Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A new take on TOP FIVE

My friend Courtney tagged me in a meme which asked me to write about five things that I love.

I thought I would tweak it to reflect the subject matter of this blog.

Thus, I give you ( and ever so delightedly) five leading men I love from Christian novels.

These are my top five, so to speak and I hope you enjoy reading about them ....and will be inspired to hunt down the excellent books they live in.

1.) Neil MacNeill from Christy (Catherine Marshall)

has this book EVER been published with a good cover?

Dr. Neil MacNeill is a fiery Scotsman who sacrificed a prestigious city medical career to serve his mountain people in Cutter Gap ( the small populus ensconced in the Great Smokies of Tennessee).

Neil is a little bit different than numerous Christian heroes because he begins the book as an agnostic. He has a lineage tracing back to Bonnie Prince Charlie and a fiery temper to match his heritage. He is a skilled and brilliant doctor who is seemingly well ahead of the game dappling with groundbreaking cures ( for diseases like trachoma) while having some of the most rudimentary resources at his disposal. It is funny to see him as a suitable match for the coming-of-age schoolteacher Christy Huddleston, but they share a similar passion for the people and a desire to see more in the region than anyone in the "outside" world ever will. This not only solidifies their relationship ( even if it is interspersed with some incredibly verbal battles), it helps Christy grow into the strong and independent woman she is to become...all the while turning Neil back to faith.

(note: they made a rather horrific family television series which diluded all of the serious subject matter of the powerful book. But they did one thing right. They gave Neil MacNeill a pension for opera and flyfishing. I thought this was a poignant touch and very much in character: delineating him from the mountain people he was descended from while sewing a common thread to Christy's cultural background in upscale Ashville).

2.) John Murphy Vienna Prelude (Bodie Thoene)

I think I can safely say that John Murphy was my first fictional crush. I had turned 12 when I read Vienna Prelude for the first time ( I have read it every year since at Christmas time) and I immediately fell under the spell of this brash, quick-witted New York Times reporter. I first fell for him when he was saving Theo Lindheim and his beautiful violinist daughter from a Nazi interrogation at a Berlin train station. Murphy snappingly responded to a mousy Gestapo's "Heil Hitler" with a quick "Twenty Three Skidoo". Some things just don't translate.

Not a spineless, mopey lover, Murphy pursues Elisa doggedly---even accepts her proposal of an arranged marriage , crashes a Kosher Zionist party with ham as a gift, and buys a multitude of symphony tickets in a seat and row which directly align with her chair in the orchestra section. In later novels in the series (The Zion Covenant) , Thoene tells us that John Murphy resembles Jimmy Stewart. Sign me up! Like Neil MacNeill, Murphy does not begin the novel as a Christian allowing the reader to be ministered through those who minister and challenge him.

3.) Silas McClure A Proper Pursuit (Lynn Austin)

I'm reticent to reveal the delicious secret surrounding Silas in case you have yet to read the novel ( please go get it now ). Suffice it to say, Silas is one of my all time favourite leading men. Sort of Harold Hill ( think the charm of the Music Man) without the sly ulterior motives. Silas is an elixir salesman: a drummer clad in saddle shoes and bright suits with stunning blue eyes and a candleabra smile. Silas is light-hearted, adventurous and funny with a fire crackery "gee whillicker" boyish charm. He provides heroine Violet Hayes with a taste of the penny novel adventures she longs for, takes her up Mr. Ferris' Wheel at the Chicago World's Fair and engages in bouts of a "would you rather" game." He is also one half of the most tingly, joyous kissing scenes I have ever read.

One thing I am learning as I read more Austin is that her best heroes have a tendency to see more in the heroines than they do in themselves. This has always been a romantic trait for me. Well-done Silas! And he's a Christian! Praise the Lord. I wish I could bring him home to meet my mother.

4.) Phineas Snowe All the Tea in China (Jane Orcutt)

What I like most about Phineas is that he is part of the reason Orcutt's novel strays from falling into convention. He is sneaky and not always truthful but he treats sword-wielding wordsmith Isabella as an equal. Phineas doesn't shy away from teaching Isabella the finest of Chinese combat and legend and martial arts. Further, he engages in many a match of witty repartee with Isabella which adds to the novel's sheer brilliant, diamondy dialogue. He's not who he seems but he is a lot of fun and gives a fresh and unexpected twist to a taut and tantalizing Regency adventure.

I think I knew from the first scene ( which plays like something out of a Jane Austen drawing room with a careful match of well-strung words) that he and Isabella would provide me with hours... meaning pages... of blissful entertainment.

5.)Wynn Delaney The Canadian West series (Janette Oke)

Who doesn't love a man in uniform? Face it, these books may have as much depth as a tea spoon but they are classic. In a wonderful twist relating to her subject matter, Oke is very much a pioneer in the genre: paving the way for other Christian novelists as Wynn and Elizabeth were part of the mass settlement in the Canadian West.

Well, I AM biased. As a Canadian, I have a soft spot for the tales about a gorgeous, steadfast mountie of impeccable character whisking a courageous and refined schoolteacher to a remote post in the Canadian West. The scenery is beautiful ( and not just Wynn in scarlet) and the episodic events create inspiring terrain for Christian values and morals. I also really enjoy the close proximity of the Delaneys to the First Nations. We learn a lot about a rich and beautiful cultural heritage.

Honourable mention:

John Falconer Heirs of Acadia series (T.Davis Bunn)

I read the entire series for this former slavetrader whose dark, redemptive journey challenged and compelled me. I think Falconer is one of the most dimensional Christian heroes in years. I strongly recommend these books for those who hanker after solid character pieces.

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