Has she fallen in love with a man who cannot love her back?
Elizabeth O’Connor has been like the little sister John Brady always wanted, sharing his love of literature and his thirst for God. But in the throes of the reckless Roaring Twenties, Lizzie has grown up. Suddenly she wants more from the man who has been her friend since she was a child. When this shy bookworm blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving John, she discovers that his past won’t let him return that love. But Lizzie refuses to give up – until his shocking secrets push her away.
Can true love survive the betrayal and deceit of a painful past…or will it be shattered like the fairy-tale dreams of a girl in love?
For years Beth O’Connor has filled the role of ideal little sister in John Brady’s life, her girlish admiration and pure friendship a balm to his wounded soul. Their friendship grew over a mutual love of books and shared faith, and Brady has willingly filled the role of friend and mentor, until one day he blinks – and little Beth has transformed into Lizzie, a young woman determined to capture his heart. However, Brady has a past that’s left him convinced that love and marriage are not in his future – a past he’s determined to shelter from Lizzie. But Lizzie comes from stubborn O’Connor stock and won’t give up on her dream romance just because her hero says so. When the revelation of Brady’s past rocks her world and shatters her idealistic image of the man, Lizzie must decide whether or not she can fight for the man with a past. A Passion Denied proves that a love refined in the fires of God’s grace and redemption is a gift stronger than any schoolgirl’s fantasy, stronger than the condemning weight from the guilt of one’s past. God can redeem it all – if only one will allow it.
A Passion Denied grabbed me from the start and absolutely would not let go (and considering the novel clocks in at well over 400 pages, that’s saying something!). I can relate to Lizzie in so many ways – not only because of her love of reading and dreams of romance (not to mention the fact she works in a bookshop!), but the way in which those romantic flights of fancy informed her view of Brady and what makes a “perfect man.” Ladies, you know it’s true – we’re wired to respond to romance, but if we’re not careful, the fictions of the world can skew our perspective. A human placed on a pedestal must come crashing down by virtue of the fact of his or her human failings and imperfections – but when God redeems the broken and weak, the possibilities are endless. Not only does Lizzie have some growing up to do, but Brady must learn to forgive himself and accept God’s forgiveness. This expert balance of human passion, failings, and redemption is what elevates Lessman’s writing from “just another romance novel” to a gripping story that will leave you mulling over the characters and their choices long after you read the final pages.
Lessman doesn’t limit herself to only writing about “new” romance, a fact which I absolutely love. All of the characters from the first two volumes in the series are still writing their own love stories, and the continued glimpses into their lives only add to the depth of this novel. Lessman writes about marriages both relatively new and established, and proves, unlike a lot of fiction out there, that life isn’t magically perfect and the passion doesn’t end once boy gets girl and they walk down the aisle. In fact, Lessman proves more than ever that she’s a real “drama queen” when it comes to torturing her characters. She demonstrates through her characters’ lives that life doesn’t just end perfectly with the initial “happy ending” – there are still challenges to meet and growth that must be achieved, allowing love to grow deeper with time. And this is where Lessman confirms she’s not just a master of writing compelling, pulse-pounding romance - she’s a master at writing relationships. Just because her characters may be Christians doesn’t mean they’re infallible – far from it! But there’s a solid undergirding of biblical truth and precepts that’s always abundantly clear throughout her writing – when God is your rock and the lover of your soul, all things are possible.
I cannot believe we have to wait until summer 2010 for the next book, the start of a new trilogy that will tell the stories of the youngest O’Connors. Bravo, Ms. Lessman, for another beautifully told story that places passion in a Godly context!
*Note - I know I normally don't review titles in a series out of order, but I needed to meet a deadline. :-) Reviews of A Passion Most Pure and A Passion Redeemed will follow soon!