Title:  Redeeming Love
Author:  Francine Rivers
Release date:  October 1991
Publisher:  Multnomah Books
Pages:  480
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical romance
Source:  Borrowed from a friend

The year is 1850, the place is California during the gold rush.  Angel is the most desired prostitute in her brothel, but having been sold into prostitution as a young child, she is a broken woman who distrusts all men, and believes that every person has an ulterior motive when they do something nice for her.  Michael Hosea is a simple farmer whose strong devotion to God allows him to receive a message from Him telling Michael he must marry Angel.  Obedient as he is, he finds her, tells her of his plans, and takes her from the brothel where she’s lived for fifteen years back to his home.  As Angel begins to love Michael as he loves her, memories of her awful past come back in waves to haunt her.  She must learn to trust Michael, and his God, if she is to find happiness and security in her own life and within herself.

I’ve been meaning to read more Christian fiction for some time now, so when a friend from church placed this in my hands on the eve of my trip to California recently and told me to read it on the plane, I complied despite the fact that I typically don’t read romance novels.  While I had some issues with the novel, overall Redeeming Love was a great story and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to pick it up.

Let’s start with what I didn’t like as much.  First, it took me much longer than I would have liked to get into the story.  Normally if this is the case, I’ll put the book down after 50-100 pages and give up.  But since I had told a friend I would read it, and I wanted to discuss it with her no matter what my reaction was, I plugged along.  I’m happy that I did, of course, but for me too many pages went by before I cared about these characters.  Perhaps they could have been written in such a way as to make me like them from the beginning.  I also had a little bit of a problem with the writing in the book.  I just felt that it wasn’t anything special, that there were some awkward phrasing and some stilted conversations that could have been smoother.  These are just minor complaints, really, but in the beginning of the novel they really caused me to think twice about picking it up at all.

Now the good stuff.  I definitely ended up liking Angel, I liked her a lot actually, even though she frustrated me to no end.  I felt for her in a big way, she had been completely abandoned by both her father and mother at a young age, and forced to do things no child should ever know about, much less have to do to survive.  It was no wonder she had a difficult time trusting Michael and believing in God.  At the same time, I couldn’t help being annoyed by her when she kept running away from the security Michael was trying to provide for her.  I understand that she couldn’t believe in him, but couldn’t she at least stick it out for a few months and see what would happen?  All these times of her running away and distrusting made the end that much more powerful though, so it was worth it for me as a reader.  I liked Michael too, he is pretty much the definition of a devout Christian.  Whatever God told him to do, he did.  It’s kind of insane to imagine someone marrying a prostitute who they’ve never met and subsequently falling in love with her, all in the name of God’s will, but Redeeming Love made the concept completely believable.

I read that Redeeming Love was Rivers’ first book after becoming a Christian, and I feel like her questions and insecurities about God were probably mirrored in Angel’s.  This gave the book an authentic feel that would probably have been difficult to see otherwise.  All Christians have questions and fears (at least everyone I know does), but Angel’s were way beyond the norm, just because of how she’d been treated in her life up until the point where she met Michael Hosea.  So it was completely understandable for her to question everything he told her about God, for her to be uncomfortable in church, for her to not believe that God cares for her particularly, etc.  It made the novel feel very real and honest to me.

If you’re a fan of romance, or a Christian, or both, I’d highly recommend this novel.  It’s very God-centered, so if you’re not into that, I would recommend the book but with some hesitations that you may not love it.  All in all, though, the ending of the book is satisfying enough for any reader and the characters are deep enough for everyone to enjoy and relate to them.  Redeeming Love is a solid Christian fiction novel that I’m happy to say I really enjoyed.