Saturday, January 5, 2013

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher

Betrayal (Where the Heart Lives #2)
Robin Lee Hatcher

Page Count: 255
Release Date: 13 November 2012
Publisher: Zondervan
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

Can two wounded hearts find a way to trust again?

It's the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him. 

Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she's going to have to trust someone if she's to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband's half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door? 

The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take you to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God's love no matter the circumstances.

Review


On the small farm of Sage-hen, off of Pine Creek, Wyoming, God tests the bonds of love on two broken, desperate individuals: Hugh Brennan and Julia Grace. Both have troublesome pasts that still haunt them, and both are clinging onto their faiths as tightly as they can... because they know that if they don't, they just might let go.

Hugh is burdened by an unjust accusation of a crime; he served the sentence he didn't deserve, and now he wants a fresh start. By fate, he meets Julia, who can both give and accept the help Hugh needs and has, allowing the two to slowly, steadily depend on each other. In a stormy battle between desire and committal to God, painful, unfair pasts are slowly and elaborately unraveled. I loved being able to get each Hugh and Julia's backstories little by little; it definitely kept me reading. I found it very admirable how both characters' faiths remained solid even after all they went through. They're strong people—good people—and for sticking with the Lord even when betrayed by those they loved most, they deserve each other in every aspect.

Julia is not likable. Her work offer to Hugh very generous, considering the financial situation she is in her late husband, Angus's, wake, but she's unaffectionate, which I think transpires largely due to the stiff, unfeeling dialogue. I found this to be the case in the first book in this series, Belonging; all the conversations are weak, often one-worded, and sometimes just plain unfriendly. 

Hugh, on the other hand, I liked. He's charming and the perfect gentleman, though not much of a swoon-worthy masculine hero. He's kind and virtuous, though, so I couldn't ask for a better protagonist. Through all of the characters—minor ones included—and especially through Hatcher's gorgeous, literary voice, I really felt an emotional resonance from all the relationships. Unfortunately, Julia and Hugh's "romance" was a little lacking because it's very chaste and there's no specific indication of more-than-friends feelings until the last few pages, but as a Christian novel, it successfully portrays love from all perspectives. Love isn't about being sexual or romantic; it's about finding oneself, and better yet, finding a better self within another person. In each other, Hugh and Julia find an escape from lonely childhoods, abusive pasts, and the pain of loss—an escape from the normal; such abnormality is absolutely wonderful.

My main issue with the book is the central conflicts: they're too stale. They revolve around the impending threat of Julia losing Sage-hen due to an uncertain investment, as well as the relationship with her mother that she still has the power—but not the courage—to repair. There is plenty of rising tension, but both are resolved way to quickly, way too easily; essentially, there is no climax, which is something I feel every story needs. I would have liked to see a bit of suspense, a bit of a struggle!

Betrayal makes the perfect stand-alone novel because there are no recurring situations or main characters from the first book in the series, but readers of Belonging will rejoice Hugh's reunion with his sister, Felicia, whom he has not seen since their separation upon being orphaned. This part was heartwarming, but very brief and hasted. There's no jubilant meeting scene, only a few sentences describing how Hugh finds her in Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho. I wish their reunion would have been elaborated upon.

Pros


Beautiful writing style and flow // Grounded, moral characters // Hugh is good-natured and a great character // Great cast of secondary characters // Livable, breathable historical setting // Strong Christian undertone // Not preachy // Tragic pasts are slowly revealed, which makes the reader holding on // Hugh reunites with his long-lost sister, Felicia

Cons


Passive conflicts // Julia lacks compassion // Very little romance // Said "romance" isn't very believable // Dialogue is too cool and clipped

Love

[Julia] swallowed the questions. She would let [Hugh] keep his secrets so she could keep hers.

Verdict


While the main conflicts are weakly resolved and the dialogue tends to flatten out, the emotional turmoil, unfaltering faith, and wild determination in Betrayal will strengthen readers' trust and warm their hearts. This is a story about renewal, about redemption, about leaving the things of the past in the past, and focusing on God and on the future; Hatcher's silky, glimmering prose leads it on seamlessly.

7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥