Inspirational/Christian romances are not ones that I normally seek out for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is most definitely how freaking difficult it is to find GOOD ones. And by good ones, I mean stories that are actual STORIES, not thinly disguised moral lessons that sacrifice every element of good storytelling to get the author’s message across.
But the thing is, I want to find good ones. I like reading stories where faith plays a central role in the characters’ lives (see: Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph), and I have friends and family members constantly asking me for recommendations in this genre.
So when I saw Against the Tide nominated for a RITA (it ended up winning the RITA for Inspirational Romance), and read a glowing review for it on Smart Bitches (which is seriously my go-to site for romance novel reviews), and then saw it on sale for 99 cents, I bought it without a second thought.
Well, it fell solidly in the middle of the road for me. There were parts I liked and parts I didn’t, which ultimately culminated in a “meh” feeling for me overall. However, as far as Christian romances go, it was one of the better ones, in a large part because the author never forgot she was telling a story.
And really, it’s a good story. Lydia is a translator for the Navy in Boston in the late 1800s, a job she’s held for four years. After a childhood of uncertainty and fearfulness, she has job security and a home she loves, and she is not willing to let either go after she’s worked so hard for them. So when she must come up with several hundred dollars in order to purchase her apartment, she’s looking everywhere for translation work to supplement her income.
Enter Alexander “Bane” Banebridge, a young man who’s friends with the admiral that employs Lydia. He’s a bit of a scoundrel and he drives Lydia nuts, but it just so happens that Bane needs a translator for a number of documents, and he’s more than willing to pay for it.
As Lydia translates more and more of his odd requests, though, she starts to get suspicious as to what Bane really wants. And when she finds out, Lydia gets pulled into a fight she never expected, one that ends up testing every one of her personal limits.
Lydia’s personal arc was easily my favorite part of the entire story. I loved how she was forced to choose between what was legal and what was morally right, how she handled herself in the face of losing everything.
She had a tremendous amount of courage, something that wasn’t apparent even to her at the very beginning of the story, and watching her discover just how deep that ran was a joy to read.
I adored her as a character, and I loved seeing everything she overcame during the course of the story.
It was also nice to read a Christian romance that didn’t hammer you over the head with the religious aspect. Overall, I thought it was handled very well and very naturally.
My one real complaint on that front was that there was only one line near the end where Lydia mentioned she’d been reading the Bible. Given everything that had happened to her over the previous half of the book, I wished we’d been shown a little more of that: another mention of her reading or her thinking about the Bible or something, just to give the hint that it truly was something she was interested in.
However, I ran into problems with the romance itself. Bane came across as a bit too “the ends justify the means” for me, especially at the beginning and especially as a Christian character. He was trying to make up for his past, certainly, but at times it felt like he had just swung from one end of the spectrum to the other, and I didn’t care for the extremism.
He WAS fun to watch with Lydia, how he taunted her and teased her and ultimately opened up to her. I just wish we’d had a better sense of his limits in other things.
It also didn’t help that the pivotal moment in their romance–the moment when Lydia decides that she’s going to pursue Bane in a romantic way–was in Bane’s point of view. We don’t find out what Lydia’s decided until the next scene, so it’s only a brief few lines about her decision instead of the thought process that LED to that decision. It frustrated me, because that’s such an important moment to see in a relationship.
There was one other things that grated on me, but as it was near the end, I’ll mark it for spoilers. Highlight to read:
What I disliked here was that, at the end, Bane set himself up as the one Lydia needed to have faith in: the one who would be her lighthouse, who would never let her down, etc. And…no. He’s human, humans screw up, and one of the points of Christian romances is that faith in God is vital and should be number one for both parties. That’s not what I got from this, and that annoyed me.
So in the end, Against the Tide was all right, but didn’t have the emotional connection I was looking for to make it great. A decent read, if you’re looking for an inspirational romance, and I loved the heroine’s journey, but as a romance itself, it just felt squarely mediocre to me.