Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Seduction of an English Lady

 The Seduction of An English Lady
Cathy Maxwell
Avon Books

I did not imagine that when I began this blog I would find myself doing a review of a romance novel. Where is my faith in one of those? But this book is actually one of the best I have ever read in terms of really dealing with self-awareness and improvement.

If you have never read a romance novel, you do need to know they follow some patterns (probably more than I mention here). There is a guy and a girl, they meet and find some attraction to one another. However, something comes between them. In the case of this book, there is a conflict between the aristocratic lady who is now homeless and the soldier of fortune who has made money and purchased the estate belonging to the lady's cousin. There are some scenes where one approaches the other to get something they want but end up being rebuffed. Things look bleak until some sort of crises brings them together. They each secretly begin to fall in love with one another over the course of a few chapters. There is a big rescue-type plot device towards the end involving one or more "bad" characters, most often not thought of as bad in the beginning of the book. The gal and guy admit they love one another and live happily ever after. Somewhere in that whole plot they do get married.

That is a romance novel in a nutshell. Some are better than others. The writing in some can be so bad that the reader should be wondering how on earth the writer was even published in the beginning.  I must add that I have read at least one other book by Cathy Maxwell but Seduction is by far much better. With that out of the way, I want to dive into my impressions.

My Impressions

This is not literary, Oprah book-club type reading. This is pure escapism, especially good for beach and/or vacation reading. For me, books such as this just help me relax. The only muscles usually used are usually my eyeballs as they roll around in my sockets at some of the plot devices, dialogue and cheesy characters.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with this book.

For one thing, the characters really did do some self-discovery and growing. They made me think about my own faults and how I am driven in my life. How ambitious am I? Will I run over others in order to step up on the next rung of the ladder? What is my own motivation for my actions? Do I let my own pride determine who I associate with? Does pride tend to prevent me from doing the right thing?

As you can tell, pride and ambition are two major themes in the book. And the main characters are really forced to face their own ambition and pride. Even though they realize they have these two characteristics, they both must face the consequences of letting one or both of these parts of their personalities dictate their life choices.

Another thing I liked in the book is the confrontation between the couple as well as the writers ability to show them opening up to one another, becoming weak in each others presence, showing strength for one another and simply being themselves in each others' presence. They acted more like a real couple than a romance book couple. Not everything went well for them, either. Although there is a happy ending, they did not get all they desired by the end of the book. I liked that because it also reflects true life. I enjoy the fluff but don't get too far from reality, please!

Speaking of fluff, it would not be a romance book without, well, the romance. If you are offended by romantic scenes, please be forewarned that this has several, many I would classify as R rated. What I mean is they are pretty explicit. I realize that is not for everyone.

I also have to add that I know many good Christian women love romance books! : )

My Faith Impressions

This is not a book of theology. Nor is it a Christian romance. However, it does question such human motivations as ambition and pride. Neither of these emotions are far from religion, I am afraid to say.

As a pastor, I find that many pastors are fairly ambitious. I remember one pastor being disappointed years ago when he was not elected bishop. And I find that many would-be bishops to have been motivated in by moving up the ladder -- usually to bigger churches or supervisory positions -- so that they would be in positions of notoriety and prestige if not salary-wise.

But the laity in the churches are not lacking in ambition, either. Sometimes it is within their own careers but other times it is in the church. Getting on a certain committee can be a springboard for recognition by the pastor, the church governing board or even those in the denominational hierarchy.

In the case of clergy or laity, ambition rather than service becomes the goal. My fear is that love is crushed under selfishness and self-centeredness in many cases.

The man in this book, Colin, has always known he is ambitious but it takes a good show-down with his brother (a clergyman who has chosen a quieter lifestyle) for him to realize how destructive that ambition is. Colin also comes the realization that his family -- new wife and his brother's growing brood -- is much more important. Also, Colin realizes that he must be true to himself and his own beliefs rather than towing the line for someone else, even if that means loss of power and prestige.

I see pride on many levels in the church. I have heard pastors pridefully spout numbers, attendance, money and numerical church facts in order to have the admiration of other pastors. I see laity be in fierce competition in terms of dressing for church, singing in worship and fixing the best dish for the church picnic. Pride is addressed specifically in the bible, yet we tend to overlook it in our everyday lives.

I would highly recommend this book for its escapism yet self-awareness properties. You may find yourself really thinking about what your weaknesses are and how to improve them.

Happy Reading!


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