January 4, 2013
Since I did a favor for a fellow blogger I was given the opportunity to read and review this book by Catherine Francis. I don’t know the author and have to say that romance novels are my least favorite genre. Nevertheless, I plowed into it hoping to have an enjoyable read.
Can this novel be made into a movie people would enjoy? This is my litmus test for all fiction I read. Unfortunately, for me the answer is no. I could not warm up to the two main characters no matter how far I read into the book, even to the end. They seemed too one dimensional and unconvincing. The PTSD-like behaviors of the main female character seemed to lack enough cause. The author could have solved this by showing more interaction between her, her family, and her fiancé of five years previously to set the stage and make the reactions a lot more convincing. But then the book was already way too long for me. It was also way too in-your-face Catholic for me.
There were good aspects to the novel, such as the limits the female and male principals set to maintain purity during dating, and the positive relationships in the male principal’s family, but even at that, the parents of the male principal seemed just too perfect.
At this point I would like to go beyond this particular story and mention a flaw that we can find in much romance fiction including this book. Why does the female protagonist have to be a victim who needs to be rescued by the knight in shining armor? I am not suggesting that she be the rescuer and the male the victim. Relationships that begin like this will be doomed if the victim ever starts to develop the skills necessary to avoid the need for incessant rescuing. Rather, relationships need to be built on the strengths of both team members who make up for what each lacks and both need to call out the best in each other as they meet challenges and solve problems in the twenty-first century world.
The final observation I have is that in today’s society we have an absolute preoccupation and obsession with eros, which today has become synonymous with sexual passion which must be gratified as soon as possible, most often illicitly. We have it shoved at us on TV, in movies, on the internet, at the mall, the grocery store, in magazines at doctor’s offices, etc. The ubiquitous Everybody Else seems to think that this is just fine and that people should just do whatever feels good, never mind how it affects the other person. Sex is substituted for an authentic relationship. And, unfortunately, men and women don’t seem to be able to enjoy truly platonic relationships at all because one or the other usually wants to turn it into eros and spoils the whole thing.
There is another way to be preoccupied with eros, however, and that is by focusing on the dangers of illicit sex to the detriment of developing genuine friendship and understanding of another person. The tension of “I want it but I can’t have it so I better not do this, this, or this, but I really, really want to have sex with you so I can release this tension” can become an obsession that takes over a relationship and still reduces the other person to an object of one’s self-gratification. We are, by and large, not encouraged today to have genuine friendships – the brotherly love of philia is not spoken of nor understood, with even same sex friendships often being assumed by others to be erotic in nature when they are not.
Thus, I felt that the novel spent too much time covering avoidance of eros and not enough time with the characters actually developing sufficient mutual interests to make a credible, solid, long term relationship, or enjoying things together in comfortable silence, which is a true mark of philia and one necessary to make a marriage work well.
I know Ms. Francis spent a lot of time developing and writing this novel, and I regret that I can’t say more positive things about it. I hope if she reads this review that she will take it as constructive for her future writing. Just as I’m no artist, I’m no novel writer either, nor would I attempt it, but I hope Ms. Francis doesn’t give up but instead works to polish her craft in future works.
If you’d like to know more about love – real love such as Jesus demonstrated through the Incarnation and the Cross, I recommend Love’s Sacred Order: The Four Loves Revisited by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis and published by Ignatius Press. It’s short, clear, and helps one expand one’s understanding of love, which our English language reduces to just the one word to express a wide range of states of being but has been co-opted by the media, advertising, and entertainment industries to mean solely eros. It isn’t a novel, but authors who would like to write novels with romance could be helped a great deal by understanding these classical loves that have been the source of such great works as have come to us from the ancient Greeks all the way to the present day. You will find these loves in the Bible as well, but the political agendas of homosexual activists and Planned Parenthood types are trying to turn them all into eros.
Understanding the four loves is essential to living Christian and building solid relationships with others and with God, even if a person doesn’t know the names of these loves. Perhaps I should write a post on this subject sometime soon so that we all can bring these concepts more easily into our discourse with the world. What do you think?
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