Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A Tale of Two Sisters--THICKER THAN BLOOD
In her debut novel, C. J. Darlington writes as if she's been a best-seller for years. No doubt her experience as a book seller/broker and book lover have aided her, but so have many years of honing her skills in other writing opportunities. Many of you may know her from her blog or from her work at Title Trakk, in which case you already know that C. J. is handy with words. It has all come together nicely with Thicker Than Blood, winner of the 2008 Christian Writers' Guild 'Operation First Novel' Contest. That contest meant being published by Tyndale House and all that goes with it.
Christy Williams has had one mess after another in her life, and just when things seem to be coming together for her, it all unravels. She loves her job at the bookstore, and the manager is entrusting her to more and more responsibilities with book auctions and estate sales. But Vince, her ex and a co-worker, doesn't intend to let her go. Not because of great love but for power and control. When Christy refuses to do as he commands, he makes life impossible for her. She needs an escape.
Her younger sister May has been living her dream life as a partner on a ranch surrounded by horses. Hard work but the only life she really wants. Her problem is that they are so far behind in the ranch mortgage that the bank has given final notice. It looks hopeless, but May has a source of strength that Christy doesn't: she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and has learned to depend on Him. Still, she doesn't see a way out.
The stage is set for circumstance and 'happenstance' to develop in ways to bring the sisters together again and become enmeshed in each other's lives.
There are heroes/heroines and villains, chase scenes, fire, threats, gunshots, injuries, internal and external conflict, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, hatred, moments of enlightenment, moments of despair. All the elements are here to make a great story, and C. J. combines them deftly. Her timing is well-paced and the build-up to the climax is maddening! The beginning seems to lag a bit, but that really is normal in setting up the story and the characters. Before long, though, it picks up amd moves quickly.
I found myself thinking about the story while was doing other things (when I wanted to get to the end but had to do the mundane stuff); I was even imagining possible ways for it all to work out. Some of my ideas were right, but others were really off in left field, out in the cow pasture. Now that I've finished, I want to go back and revisit a few places. For me, this means it's a good book.
This is not your run-of-the-mill average Christian romance novel, and I'm relieved to pass that on because there are so many romance novels following a set, predictable fomula. I kept looking for romances that didn't happen. I think the romance-gone-bad with Vince help set me up for that. And yet...Not going to spoil it any further. Let's just say it is an excellent Christian fiction novel that doesn't really fit into one of the normal genre cubbyholes, at least as far as I can see.
My thanks to Tyndale House for sending me a review copy of Thicker Than Blood. I have no copies to give away; if I could afford another giveaway this month, I would gladly draw for a copy of this book. Since I can't, I just exhort you to get a copy youself!
You can read the first chapter here.
For more about C. J. Darlington and her writing, check out her website.
Thicker Than Blood is available at many Christian and regular bookstores. Online, you can purchase it from Christianbook, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (December 3, 2009)