Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Book Review: Heart of Lies by Jill Marie Landis/3 Stars
Raised in a tribe of street urchins, Maddie Grande was taught to be a thief and beggar on the streets of New Orleans. But Maddie doesn’t know her real name or where she came from.
Raised by Dexter Grande, Maddie and her twin “brothers” have recently left New Orleans and moved to the bayou. The twins are rarely there, but Maddie has come to love the swamp. She has learned to fish and trap and sell pelts at the local mercantile.
Maddie longs to change her life but knows that her brothers will never give up their lawless ways. When they kidnap the daughter of a wealthy carpetbagger, the twins force Maddie to hide the precocious eight-year-old while they return to New Orleans to wait for notice of a reward.
Pinkerton agent Tom Abbott is assigned to the kidnapping case in which Maddie has become an accomplice. In a journey that takes them to Baton Rouge, a mutual attraction becomes evident, but Tom and Maddie cannot trust each other.
Will Maddie ever discover who she is? Will her real family ever find her? Will Maddie and Tom listen to their hearts? Or will they choose honor over love?
Heart of Lies was a book that I've been anxious to read for a long time. I was thoroughly captivated with the book before it, Heart of Stone, and hoped and prayed that the continuation of this series would be as good as the start. Well, let's just say my expectations may have been set a wee bit too high.
First of all, I loved the setting of this book: historic New Orleans. I felt a part of this city throughout the story, with all of it's alleyways, hidey-holes, and street corners. Because Maddie was raised smack-dab in the middle of it, it was easy to see all of it's features from her point of view. But once she grew up, she moved away from the hustle and bustle to the bayou, and I equally loved that setting as much as the busy city. I could smell the water, see the moss on the trees, and hear the creaking of her little cabin in the middle of nowhere. Trust me...all of this was masterfully done.
Secondly, I loved little Penelope! That little girl was a pistol with her sassy nature at only 8 years old, but she was smart as a whip, too. I thought the relationship that developed between her and Maddie was very well-written, and it was sad, but understandable, to see it come to an end.
But in spite of those things, I had a couple of concerns. One thing was the tempo. The first few chapters seemed very slow and wordy, and I had a slight case of doubt as to whether I would keep reading. Also, there were several chapters devoted to "chasing," mostly Tom trying to catch either Maddie or Penelope or both. The other issue was the romance. I knew it was would culminate at some point, but when it did, it seemed way too abrupt. It was better toward the end, but I couldn't seem to get the other scene out of my head.
The tempo and the romance issues were minor compared to the spiritual content, or rather, the lack of it. When I read a book marketed by a Christian publisher, I expect that there will be a Christian theme to the story. There was barely any in this entire book, and that was truly disappointing. Instead, the characters seemed more concerned about just being a "good person." If that's the case, why bother marketing this book as Christian fiction? Why not just sell it as general market? Now, just so I'm clear, I don't expect every single Christian book to have a conversion scene, or a church scene, or something else similar. BUT, I do expect there to be characters that either grow somehow in their faith, return to their faith, or become a new Christian altogether. None of that was in this story, and that's why I felt the need to point it out.
While I gave Heart of Stone a well-deserved 4 stars, I'm giving 3 stars to Heart of Lies. If I was a fan of general market fiction and/or romance, the rating might be a little higher. But since I only read Christian fiction, I have to take the lack of Christian content into consideration. I do plan to read the final book in the series, Heart of Glass, once it is released next year.
Sass? Yes, a small amount
**Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy for review through Amazon Vine.
**Click here to read my review of Heart of Stone.