This month, I am continuing coverage of titles in Harlequin’s “Love Inspired” line of Christian romantic suspense novels. I am considering two titles each by each of two authors. I wanted a sense of what readers can expect from title to title by the same author in the case of readers who . . . as they may in secular fiction as well . . . like to follow a particular author.
The titles I’m considering are Rodeo Rescuer and Protecting Her Daughter, both by Lynette Eason; and Perfect Alibi and No One to Trust by Melody Carlson.
I had actually read some Lynette Eason titles before, when she wrote for what I believe to be special Christian publishers: titles marketed through the Crossings Christian book club and from what I can find out handled exclusively through this venue. I enjoyed those novels, but found them observably formulaic and somewhat predictable. All Christian romance follows a formula, but a good storyteller brings enough struggle-and-overcome conflict and sense of “and now what will happen?” to the storyline to make the formula appear to disappear. In these two titles, as in contrast to former works, Eason does do that. These two particular titles are the second and third of a three-book series identified as the “Wrangler’s Corner” series. I did not read the first, so I can speak to the fact that the books can be read independently. They involve family interactions, but enough background is given in later books on the pivotal Starke family as to allow comprehension of each storyline independent of the earlier titles. Another aspect of this series is that it has a western flare, representing the fact that novels with western settings have become popular in both the Christian and secular romance and romantic suspense categories. In Protecting Her Daughter, the western elements are actually quite subtle, however.
The two books I read by Melody Carlson are, indeed, the first and second published titles by this author. Her first, Perfect Alibi, is notable for those closely observing the parameters of Christian fiction. Harlequin has qualified this book as such, even though to my best recollection the “Christian” elements are limited to one brief conversation about faith between the protagonist characters.
In No One to Trust, Carlson’s second offering, the two protagonists exhibit prayerful habits of mind throughout the book, more consistent with most other Christian romance or romantic suspense that I have read. Carlson keeps the suspense high as she shows characters trying to outwit corrupt, small town police personnel and eventually prevailing. Carlson keeps the reader spellbound in a story that until almost the very end looks likely to have a bleak outcome. Prayer, wit, and eventually some honest law enforcement reinforcements come into play, however, in this ticking time bomb of a suspense novel.
Though Carlson is a strong writer even in her first novel, this set of two gives us a good idea that as the market itself matures, we can expect the same kind of strengthening of skill with experience in today’s Christian romantic suspense authors as we have seen for some time in their secular counterparts. A theme we also see in the maturation of Eason’s work in comparison to earlier offerings.