Friday, April 2, 2010

Greater Love by Robert Whitlow

book cover

Greater Love
by Robert Whitlow

Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
The Tides of Truth series follows one lawyer's passionate pursuit of truth--in matters of life and the law.

As the storm clouds gather, Tami does her best to weather the growing turbulence in every area of her life.

She can't decide if she should take a job with a large law firm or a smaller one. Which will best let her serve God through her law practice? And she's committed to courting one man to see if they're suited to each other, but she's increasingly attracted to another man who loves her. She's no longer sure she's made the right decision. How can she determine which one is right for her?

And Tami's new case is anything but simple. When she first meets her prospective client, she immediately knows the rough young teen is lying, guilty...and utterly terrified of something beyond the charges she's facing. What she doesn't realize is just how far reaching the effects of the case will go. Or how close to home the deadly results will hit. For by the time the storm breaks, someone close to Tami will have paid the ultimate price.

Through it all, Tami will experience greater sacrifice, greater friendship, and greater love than she's ever known.

Greater Love is Christian legal fiction and is the third book in the series. I strongly suspect that people who have read the first two novels will find this a more emotionally satisfying book than those of us who haven't. By this novel, the two guys who want to marry her have already done their heroics that gained her affection and things were pretty bland in their interactions. The heat level was something like 0.5 out of 10. Also, since Tami otherwise kept to her highly conservative upbringing, her willingness to go to a very different church with a woman preacher and follow her advice like it was infallible doesn't quite make sense without reading the previous novels where they met. So start with Deeper Waters if the series sounds interesting.

While there were moments of suspense, the main focus of this novel was Tami's decisions about which firm to work for after passing the bar and which of two very nice but very different guys she should marry. So the pacing was more along the lines of a general fiction rather than a suspense novel.

The world-building for the setting and overall ambiance of the lawyer's trade was excellent. I had expected more details of the day-to-day work involved in being a lawyer since the author is a practicing attorney, but any details not directly related to the Jessie case were hardly mentioned.

The characters were varied and interesting and a somewhat odd group. I liked Jessie a lot. Tami was a very earnest, talented, want-to-do-what's-right person. These traits sometimes made her indecisive and surprisingly willing to do whatever the most convincing person told her was the right thing to do. Also, I should note that while she grew up in a very, very conservative household and church, she never looked down on others for doing things differently.

While definitely a Christian novel, it wasn't preachy. The characters' faith simply played out in their everyday decisions. Tami frequently prayed (usually "she prayed" rather than actual words to the prayers). She expected God to clearly tell her what to do in the big situations (like in picking a job or a husband). It kind of bothered me that she went against God-given common sense and a lot of good, sound advice to follow the "word from God" for her by a prophetess friend. I was a bit surprised by her willingness to let others "hear God" and make decisions for her rather than coming to peace with God herself about them.

There was one or two instances of "she cursed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading--but I'd suggest reading the first two novels in the series first.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Through the window I could see a few brown leaf stragglers clinging to limbs of an oak tree. Powell Station was in the Appalachian foothills so snow wasn’t uncommon in November, but it rarely fell until after the middle of the month. I rolled onto my side and pulled the quilt up to my chin. I was glad to be home, among my family, spending a few days in the daily routine of life.

I slipped out of bed so as not to wake the twins, Ellie and Emma. After retrieving the morning eggs, I joined Mama in the kitchen. Our diet was high in cholesterol, but there wasn’t a carton of soft drinks on our property, and honey from hives behind the garden was our favorite sweetener.

Mama and I had worked together in the kitchen from the time I was old enough to be trusted at the stove until I left for college. When I returned home, familiar patterns returned without effort and we moved about efficiently without getting in each other’s way. I loved meal preparation. There was a sense of fulfillment in fixing hot, delicious food for the people I loved. Daddy claimed my scrambled eggs were fluffier than cotton candy at the county fair.

Daddy and Bobby came inside and washed their hands at the garden sink beside the rear door.

“It’s a glorious morning!” Daddy exclaimed to Mama. “Do you know why, Lu?”

Mama smiled. We all knew the answer.

“Because we’re here together,” Mama replied.

Daddy dried his hands and kissed me in the usual place on top of my head. He grabbed Ellie by the shoulders.

“Which one are you?” he asked, peering into her blue eyes.

“Daddy, you know!” she answered with a quick smile.

Daddy kissed her on the right cheek. Emma came up for a kiss on the left cheek. Daddy grabbed Mama and squeezed her waist.

Read more of chapter one.

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