Rachel never got adopted and therefore always struggled with feeling like she wasn't enough to ever really be wanted. Having waded through this crazy foster world myself, I could easily identify with her feelings.
Brandon was so sweet and patient with Rachel and their romance was tender. All in all a cute read, but one that hit a bit closer to home for me personally.
Brandon is a kind hero willing to sacrifice his comfort to help someone out. I liked his persistence in checking in on Rachel, because that's tough to pull off without making the hero unlikable or creepy. Melanie does a great job pulling the reader into Rachel's narrowing options and the heartbreak that's always right before her. It's easy to root for Rachel to allow Brandon into her and Kendra's life and that she would see what a wonderful answer to prayer he was for both of them.
This is a sweet read that keeps the reader turning the pages. I really enjoyed Calming the Storm, and I know you will, too.