By Iola Goulton
Good Points and Bad Points
Ex-beauty queen and pastor’s kid Stella Varland is newly divorced, and looking for a way to support herself seeing as her cheating ex doesn’t. Her pushy mother finds her a job, but it’s working with Chase Taylor—the only other guy she’s ever had feelings for, and the guy who destroyed her relationship with her sister—his girlfriend at the time.
Confused? So was I. It’s apparent we’re supposed to feel sorry for Stella because her husband cheated on her, yet Chase apparently cheated on Stella’s sister—with Stella. There are hints that it didn’t exactly go down that way, but we’re never given the story of exactly what did happen between Chase and Stella while he was dating Kat, which means they don’t convincingly resolve the issue. Suspension of disbelief.
I also had a problem with Stella’s mother, Claire, who is the antithesis of the typical fictional pastor’s wife. She’s opinionated and domineering, and appears to place more emphasis on outward appearance than anything else, which is perhaps why Stella did the beauty queen circuit for years—and why she now tries to hide her beauty, to see if she has any personal worth outside her looks. While the author tries valiantly to show, through Chase, that Stella does have worth, those efforts are blindsided by Claire. Perhaps if she’d gone through some personal character arc and changed … but she didn’t. (And a pastor’s wife who encourages her daughter to enter beauty pagents? It just felt off. More suspension of disbelief).
Love Arrives in Pieces is the sequel to All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes, although this can easily be read as a stand-alone. I read and reviewed All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes, and while I thought it was a good story, I also thought it was too long: it felt like there was only enough plot to fill a novella, and it had been stretched to novel-length with the addition of endless interior monologue.
Love Arrives in Pieces had the same problem. A conversation between the two main characters would be interrupted by a page or more of interior monologue (well, I was reading on a Kindle, so a Kindle page or more), to the point where I’d actually forgotten what the conversation was about and had to skip back to find the last line of dialogue to work it out, then skip past the interior monologue to make sense of it. Some people might like this, but I don’t. I’m all for getting to know the characters through interior monologue, but not in the middle of a conversation. Keep it to a short sentence or two in dialogue so as not to disrupt the flow of the story.
It’s a shame, because the dialogue was excellent (once I ignored the interior monologue), and the story dealt with some important spiritual issues. Unfortunately, too many pages were devoted to repetitive naval-gazing from the characters, which didn’t leave enough space to actually address what I thought were the main plot questions and themes.
Love Arrives in Pieces had potential, but didn’t deliver for me. If you’re looking for a novel that better addresses the ways in which our brokenness affects us in life and in marriage, read Married 'til Monday by Denise Hunter. And if you’re looking for a light read that touches on beauty and godliness, try Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg.
Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Betsy St. Amant at her website.
About Iola GoultonI am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Tsu.
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.