Love's Enduring Promise (by Janette Oke)

After reading a fast-paced book about high finance, power struggles and adultery, I thought I'd relax with something completely different. So I picked up a book by Janette Oke. I first came across this Canadian Christian writer about fifteen years ago on the recommendation of a friend. Janette Oke writes light historical romantic novels, with a low-key Christian emphasis. They're really intended to be for younger teenagers, or so it seems - the plots are straightforward, and the language relatively simple. But then I frequently enjoy books for teens!

'Love's enduring promise' is the second in the 'Love Comes Softly' series of eight novels, and is one I was given some months ago by a friend who was moving away. The first in the series ('Love Comes Softly') is probably the first book I ever read by Janette Oke; even fifteen years later I can roughly remember the plot. Marty and Clark are both pioneers, and both lose their spouses. Clark has a baby daughter, Missie, and needs a wife; Marty is destitute, and so agrees to look after Missie. They get married for the sake of convenience, and gradually fall in love.

I don't remember if I read any others in the series; certainly I had no memory of this one. It covers about fifteen years in Marty and Clark's life; from the time when Missie is nearly five until she is grown up. Marty and Clark have other children, and adopt two older girls. They take part in community activities, interact with their neighbours, and help to build a new schoolhouse where their children will be educated.

It doesn't sound very exciting, but somehow it's quite moving. There's such a long time-frame to a short novel (only just over 200 pages) that it's impossible to get to know any of the characters in any depth, but it all seems believable. The story is told mainly from Marty's viewpoint, although in the third person so we never really get inside her skin. But we do learn about her hopes and fears, her worries, and the way she deals with her grumbles and learns to be more contented.

The Christian input is pretty low-key; God is part of the family life, but there's no preaching or heavy gospel input. This is Christian fiction as it should be, in my view - following the lives of ordinary people who love God and want to live for him.

It's also a good piece of social history, for anyone not familiar with the times of the early pioneers in the USA, and I was surprised how hard it was to put down once I had started.

All in all, I'd recommend it for anyone wanting a light read requiring almost no thought. Published in 1980, but - perhaps surprisingly - still in print in both the UK and USA.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 2nd October 2008

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