9 November 2015

Review: A Reason to Stay by Kellie Coates Gilbert

Not my idea of a "hero"

While A Reason to Stay is the third in the Texas Gold series, it’s a standalone novel. I’ve read the first in series, and I don’t recall any similar characters, although there are certainly similarities in location (Texas), structure, and theme.

The structure is unusual: it starts in the present, with news anchor Faith Marin reporting from Johnson Space Centre when a tragedy occurs and she ends up in hospital, where we find she’s having problems in her marriage. We then flash back to the beginning of her career, and her meeting with and marrying Geary Marin.

This back-and-forward technique worked well for me in the first book in the series, A Woman of Fortune, as I was hooked on both the present and the past plots and anxious to know how the perfect past had imploded and led to the imperfect present. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy that aspect of Here to Stay nearly as much, because I didn’t like the back story.

Specifically, I didn’t like Geary, which is a big oops in a book where a major part of the plot is restoring the broken marriage relationship. I didn’t like his complete inability to communicate (although that at least seemed true to life, unlike most fictional heroes!). I didn’t like his attitude that his family was normal and always right, and that Faith had to fit in with them. I didn’t like his attitudes towards Faith’s job—it wasn’t as though she’d changed jobs, and he actually met her while she was at work so his before-and-after attitudes seemed inconsistent to me, and which, frankly, reeked of 1950’s male chauvinism. It’s not that his beliefs were wrong, more that he expected Faith to agree with him simply because he was the man. A real man communicates, and is willing to admit that he might not know everything. I also didn't like the fact that his relationship with Faith was focused so much on the physical. One scene in this regard left a sour taste in my mouth, and reinforced my view of him as being more interested in his own 'needs' than in Faith.

And I found it incomprehensible that a man who was a Christian would marry a woman who wasn’t. Well, I assume he was a Christian. His father was a pastor and he attended church, and seemed to expect Faith to act like the church women he knew, despite knowing it was completely foreign to her. This made no sense, and as a result I blame Geary for most of their marriage problems: he’s the one who grew up in a Christian home, the child of a solid Christ-based marriage.

He’s the one who had the good example, yet he didn’t follow the advice his father gave him. He’s the one who told Faith a successful career would never fill the hole inside her, but never told her about Jesus. Instead, he implied she should give up work and have a baby, that staying home and raising children would fill the gap. Babies are wonderful, but bringing a baby into a marriage with fundamental issues is a recipe for disaster. Fail, Geary. Fail.

I’m not saying Faith didn’t have faults. She did. A lot. But she had a broken upbringing and was trying to rise above it the best way she knew how, in a world where she had learned professional and financial success were the only successes which count. It was Geary’s responsibility—as a Christian and as her husband—to show her the way by showing her The Way.

It’s hard to rate Here to Stay. The writing was strong. The theme of restoring from brokenness was excellent. The plot was fine. The supporting characters were infuriating—not necessarily a bad thing. But I didn’t like Geary, and that made it hard to want him and Faith to be together. Overall, while there are many reasons to commend A Reason to Stay, I didn't enjoy the novel.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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