Mini-Reviews: Sarah MacLean and Jen Hatmaker

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Not sure about this cover.

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord was only my second ever romance novel.  I read her Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake last year, just for fun, as an experiment.  I’d been curious about the romance genre and wanted to go outside my reading comfort zone a bit.  It was fun, a bit predictable, but smartly done, and I certainly wanted to try another one of her books.  Ten Ways is set in the same time and place as Nine Rules, (1820’s England) only it features a different St. John brother, Lord Nicholas.  He is an expert in antiquities and also a renowned “tracker” (you kinda have to just go with that) hired by a Duke to find his missing sister.  While searching a town in Yorkshire, he ends up saving our heroine, Lady Isabel, from a team of runaway horses.  Lady Isabel’s father (nicknamed “The Wastrearl” for his gambling addiction) has just passed away, and Isabel is desperately trying to keep the crumbling estate going.  She has help from several young women who have come to the manor, which they have christened Minerva House. The ladies have sought shelter there for a variety of reasons, from physical abuse to poverty.  Isabel, ignorant of the real reason Lord Nicholas is in the area, invites him to examine her family’s collection on marble statues, in the hopes that they can sell some to make money for the estate.  Of course, sparks fly!  Of course, Nicholas doesn’t tell Isabel about his hunt for the duke’s sister!  And naturally, Isabel is very wary of men, as the only example of a husband she’s had was her good-for-nothing, cheating father, who ruined her mother’s life and left them in poverty.

This was a good change of pace for me, a light, fun, sexy read.  I liked that Isabel was so resourceful and so devoted to caring for the young women who depended on her, as well as trying to do her best to raise her younger brother.  She was a very appealing heroine.  The group of young women at Minerva House were spunky and resourceful as well.  Not having read many romances, I’m really not sure if I’m a good judge of this particular one, but I very much enjoyed it, and I plan on reading more MacLean novels, as well as venturing further afield in the genre.  For a fun list of 10 recommended historical romance series, check out this Book Riot article.  (Four stars.)

12171769My next read was Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  This fits in with my goal of reading more books about religion and spirituality in 2017.  I’m a sucker for “person does wacky experiment for a year” kinds of memoirs anyway, so I figured I’d be into this, and I was. Hatmaker is a Christian writer and she and her husband started a church in Austin, TX.  After hosting hurricane victims in her home, she became fully awakened to her family’s privilege and decided to do something about it.  So they embarked on a seven month quest to simplify and serve their neighbor.  She writes in the introduction,

As I write this, I enter the next seven months for (at least) two of these extreme reasons.  First, and foremost, repentance.  7 will be a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.  It’s time to admit I’m trapped in the machine, held by my own selfishness.  It’s time to face our spending and call it what it is: a travesty.  I’m weary of justifying it.  So many areas out of control, so much need for transformation.  What have we been eating?  What are we doing?  What have we been buying?  What are we eating?  What are we missing?  These questions grieve me, as well they should.  I’m ready for the deconstruction.

So the areas her family focused on were Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress.  One month she wore only seven articles of clothing (underwear excepted,) another she and her family abstained from seven forms of media.  They gave away their belongings, started a garden plot on their backyard with the help of an Austin organization that gives jobs and shelter to the homeless, and made due with just one car for a month. Hatmaker documents her struggles and her small victories with a good sense of humor and humility.  But what I liked the most about this memoir was her passion for embodying her faith in action, actually walking the walk.  Here’s another quotation I really liked:

Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to actually bring good news to the poor.  It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed.  It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said.  When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter.  These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park.  They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”

I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.”  And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with His current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.

By the end I grew a bit weary of Hatmaker’s folksy, aw-shucks writing style, but overall I enjoyed reading her tale.  It was refreshing to read about someone so committed to acting out the tenants of her faith, so passionate about serving others.  It seemed as if her family came away from this experiment with a real sense of purpose moving forward.  It gave me a lot to think about, and it was a good way to begin my year of spiritual reading.  (Three stars.)

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Sarah MacLean and Jen Hatmaker

  1. I think what puts me off romance is the covers! I always say I don’t read romance, but since Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances are my go-to comfort reads I guess I’m fooling myself – have you read any of them? If not, I highly recommend them – no sex, though, they were written too long ago for that, but plenty of romance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! The covers are so awful, aren’t they? I read this one on my phone, checked out from my library on overdrive, so I didn’t have an embarrassing cover on display. Is that bad? 🙂

      I’ve never read Heyer but I think that I would probably like her. Any particular title stand out for you?

      Like

  2. It *is* the cover art that really turns me off. I like the idea of trying one of the romance books FF is recommending.
    The concept of Hatmaker’s book sounds interesting, but I’m not sure I would like to read it. Maybe an article. I do find myself intrigued by people’s year-long experiments, though. I often wonder if I were to do one, what would it be?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The atrocious cover art is a popular feeling! I wonder why publishers choose to put those kinds of images on them? And I wonder if more people would try romance as a genre if they had different covers? Or are we (myself included) being silly/snobby/prudish? It’s an interesting thought, and I bet there’s more than one article out there about this issue. I’d love to hear from a regular romance reader on their feelings about romance covers.

      Those year-long experiment book are appealing to me in part because I’m a self-help kinda woman. I enjoy embarking on little “improvement projects” and hearing about others doing so. But I can’t read too many of them, just one every now and then, or else it feels repetitive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great mini reviews. I love the juxtaposition of a romance novel and a spiritual-self-help-memoir. It made for interesting reading!

    I personally don’t read romance novels because in my limited experience (‘Sup 90’s!) I always found books where the heroine was a useless waif. I couldn’t connect to the swooning helplessness! Thank goodness Isabelle seems capable. I might even be interested in this. The titles imply to me there are 10 of these books, yes? Oh, serial romances…

    7 has a fascinating premise. I definitely understand why you would be interested in reading this memoir! I love the *idea* of doing a social experiment like this on my life. Alas, I don’t have the focus or fortitude to do such a thing! Have you ever done anything like that, Laila?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jackie, I also do not have the focus or stamina for such a big undertaking. Maybe that’s why I like reading about them! But I am enjoying my “small challenges” for my 40th year so far.

      There are three in that MacLean series, but she has another series that has more in it. I know, the title is misleading. I think romance novels have progressed since the 90’s – well, some seem to have! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha– that’s a great point. Perhaps that’s why these books are so popular, too? Because we aren’t the only ones who don’t want to undertake that sort of thing. 😀

        I’ll have to look into romance again. I’m certain they are super different now. After all, in the 90’s YA wasn’t even really a genre.

        Liked by 1 person

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