A Chance At Forever (Teaville Moral Society #3), by Melissa Jaegers
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany Books/Net Gallery. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
I suppose I’m not the kindest judge of romance novels , but while this book at least was not actively offensive in its treatment of the subject of bullying, it was not the most enjoyable novel to read either. At its heart, this novel is an uncomfortable combination of several plots, and the relationship at the center of the novel is somewhat troubling. The fact that this is a Christian historical romance keeps the novel from being too troubling in many ways, but at its core this novel is about a former bully who had an abusive childhood trying to do good deeds to earn the goodwill and forgiveness of his former victims and an attractive but rather high-strong young woman with one hand who had been the victim of his taunts so many years ago. The whole idea of the reformed bad guy trying to earn forgiveness and also find love with someone he had victimized is not one that I find appealing, and the whole theme of the Teaville Moral Society seems a bit tacked on and inessential, adding distractions to a plot that already seems a bit scattered.
The plot of this novel is at least realistic, in that we see a small town with a few central characters, someone who has been converted to Christ and would probably be considered a new/novice Christian trying to live right after having spent so much of his life living the wrong way, and seeing a young woman who is disabled but portrayed as competent and also beset by difficulties and struggling to show forgiveness and graciousness to a former tormentor. To say that this is an unlikely romance is an understatement, but at the very least the novel deserves considerable credit in making him a math tutor of marginal competence and a gardener of even less competence rather than making him some kind of billionaire in disguise as seems all too common in this sort of literature. In fact, if the novel had not framed the male lead, who goes by his middle name Aaron as a way of turning over a new leaf, as having been such a terrible bully who still struggles with seeing violence as the answer in the dramatic mid-novel crisis, the novel would at least have been somewhat realistic in its romantic portrayal.
Yet that would not have made this a stellar novel, although a better one. There are at least a few ways this novel could have been a better one. Not trying to shoehorn the titular moral society and use Aaron’s unfamiliarity with it as a way of allowing for a bit of dull explanation would have kept the main plot a lot more tight and focused. Not making the main characters, especially Mercy, so clueless about what is going on with others, would have made the novel’s plot more plausible but would have likely turned this into a novella rather than a full novel. Showing the conversion of Aaron from bully to someone seeking redemption in a slightly works-based way would have made the novel something other than a romance novel. There are at least some of the raw materials here for a great novel, but it is by no means as great a novel as it could have been. I can’t really recommend this novel, because the troubling aspects of the continued presence of abusers and their victims after they have supposedly changed is too dark a matter for this slight and trivial of a treatment.
 See, for example: