[Note: Not only am I an author, I am also an avid reader. It is my hope to offer periodic book reviews to give you a glimpse at my bookshelf, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a good book. Most of what I read is from a Christian worldview, although I do read some secular books from time to time.]
By Deeanne Gist
Published 2007 by Bethany House Publishers
We spent the past weekend in the frozen northwoods, and since my husband was gone all day Friday and Saturday to attend the Sno*Drift Road Rally Race, I was left alone at the cabin with plenty of time to read. When packing for our winter weekend, I shoved several books in my bag, including Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist.
I’ve read one other book by Ms. Gist – Love on the Line (you can read my review here) – and really enjoyed it, so was looking forward to Courting Trouble.
The book is set in Corsicana, Texas in 1894. Essie Spreckelmeyer has just turned thirty years old. As the spoiled daughter of Corsicana’s judge, Essie has grown up with privilege but has turned into a most unconventional woman. She enjoys the outdoors; catching snakes, fishing and riding her bicycle. With her outgoing and spontaneous nature, no man in Corsicana has been willing to court Essie despite her father’s wealth and position. After praying for years for a husband and children, Essie decides at thirty years of age that God must be too busy to provide her a husband so she decides to take matters into her own hands.
What follows is a sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking tale. Essie first sets her sights on the recently widowed Hamilton Crook who runs one of the town’s general stores. Showing up one morning, Essie ties on an apron and sets about the task of putting the store in order and winning Hamilton’s affections. Her plan seems to be working until one day when Hamilton goes off on a buying trip and returns with a wife!
Mortified, Essie soon falls for a sweet-talking cowboy drifter who has arrived in town to drill a water well. I got the feeling from the beginning that Adam Currington was bad news, but continued to hope for the best until my misgivings were proved correct. Convinced that her prospects for a husband and children are falling through her fingers, Essie makes a huge mistake – one that affects not only herself but her parents and also her future beau that she doesn’t even know exists at the time.
There is quite an emotional depth to Courting Trouble that you don’t normally find in a lighthearted “romance”. Ms. Gist handles Essie’s sin with great sensitivity and soon has the reader contemplating how our actions often take on a life of their own and affect those around us in ways we never could have imagined. There is a firm thread of grace, mercy, forgiveness and redemption woven throughout the story. I found the spiritual aspect of Courting Trouble much stronger than in Love on the Line.
Resigned to living the rest of her life as a spinster, Essie is taken aback when a former, much younger school chum returns to Corsicana and soon seeks permission to court her. But sins and secrets look destined to keep the two apart.
Being a lover of happily-ever-after endings, I was a bit disappointed with the conclusion of Courting Trouble. But, I soon learned there is a sequel to it – Deep in the Heart of Trouble. I have already ordered the next book, hoping that Essie will find the love and romance she was longing for. If you enjoy a novel with a strong female character who is more than a bit outspoken and unconventional, you will like Courting Trouble. There is plenty to make the reader smile and also much about Essie and her struggles that I’m sure many women can relate to. In the end she must ask herself what is more important – having what she wants for herself, or having what God wants. Is human love and companionship more important that the love of Jesus and His plan for her life? These are issues that many of us struggle with.
Overall, Courting Trouble was an enjoyable read with excellent characters that were more than just cardboard cutouts. The book is populated with people that you truly come to care about by the end of the story. I am looking forward to the next installment – Deep in the Heart of Trouble.