Thursday, June 21, 2012
Review: Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones
Save the Date
By: Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
About the book:
You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year with the most unlikely bride and groom.
Save the date...and say your prayers.
When the funding for Lucy's non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair, former professional football star and heir to Sinclair Enterprises -- the primary donor to Lucy's non-profit organization.
Both Lucy and Alex have something the other desperately wants.
Alex has it all...except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancee in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn't quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart -- and her future -- on the line.
Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams...and maybe even a date.
Lucy Whiltshire returned to Charleston determined to make a difference, founding Saving Grace, a home for girls who've graduated from the foster care system but are not yet equipped or unable to make the transition to adulthood and caring for themselves. She's determined to prove to the society blue-bloods that rejected and marginalized her during her own teenage years that she and the girls she's desperate to save are more than the sum of their antecedents. But when funding for her non-profit is unceremoniously pulled, Lucy stands in danger of failing her girls and joining them on the streets. Desperation drives her into the arms of Alex Sinclair, heir to the very firm that pulled her financial support and one of the Charleston blue-bloods that excelled at making Lucy feel so very inferior as a teen. Locked in a heated Congressional race, Alex desperately needs to shake his former playboy image if he hopes to win over voters -- and a relationship with Lucy might just do the trick. He makes a shocking proposal -- in exchange for posing as his girlfriend and eventual fiancee, he'll provide Lucy with the money she needs to save her girls home. Despite his movie star-looks, Alex couldn't be farther from Lucy's romantic ideal -- but with the future of her girls on the line, she agrees to play the doting girlfriend. With both their futures riding on a romantic con, under the glare of a media spotlight two individuals who can't stand each other confront the truth that there's more to each other than first meets the eye -- and the irresistible sparks that fly when opposites attract.
Save the Date is without a doubt one of the best romance novels I've read in ages -- it marries all of the comfortable trappings of a romantic comedy with unexpectedly, well-meted powerful moments of spiritual truth. I've long been a fan of the author's blog, where one can appreciate her well-drawn sense of humor and wit, but I've yet to dive into her novels -- an error I hope to soon rectify. Save the Date is replete with Jones's trademark humor and pop culture references. Despite their disparate backgrounds, Alex and Lucy prove worthy sparring partners -- Lucy, sure in her certainty that Alex is nothing more than a pretty face who could never forsake his playboy-ways, while for his part Alex quickly learns to love baiting his fake fiancee, enjoying her easily-riled temper. But beneath their surface differences and wildly disparate upbringings, Lucy and Alex discover in each other a fellow wounded soul in desperate need of grace. While the arrangement Alex proposes is at first blush extreme, and worthy of the lightest-weight Hollywood blockbuster, the manner in which Jones uses the tropes of an arranged marriage (in this case, fake engagement) to force her two protagonists together masks the real heart of the novel -- accepting God's freely-given grace.
I love it when God brings a book across my path that reinforces current experiences and/or study -- and in this case I was powerfully struck by Lucy and Alex's respective spiritual arcs and how they related to my pastor's recent sermon on "living declared," secure in the knowledge that as believers God looks at us and sees beloved children, instead of constantly focusing on where we fail. Though the life experiences that formed Alex and Lucy couldn't be more different -- Alex, the son of privilege and money, Lucy, the daughter of a struggling single mom -- both have bought into what I would posit is one of the most insidious lies -- that no matter who you are, what you do, where you've come from, it's never enough. In what is probably one of the best examples of incorporating a faith message into a novel that I've come across, Lucy's out-going youth pastor friend Chuck lays bare the lie that salvation, God's grace, must be earned over and over. In a society that idolizes perfection, Jones strips the lie that we must live burdened by pasts filled with fear and regret, when all that is required is accepting God's grace, freely offered, and resting in the knowledge that in Him alone are we made perfect.
Lucy and Alex's unexpected love story is just part of this novel's considerable charm. I adored watching Alex and Lucy fall for each other -- Jones pens some lovely, sizzling moments of romantic tension! But she also peoples her storyline with a host of unforgettable, amusing, well-drawn supporting players. I loved that Lucy was a sci-fi geek who had regular meetings with like-minded friends (a.k.a. "The Hobbits") who shared her love of all things Star Trek and Doctor Who-related. Lucy's prickly, recently discovered grandmother Claire is a gem, and Claire's fledgling faith coupled with her secretary Julian's sarcastic commentary provide some of the novel's best moments.
Save the Date is a laugh-out-loud, frothy, warm-hearted confection of a novel that packs an unexpected emotional punch. Filled with unforgettable, wonderfully flawed characters, Jones proves she's a master at spinning a thoroughly enjoyable, escapist romance laced with spiritual truths. Very well done.