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From the Author
One ofmy favorite things besides reading and writing is watching really goodmovies. If I ever find a great movie, Ican watch it a myriad of times and never get tired of it. Sometimes life pauses long enough for me tohave a movie weekend--complete with Chinese food and all the movies I can watchin 72 hours. "If You Believed in Love"came out of one of those weekends. I hadwatched two very different movies, and then my brain mashed them up.
Thislove story is probably less "mainstream" because of the English classcomponent. Full disclosure: I was an English teacher in a formerlife. But please don't despair if youwere not big on English in school. I think the romance component is worthit. However, if you happen to likelearning how amazing our world is and can be, this is a Christian Romance novel for you.
If You Believed in Love, written by Staci Stallings, is an amazing, entertaining story, with one of the most unusual plotlines I have ever read. Her writing is so compelling, I wanted to keep turning the pages, but be warned: this is not a book I could finish in one sitting. I needed to savor and appreciate it - and some parts I read over and over again to gain a good understanding of the underlying messages in the story.
Character development was excellent. The main characters - Elizabeth Forester, a college English professor, and Jonathan Danforth, one of her students - are wonderfully written, and I definitely felt their emotions and struggles right along with them. Their uncertainty of each other, their wariness regarding falling in love, the tenderness they displayed toward one another and everything in between kept me interested as well as kept the story moving at a wonderful pace. Staci gives glimpses into the characters' lives and background without overdoing the details. Much about them - past and present - remained a mystery. Elizabeth has been badly hurt in the past and hides behind invisible walls she's built to protect herself and is all propriety and decorum; while Jonathan has suffered great loss and withdrawn from life and ends up feeling invisible, even though he doesn't realize this until Elizabeth points it out to him when she is granted glimpses of his life through the essays he writes for class assignments.
I haven't read much English literature, Jane Austen's writings, or Robert Browning's poetry, so I felt like I was enrolled in the class vicariously right alongside Jonathan and his classmates, almost like I was sitting in the classroom needing to be prepared to contribute to a discussion, analyze a poem or write an essay. I'm glad I didn't have to! Jonathan did a much better job that I would have done.
Staci really made me think when I was reading this book, breathing life into the literature Elizabeth teaches her students. The classics and characters are brought to life through in-class discussions and essays, and have a lot of literary "meat" to them. Her writing was poetic as well as evidenced by this simile: "Time slipped by like sand into the sea at high tide." It's hard for me to believe Staci Stallings isn't an English professor herself. If she was, I'd like to take a class from her.
One of my favorite things is the character development of Elizabeth and Jonathan and watching them grow and come out of their shells and be able to move beyond their hurts, their past experiences, and learn to live again and love each other. There is a Christian theme running throughout the book, so subtle it doesn't overwhelm the story, but hints at a relationship between God and Elizabeth.
There are several things I liked about this novel. Not only did I enjoy the chemistry between the characters, but I also liked the highly unique setting - a college campus. The apple scene in the park is one of my favorites. Until I read this part, I had forgotten about twisting the apple stem to find out who you're going to marry - my friends and I did the same thing when we were children. The last scene in the book is by far my favorite and sums up the story quite well. Jonathan is everything Elizabeth always wanted in a man, and in the end he proves this to her in a very romantic and poetic way. This was the perfect finish to a fun book, a clean and wholesome romance.
Please note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange my honest review.
Jonathan has decided to take a class at the local community college in order to get on with his life. Elizabeth is the professor whom brings English Literature to life for the class. She has a fun way of teaching that makes people think about not only the story, but how it fits in their lives and how stories actually fit into each other. A lot of the book is spent showing the interpretation given to a bunch of poems by Robert Browning. And they also read and review a lot of Jane Austen books. It was interesting, but gave a totally different flavor to the book. Also, it was interesting that the professor liked to call the students by their last name because it was authentic to the period. I don't know if anyone else noticed though that there were those she called by last name and others the author referred to by their given name.
One question. Are there any of Stallings heroines that don't wear glasses? I've noticed that seems to be a common characteristic between most of them. At least this one did take off the glasses a little later on in the book when she admitted that she only needed them for reading.
Unbelievable if you can imagine it: a multi talented, wealthy man so hurt, so devastated by the loss of his wife that he can't and hardly ever leaves his apartment, but reluctantly audits a college English course at a small NYC college. And this course is taught on the great Victorian romantics: the Poets Brownings and the novelist Jane Austen. Could this romance be possible? Could the awesome God make something out of two such dissimilar people. Stallings is in top form here.
This was an excellent novel! The 2 main characters, the teacher and the student, both have losses and sorrow in their past they have to deal with. Their relationship blossoms and they help each other deal with those issues. I learned a lot about various books in literature that I haven't read, although I did see the movie made from them. I received a free copy of this book from the author with a request to give an honest review which I have done.
Staci’s descriptive writing draws you in from page one! I connected with both characters right away (though I felt Jonathan stopped mourning for his deceased wife and began romanticizing Elizabeth a bit too quickly). The romance between Jonathan and Elizabeth was slow and drawn out in a way that we don’t see in current day literature, which was quite refreshing. Staci’s dialogue is amazing. If you like discussing classic literature, you’ll be at home in this novel as the setting is an English Lit class.
Great message to look for the hidden depth in people we meet and not just judge the book by the cover. Initial impressions can be wrong. It is not until we take the time to develop the relationship we see more depth. Hurt causes people to close off but when hurting people take a risk something wonderful and magical can take place, like love, acceptance and encouragement. Loved how Elizabeth and Johnathon grew into each other, developed trust that led to a life time partnership built on a solid foundation.
Wow, here is a book that should not be missed. It is like being back in collage with a teacher who you really understand, a teacher that can feel so secure in the knowledge of her subject that she flings it over the class like fairy dust. I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a master story interpreter. The story included with the learning is just the icing on the cake. I repeat a book that should not be missed.