Republished from 2012: The goodness in . . . My Stubborn Heart
My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade, published by Bethany House, is my final May review for the CFBA Tour and what a way to close it out. It's a rare time, as those who follow me here know, that I can rave about a CBA romance novel. As much as I love romance, that's a sad commentary on the genre in general. However, even though My Stubborn Heart is officially a romance novel in that it follows the formula for such stories, Becky Wade has breathed fresh life into a tried - and/or tired - and true format. My Stubborn Heart touched mine.
Antique-lover Kate Donovan lives and works in social services for child placement in Dallas, Texas. Heartbreak has overridden her enthusiasm so she's grateful for the three months away she gets to spend with her grandmother in Redbud, Pennsylvania, restoring the grand old home where her "Gran" grew up. Weary of the "still-single-at 31" stigma, she wonders if God will ever provide the right man for her.
Shortly upon arrival, Gran introduces her to the contractor hired to renovate the house. Matt Jarreau has little to say, but Kate is nearly paralyzed with attraction to the guy whose eyes telegraph some kind of sorrow while his demeanor shouts "No Admittance" to his personal life. Matt determines to work alone and Kate decides she's going to penetrate that steel façade and make a friend out of him because he's a solid challenge to her stubborn heart. When she and Gran learn his history, a new perspective accompanies the information.
Kate and Gran go to work on sifting through all the decades of stuff in the house while Matt labors over each room in stony silence. When Kate "helps" him paint her attic bedroom, Matt senses she's not going to respond to his stay-away looks and parsed words. Day after day she works her way into stunted conversations with him while Gran invites him to stay for dinner every night after work, and every night he refuses until one night he accepts and berates himself for yielding right up until he's in the kitchen getting coerced cooking lessons from Gran.
Okay, we all know how it's gonna end. However, the walk-through of this relationship is at times comical, always emotional, heartbreaking, and fully entertaining. The sub-plots and peripheral characters offer clever and meaningful variety to the fleshed out Kate and Matt. With the struggles elevated by the faithful Kate and the faithless, angry Matt, we observe the depth of their individual conflicts and accumulated personal pain.
The sub-themes of what's required in faith, of worthiness, of forgiveness, of obedience - they're all there, sometimes subtle, sometimes not - but well done.
For those readers of Christian fiction who've wanted a little more reality in the language department, Becky dares to use the following words (which will no doubt raise the hackles of those readers who pass judgment on these kinds of things): boobs, balls (as in male body parts), crap, pissed. Only once for some of them and at, dare I say, the opportune moments? Really. And this from Bethany House! Ay, ay, ay. Not for shock value but for poignant moments and character-fitting verbiage. Authenticity. The way it should be done in this kind of story.
My one nit-picky criticism is the cover. I wish they would've done the top half like the bottom half just showing part of Kate's face because the cover rendition doesn't fit the girl inside the pages . . .
There's some great writing in My Stubborn Heart. Becky fluctuates between Kate's and Matt's POVs and thoughts and nails their personalities. I love the way the final conflict is resolved. The man's man that Matt is would do it this way. If you want to read a truly good romance novel with heart, skilled writing, and a Prologue and Epilogue which will remind you of the film Chocolat, My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade is the book for you. Thoroughly recommended.
Father, you know the romance you put in Becky's heart and the talent you've given her to convey it. Please continue to bless that heart and give her those love stories you've designed just for her to tell. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.