Happy New Year, one and all. As many remember, I spent the latter part of 2011 unable to read due to recovery, focus-blocks borne of illness and a mental listlessness that preyed on the part of my mind usually reserved for gulping large chunks of book at record speed.
Fortunately, over the past two weeks, I have been blessed to fully regain these faculties and I have been reading, reading, reading like it was oxygen and I couldn't factor without it.
Save the Date is a spirited and charming romantic comedy expertly penned by a strong author who knows exactly how to work into putty the wants of her light-fare-required readership. Lucy Wiltshire runs a home for girls who are out of the foster system, yet not old enough (or loved enough) to start making it on their own. Saving Grace has recently lost one its biggest financial supporters and Lucy is afeared that the calling she has in beautiful Charleston is slipping through her fingers. At a black tie benefit, she begs numerous wealthy families, congressmen and celebrities at a last ditch effort to save the thirteen girls living in the home she considers her family. Alex Sinclair, former football star, all-around Playboy and congress-hopeful is the last person she expects to find a reprieve from. After all, he was terrible to her in high school and is the exact opposite of the stable Christian man she has dreamed off.
Ironically, Alex has a solution. Knowing that the polls show sliding ratings when he is caught in his usual romantically-haphazard style, he proposes that Lucy pose as his girlfriend and eventual fiancee until he gets a more stable footing and wins the election. In return, he will provide her with all the money she needs to save her girls. Two people who cannot stand each other are suddenly forced to act head-over-heels in love. It's rather funny and cute and surprising how in love they finally find themselves.
While on the surface this is a predictable romantic comedy, with spurts of originality ( I liked Lucy's Hobbits group ---dedicated to all things Sci Fi and wont to spend marathons of Battlestar Galactic-y goodness as well as Lucy's rekindling a relationship with a long, lost Grandmother and her flamboyant secretary, Julian), the themes of acceptance and self-image away from the destructive hatred and lies of Satan and borne of God's grace is poignantly woven and sternly spoken. I couldn't help but think back to Perfecting Kate: a novel which sent mixed-signals about self-accptance while promoting change and image-obsession in its wayward heroine. Lucy's experience is borne of the same afflicting helplessness and feelings of worthlessness; but treated in a much stronger manner and resisting the temptation to turn into a make-over novel. With God's help, Lucy and Alex's relationship becomes perfect and whole within its frailty and emptiness. It is the parts lacking in both that meld the perfect sum.
Using the spirited youth pastor, Chuck, as a vessel, Jones does well in exploiting the scripture in a meaningful and powerful way. As the girls in Saving Grace must learn that their lives are worthy of God's love, away from the rejection and helplessness of the past, so Lucy must learn that she is worthy of love and Alex that the guilt he has long held can be dissolved at the foot of the cross.
This is a surprisingly Christian novel: Christian in the sense that Jones does not shy away from preaching what readers need to hear. Indeed, her demographic of young women (not unlike myself) who struggle with the easy rejection and worthlessness our society and media tries so hard to make us feel, will find a deeper experience lies beyond the cute romantic story that scrapes the surface.
I was quite impressed by this novel and was delighted that it went deeper than my little romantic-loving heart projected at the first. I needed to hear that I was worthy. I needed to be reminded that darker forces would have me buy into the lies I hear as I step in front of the mirror, or assess other prettier girls at a party, or as I look over my face in the mirror of the elliptical at the gym and pit myself against the other individuals who seem stronger, fitter, prettier, more put together.
If you need reminding that God's love makes you perfect and that all He sees in you is the light He put there, then look no further than this deceptively sweet novel. It has a stronger message we could all use as we sally forth into a new year.
In fact, let's take a page from Jones' book and try to leave all of our feelings of worthlessness where Lucy leaves hers: at the foot of a makeshift cross in a youth group service.
Note: this is the first novel by Jenny B. Jones I have read; although I have followed her blog for a long time. Visit her there
Purchase Save the Date on amazon
I know the cover photo-shopping is awful; but see through it's cover--- the story is a real gem!