Treasured Grace, by Tracie Peterson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany Books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
The author of this book, working in a genre I do not read as often as others but still often enough to familiar with , managed to make about the most Nathanish historical romance possible, and I mean that in the most unpleasant possible way. I feel it necessary to give a fair warning about this review, because I am going to discuss some spoilers and some matter that is likely to be potentially triggering to people. Consider yourself warned. I must admit that I did not find the novel to be a bad one, but it was certainly one I got no enjoyment reading, even though I went into the book looking forward to a romance novel set in the Oregon Country during the early days of the Oregon Trail, and everyone knows how much I love the Oregon Trail . I found this book to be historically accurate, but I think the author greatly erred in choosing to base her romance on the particularly traumatic material she chose to write about. Perhaps she will see her choice validated in terms of sales and awards, but this reader found the material of the Whitman massacre and its aftermath a decidedly unpleasant base to make a romance novel that depends on Nathanish characters.
In explaining what makes this novel particularly Nathanish, I am going to give away a lot of plot spoilers. The central romance of this novel is between a virgin widow named Grace who had been in a loveless marriage with a would-be missionary to the native peoples of Oregon who only married because he would not be ordained a minister otherwise and had no interest consummating his marriage, to the relief of his poor wife and her two orphaned sisters who traveled with her to Oregon country, and a troubled and tormented trapper named Alex with a dramatic life history of his own. Exhausted by a slow journey, the family stops at the Whitman mission only to be subjected to the horrors of the Cayuse uprising that led to Grace’s immensely flirtatious younger sister being raped and impregnated by her rapist and seeing her love killed in front of her eyes. The novel deals with her resulting PTSD in rather dramatic ways, discussing nightmares and irritability and depression, struggles with suicide and a desire on the part of Hope to abort her unwanted baby only to give the child up for adoption. And then, after a lack of communication between the main lovers, whose inability to communicate with each other despite their feelings for each other is something I know all too well in my own life, Grace nearly finds herself in another loveless marriage before the author brings the two of them together for the requisite happy ending that does not feel particularly happy in light of everything that happened before it.
As I mentioned before, the material of this novel is not the sort of material that makes for a compelling romance. The main plot is dragged on for far too long, as the tension relies on the two lovers to feel deeply attracted to each other but be unable to communicate with each other to the point where they both end up nearly trapped in unhappiness before one conversation makes everything alright. Maybe some people enjoy that sort of plot contrivance, but I find that sort of problem to be particularly tragic in light of my own personal experience. Not only this, but often the main plot gets overwhelmed by the even more tragic subplot that is unpleasant because of personal experience as a survivor of early childhood rape afflicted with PTSD for my entire life. None of this novel is enjoyable to read, and the happy ending seems merely a deux ex machina arranged because no one would want to read an unhappy ending to a novel this deeply unpleasant. The author deserves some credit for having tackled some serious themes and showing the resilience of faith in the midst of life’s sorrows, but this novel is a peace of dreary melodrama that the world would be better without.
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