A Texan's Promise
by Shelley Gray

Abingdon Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-426-71459-7.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 02/02/2012

Fiction: Christian; Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Romance

This book has it all—rape, running away, raw emotion, romance and reconciliation. Within pages of the beginning, Vanessa Grant is on her horse, running for her life through the West Texas prairie for as Clayton Profitt spirits her away from her evil stepfather. Clayton had sworn to Vanessa's dying father on a bible that he would protect his beloved daughter. Quite predictably, Clayton's determined efforts to honor that oath have more convolutions than the Rocky Mountains as the story races to its inevitable conclusion. The question is never what will happen, but rather, how it will unfold. With exceptions noted below, Gray manages the story process well, giving important insights into human character; for example, helping readers understand how, even with the best intentions, lies may pop unbidden from lips and persist across the yearning to come clean.

The Christian element of this book is smoothly handled. It's present enough to be a constant reminder without sounding preachy.

Although the book kept my attention, and I read it straight through, Gray's pervasive inattention to detail was an annoying distraction. The timeline of the story is totally random and contradictory, as if Gray wrote the first thing that popped into mind as she drafted the story and never took the time to go back and make it all hang together. Other little things don't match up. For example, Clayton specifically added Vanessa's red leather diary and ivory fountain pen to the belongings he rapidly gathered as he prepared to spirit her away. The diary is never mentioned again, and when she later writes letters to Clayton, Vanessa uses her quill. Anyone looking at a map can see that nobody in a hurry would go west from Santa Fe to reach Colorado Springs, and a thirty second web search would identify the La Fonda as Santa Fe's historic landmark hotel. Why use some fictitious one? Her failure to mention key features of Santa Fe, like the plaza and Governor's palace, shows she did not bother to do her research.

Another distraction was the way Clayton's absence was handled. Granted, I am a woman trying to make sense of a man's thinking by reading an account written by a woman, but given his general sensitivity, it doesn't make sense that he would flee the way he did at a time of great vulnerability for Vanessa. Fortunately that does give occasion for some sound advice from sister Corrine, but...that comes across as contrived.

I read the Kindle edition, so can't vouch for the print version, but hundreds of missing spaces at the ends of sentences were another major distraction to me. The Kindle layout reflects directly on the publisher, but I'm disappointed the author didn't take the time to tidy up her details.

Although this story definitely has merit, it reads like a mass-production tale churned out to meet a publisher's deadline rather than a carefully crafted one. In my opinion, it does not do credit to the obvious talents of Ms. Gray.

Read an excerpt from this book on Kindle for the Web

Shelley Gray's first Amish novel, Hidden, was nominated for the Inspirational Readers Choice award. Her book Simple Gifts won the Reviewers Choice award. A native of Texas, she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in Colorado, and taught school for ten years. She lives in southern Ohio where she writes full time. Visit her website.

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