Review: Giving readers a clever plot is half the battle in fiction. Veteran author, Karen Witemeyer does just that in her latest rip-roaring “western,” Stealing the Preacher. Narrating the story of yet another one of the popular, good-looking Archer brothers, Crockett is the man of the hour and the red-headed Texan Joanna Robbins is the girl who captures his fancy. The pair meet when he is literally trussed up like a calf at the fair, which begs the question, what could be cuter than that for a first meeting? It’s got some flair and makes us curious what will come of the relationship between Joanna and Crockett. Beyond that, I cannot say that this novel will be high on my favorites list – and at the risk of sounding cliché, allow me to clarify… this is me, not the author.
Karen is practiced in her genre and she has a wonderful fan base. Personally, I’ve fallen away from “western fiction” and no matter how many times I convince myself to again try one, the result is always the same. Early on in the book, the lethargic pace did nothing to appeal to me and I felt as if I were forcing myself to turn each page, plodding along in the Texas town without being really excited about anything. There was too much said and not enough “action.” Because of Crockett’s vocation, there was a lot of sermonizing that didn’t ever seem to hit its mark or further the story which was ultimately to heal the broken spirit of Joanna’s father resulting from a reeling experience with a pious man, leaving any man who preaches in bad standing with Silas Robbins. What I did thoroughly enjoy about this book was that both protagonists were solid in their faith. This seems a given considering Crockett is a man of faith but it was far more than just that. He and Joanna both seemed to live their beliefs; it wasn’t just a way of life, it was the only way to live. That was a refreshing premise given that it’s normally one of the two (the leading couple) who is resisting any form of faith. Bookending that is a charming father-daughter relationship that made me smile, feeling comfortable warmth in their relationship that is not always so easily expressed.
Cons: Concluding on an exciting high is something stories almost always undertake however this one wasn’t well played. There were three events marking the end of ‘Preacher’ and instead of cumulating only to encourage the reader to turn page after page, it seemed to work against every play, creating friction instead of excitement and then that final “parade” to the swimming hole should have been omitted in my humble opinion.
This is being nitpicky but Crockett winks… a lot. So much so that he wore me out.
Conclusion: Any reader who appreciates untamed frontiers in the “old west,” has previously enjoyed Karen’s writing and likes a hero with a twinkle in his eye who is willing to go the extra mile for the woman whom he cherishes won’t be let down by Stealing the Preacher; the protagonists have interesting passions (a pastor with a knowledge of medicine and a heroine who rides as well as she paints) and no matter how rushed their romance seemed, they were cute together. In the end, it has a premise that goes the extra mile and that’s important to any story.
Coming Next: Not Available…
Synopsis: On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.
For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?
With thanks to Litfuse and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes