Saturday, October 6, 2012

Love Finds You in Paradise, Pennsylvania

  There just seems to be something about the Amish folk that intrigues normal citizens. Consider just how many authors have written about the Amish, for one thing; and for another, I’ll bet a greater portion of the Christian girls who are reading this have sat down with a Beverly Lewis novel. If you happen to be one of these fans, then you might want to try and find Love Finds You In Paradise, Pennsylvania, by Loree Lough, published by Summerside Press in 2009. Its characters, plot, and grade of Christianity combine to make it an appealing, if slightly questionable for Miss Critique(ing) Novel(ist), read.
Julia Spencer is a gorgeous auburn-headed five-foot-two public defendant whose beloved grandparents left her a delightful house, a nice amount of money in the bank, and stocks and bonds—as well as most of their other possessions. Yet surviving years in the state’s foster care system with all its horrors, and living with the knowledge of her parents’ drug records, has blemished her mind into believing she is not worthy of love, and not worthy of motherhood. Doctor Simon Thomas, a veterinarian of Paradise who also happens to be extraordinarily handsome with luscious green eyes and a blonde wavy head, adores puns and has been trying to find the right girl for forever. When the two meet, it creates a firestorm.
Simon and Julia’s relationship starts with a bang. Simon, however, has dreamt of having children since his before his first marriage, but Julia thinks her parents’ mistakes could have been passed down to her. She is unwilling to risk such inflictions on her own (prospective) children, so she knows she ought to pull away from Simon. However, their relationship only deepens, and she can’t bring herself to tell him that she should quit pretending . . . she would rather that he never found out her horrible past and her horrible heritage. In spite of that, an Amish family, the Gundens, serve to bring them together still further. However, a grisly accident involving one of the members of the Gunden family creates havoc within the Simon-Julia hemisphere, as Julia is called upon to defend the criminal in the Gunden case, whom Simon passionately hates.
In any professed “Christian” book, a Christian person will look for evidences of the faith. Paradise is a pretty good experience, I must admit, for most Christians. While Simon’s prayers and his maturity as a Christian could be questioned (maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Elsie Dinsmore. . . .), and Julia’s true repentance might also be a head-scratcher, there is a lot of praying and Scripture throughout the book. The Amish, of course, are the true examples of godliness, forgiveness, and humility, even though the Old Order believed that in order to go to Heaven one must only be baptized, and thus they appear much like the Mormons to me.
The problems with this novel? Julia’s emotions over her parents and her unworthiness seem a little clich√© and overwrought. The relationship with Simon and Julia begins too quickly—the day they meet, in fact (love at first sight, anyone?), and progresses to physicality—kissing and putting arms around each other—immediately, despite Julia’s hesitancy. Ditto with joking and compliments. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t you believe that compliments should be saved until the lord and lady know each other well, that kissing and nearly all other forms of physicality should be banned until the girl and boy are either married or (almost completely) sure that they will be? And besides these, Simon shamelessly loathes the criminal Michael Josephs who caused the Amish accident. Even if he does repent of this, it doesn’t seem like he’s sorry that he hates the boy, just that he’s been a grouchy, bitter monster.
It is, however, apparent that Love Finds You In Paradise, Pennsylvania, deserves a good praise and maybe even an order from the library. It was refreshing to actually be able to meet the hero in Paradise, which is not the case in Love Finds You In Sisters, Oregon. The plot is fairly deep and interesting, and even provoked me to tears on one occasion. Christianity is easy to see, as prayer and Scripture and morals run around throughout the book, but there is no Gospel message. (Though “conversion scenes” are very difficult to execute.) You may want to put in an order to your local library or, if you feel confident enough, spend some money on your own paperback edition.

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