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Catherine's Heart    by Lawana Blackwell order for
Catherine's Heart
by Lawana Blackwell
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Catherine is going to Girton College in Cambridge and she's nervous and excited at the same time. It's 1880, and women at college are something of a novelty, but Catherine wants to be a teacher and has decided to pursue her dreams, with the support of her family. While there, she makes friends and also develops several romantic interests.

Catherine's Heart focuses on Catherine's emotions as she relates to the people around her. She was raised with Christian principles but, as she is still very young, she makes mistakes in her personal relationships. When a suave older man begins to pay her attention, she is flattered and becomes embroiled in an inappropriate friendship which soon escalates emotionally. As this man is well-known to her cousin's family as a libertine and all-around rascal, she has to lie to continue seeing him and compromises her belief system in the process.

Bethany House, the publishers of this novel, specialize in Christian writing. This book comes under the genre of Christian Romance, although there is lots more romance than Christianity found in its pages. As is typical of the modern romance novel, we have a young, beautiful heroine who has to decide what's really important in life. What is not typical is that some of the decisions are literally taken out of her hand, and are made without her participation. Much of the novel deals with her reaction to these circumstances.

While I'm not a fan of the modern romance novel, I do like to read books that have romantic interests in them, such as those by Georgette Heyer and Catherine Cookson. The problem I have with today's romances is in the style of writing more than the content. Some of these writing problems exist in this novel, but not all. There is entirely too much physical description of the characters and their clothes which is somewhat boring, but there is a comforting lack of the 'she whined, he snarled, she wailed' comments - the author is content to use the tried and true 'she said, he said' for the most part, which is very welcome.

The story itself is fairly interesting and readers will want to read on to find out just how Catherine resolves her unhappiness, although the ending is obvious in advance. As a Christian, I was pleased to read the references to God, but felt there could have been more mention of practical faith in daily lives. The descriptions of various working class peoples were slightly unbelievable. It seems all the workers are perfectly content; in fact, most seemed to have it pretty easy, which in 1880 was definitely not the case. Remember, there were still child workers, and factory workers existed in miserable conditions. Others were ill-paid and overworked, even when hired by progressive families, let alone by people like the villain in the piece, Lord Holt.

Catherine's Heart is a decent enough read for fans of romance, and a good pick for parents for their teenage daughters. While it could have used a higher dose of reality in the descriptions of everyday life of the time, most readers won't care and will enjoy the story for its own sake.

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