Behind The Scenes, by Jen Turano
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Having read novels by this author before  and at at least a few other historical romances of a similar kind , I can say pretty easily what I appreciate about the author’s Christian romances. For one, they are not too heavy handed, at least to this reader, although they have a strong element of divine providence as well as godly effort. For another, they are very Nathanish sorts of novels, in a good way, not in the “everyone has PTSD” sort of way. So, what makes this novel Nathanish? Well, the lead character is one who struggles to get along socially, has a mix of class as well as a somewhat rough background in the country, and is a writer with poor handwriting but with a skill for observation as well as a certain sense of discretion in avoiding names but providing information, and a strong interest in educating those from disadvantaged backgrounds. And the male character is certainly more than a little Nathanish himself, somewhat boring and predictable in his routine, but also considerably brave and plucky and gallant in his own way, and deeply concerned with justice, even if he is a bit more of a peacock than I am in terms of his sense of style.
The story itself is the sort of one that ought to please those who are fans of contemporary Christian romances. The protagonists struggle with a crisis of faith over where their life is taking them, are concerned about finding godly marriage and dealing with the questions of honor and reputation as well as showing love to those who are not necessarily very lovable. There is peril, and the need to resolve past wrongs. Without going into too many spoilers, the novel itself manages to keep up a brisk pace of action in which a significant role is played by adventuresome ladies who straddle the line between their native high-spiritedness and the rules and strictures of standards of upper-class femininity. There are a lot of secrets that are spilled or shared, and the result is a happy ending, but one that has a certain taste of melancholy or bittersweet, and with at least some unfinished business about who is to run the mine that a great deal of the heroine’s hopes and plans revolve around.
So, will you enjoy this novel? If you are reading it, you will probably enjoy it greatly. The characters here are realistic, especially by the standards of late 19th century Christian historical romance, where seemingly every available billionaire or hidden nobleman has been paired off with some worthy and adorable woman. This is not specifically a wish fulfillment novel–the main characters involved have some growing to do, sometimes make serious errors in judgment but not in terms of their moral decency. If you like a novel that combines a strong sense of divine providence with a satisfying romance and some comic hijinks involving fashion and high society in New York, this is likely a novel that will please you. When you read a Jen Turano novel, you know what you are getting and if you like what that is, you will like what you get. It would not be hard to imagine finding more than a dozen enjoyable books from this author, given how she likes to write novels out of her love of the late 1800’s, romance, fashion, and high-minded Christian morality with more than a little tinge of social justice. This happens to be an enjoyable and quirky novel, and there is always room for that in my own reading.
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