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book coverDevon’s review of Seaside Cinderella by Anna Schmidt
Inspirational Historical Romance released by Steeple Hill Love Inspired 1 Jul 08

I’ve never read an inspirational romance before. I’ve always viewed them rather suspiciously, not because I have any issue with Christianity or Christian literature, but because I’ve read some inspirational children’s literature that was very poorly written. Especially in comparison to some of the well-written classics of children’s literature authored by Christians, which contain overt Christian themes. So I imagined that inspirational romance would sacrifice plot and character development in favor of didactic, awkwardly placed sermonizing. But I had to read Seaside Cinderella because of the setting: turn of the century New England. I was thrilled to see a romance featuring an Irish factory worker and a factory owner. It was time to get over my prejudices and try something new.

Like any romance, Seaside Cinderella had elements I liked and stuff that didn’t work so well. Let’s get the inspirational element out of the way. The Christian element felt very organic for most of the book. It seemed natural that these characters, who had lived eventful, difficult lives, would turn to prayer in times of need, and that faith would be an integral part of life. Take the heroine, Lucie McNeil. It seems a bit odd that an Irish immigrant was not a Roman Catholic, but it didn’t seem strange that Lucie–who had immigrated to Boston from impoverished beginnings, had been injured in a factory fire and was now working for an elderly couple—would turn to God for strength when troubled. He’s a good listener, no?

And Lucie has quite a dilemma. When the son of her kindly employers returns to Nantucket, Lucie recognizes him as one of the owners of the factory she used to work at. Their negligence resulted in a fire which burned her and killed two friends. She is filled with anger at the aloof Gabriel Hunter, which is exacerbated by his rude treatment. Gabriel is suspicious of the stranger who has ingratiated herself with his parents so thoroughly. Much to Lucie’s dismay, the tension between them turns from deep distrust to attraction. How could she have feelings for a man who represents all that she disdains?

Lucie was an interesting heroine. She could’ve been a Mary Sue, but her fiery spirit made her less perfect, more interesting. Gabriel was a cipher. For the most part, he seemed as Lucie suspected: cold, proud, caring little for others. He loves his parents, but is rather high handed with them. As for the parents, I started out loving them, then grew to hate them. Mary and Larry Sue, too good to be true. If I had to read about how they met one more time, I thought would scream. They were worse sugar shock than that time I read Catherine Anderson.

The biggest problem with Seaside Cinderella was the pacing. The first two-thirds of the book were good, with the story and romance developing nicely. After some climactic moments, the story turned to Gabriel’s redemption and return to God. This section seemed to drag, as Lucie and Gabriel’s parents agonize over Gabriel repeatedly. The sermonizing got repetitive and heavy handed. At that point, we know Lucie and Gabriel love each other, so let’s get on with it already!

If the story had been structured differently, it wouldn’t have seemed so awkward. But overall, I enjoyed the book. I have no basis for comparison, but I suspect inspy readers will like it. I liked Lucie, and the Nantucket setting, but the book was weakened by the third act. Still, I feel I’ll be more open to trying inspys after reading this one.

Devon's Doggy SmileGrade: C+

The Summary:
The tranquillity of Nantucket Island offered poor but proud Lucie McNeil refuge, a place to dream about a better life. Her quiet existence as companion to an elderly couple was a blessing for the tragedy-haunted Irish immigrant. But all that changed when her employers’ handsome, elegantly attired son stepped ashore. For she recognized him instantly as the owner of the Boston factory where a terrible fire had scarred her forever.

She knew she should hate Gabriel Hunter, yet she could not. She found herself drawn to the caring soul she sensed behind the ruthless façade he showed the world. And she could not help dreaming that such different people— a poor servant girl and a wealthy merchant prince—might somehow make a life together.