A Passion Denied
Written By Julie Lessman
Reviewed By Donald James Parker
Julie Lessman is a master (or should I use the term mistress) of taking her readers on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Her characters, despite the fact she has so many of them involved in the story, come alive as real people and not caricatures gilded with religious veneer. The extended Connor family members are normally admirable but not flawless people. They try to cling to God, but the common struggles all humans must deal with in the areas of pride and passion never stray far from their door. The exposé of pride and its damaging effects is one of the highlights of this book. I would hazard a guess that pride has killed more marriages than lust. Julie does a great job of convincing her readers that if they want precious love to last, pride must be laid aside so the spouse can come astride and peace can abide. (Sorry, I just had a poetic moment). At times I was provoked enough to want to slap one of the characters on the side of the head and tell them to wake up and smell the Irish coffee. I had to keep telling myself, this is just a book.
This is not a lightweight work in more than one regard (it contains nearly 500 pages). Most of the action involves some aspect of romance, even among the married couples. This is not erotica, but the mention of sexual arousal and foreplay is not an infrequent visitor to the plotline. This book will not be confused with a Janette Oke story. I think it is healthy for Christians to acknowledge that they are human and have sexual appetites. This book might contain an excess of the sexual passion aspect, but the lesson is well delivered – sexual passion without God’s love is a recipe for disaster. Decisions based on the heat of moment may freeze the blood in the future. So despite being prominent throughout the story, passion is not enthroned here. A wealth of scriptural references provide a counterbalance to the passion pitting desire to please oneself against desire to please God. Much of the conflict in the story arises within the characters dealing with this internal tug of war. Another cute element of conflict was the relationship between almost eleven-year-old Katie and a street Urchin named Cluny, a young teenager befriended by Brady. Katie’s precocious comments massaged my funny bone.
The author seemed to take pains to spice up the story by introducing elements of the society in this timeframe. Thoroughly Modern Millie came to my mind as Lizzie’s haircut was described in the beginning of the story. Ironically, the character pushing Beth to embrace modernism with her stylish new name of Lizzie and hairdo was named Millie. Things like Keds, toasters, Saltines, and basketball hoops made cameo appearances. I actually did some research to make sure the copy editor didn’t mess up here and checked on a few dates to make sure they were around in 1922.
Julie even managed to smuggle in the dreaded submission clause from Ephesians. Her take on it was interesting: submission = respect. Men want to be respected above all else, and if they receive that precious commodity, they are able to cherish their wives, which is what women desire above all else. I’ll buy that into philosophy though that is on the simplistic side of things. I had the audacity to include my interpretation of that passage in one of my books. One aspect of the spiritual tangent that I found perhaps out of tune with reality was the combination of Evangelical Christian jargon with Catholicism. I was raised as a Catholic in the 1950’s and 60’s. Perhaps we were behind the times in South Dakota, but Bible reading seemed to be something that was still the realm of the clergy at that time. I am aware the church has changed a lot since then.
There was a little mystique included which allows the romantic sleuths to engage their deductive reasoning. We’re allowed to know that John Brady has a problem in his past and are given snitches of information to let us guess at what it is. That secret really drives the story since it seems to prevent John from letting himself accept Lizzie as a woman instead of just as a sister. Julie uses just enough hinting to give us insight, but not enough to totally solve the mystery. I had most of it figured out, but there were some surprising twists in the end that left me applauding the author. I suggest you get a copy and find out for yourself, unless you’re afraid of emotional roller coasters.
About the reviewer: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Madison, South Dakota. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com?tcp