My dad passed on his copy of The Princes of Ireland to me after reading and enjoying it. It took me awhile to get into it. I haven’t read an Edward Rutherfurd novel since his first big geographically-based blockbuster, Sarum. I didn’t dislike Sarum, but I also had no desire to reread it. When I started reading The Princes of Ireland I understood my reluctance.
The problem I have with Edward Rutherfurd is that his novels cover a vast period of time, set in a single geographical location. This is, admittedly, a pretty cool concept and he does it well. My problem is that just as I’m getting involved with the characters in a particular time period, that story ends and I’m whisked forward 250 years to another period, where all the characters I just got to know are long dead and I have to re-acquaint myself with a new bunch.
Not being normally a romance reader, I started picking up “inspirational romance” novels a few months ago in the name of market research — because I had a story I wanted to write that seemed it would fit better into that category than any other. Of all the inspirational romances I’ve read during this “market research” phase, I think Robin Lee Hatcher’s Catching Katie is the one I’ve enjoyed most, purely as a good read.
Like many people who don’t read a lot of romance, I have had my share of quibbles and even snootiness about the genre. Yes, it’s forumlaic, it’s light, it’s not “literary fiction,” it’s easy to read and rarely challenges the reader. It’s genre fiction and it conforms to the rules of its genre, which is what genre readers expect. I don’t think I could make a steady reading diet of only romances, inspirational or otherwise, but if they were all like Catching Katie I could certainly enjoy a few sprinkled among the more “serious” literary fare … kind of like putting chocolate chips in your Bran Flakes (which I have seriously considered doing, if only I thought the kids wouldn’t catch me!)
The heroine of Catching Katie is, of course, Katie, a young suffragette coming home to rural Idaho in 1916, after years away at college and in the big city, shocking the locals with her progressive ideas and winning the heart of the local newspaper editor even though she has sworn never to marry because she is devoted to The Cause. I will admit that reading the back-cover blurb on this novel both intrigued me and gave me some trepidation. Anti-feminist rhetoric is so common in many conservative evangelical circles today that I was afraid Katie’s suffragist ideals would be treated with condescension or outright disapproval. (Had I taken the time to read the dedication to the author’s grandmother, my fears would have been put to rest).
I think most people know that I’m a big fan of good Biblical fiction , since I write it myself. Zipporah is the second volume of Marek Halter’s “Canaan trilogy” and focuses on an intriguing minor character almost buried in the Biblical footnotes — Moses’ wife Zipporah, who is described both as the daughter of Midianite priest, and also as a Cushite (African). One of the interesting things Halter does is come up with a plausible backstory that explains how Zipporah can be both of these things, which otherwise seems a little unlikely (some commentators suggest Moses married twice, and the second wife was the Cushite; others think the author/editors of Exodus got the story mixed up).
Due to the Sabbath afternoon movie choices of my children, I have sat through numerous watchings of both the Charlton Heston Ten Commandments and Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt, both movies which make the courtship of Moses and Zipporah a central part of their tale. This novel focuses entirely on that relationship, creating a vivid cast of characters from Zipporah’s Midianite family and Moses’ Hebrew family, who don’t like or accept the foreign wife when they finally meet her (that’s based on a passage in Numbers 12 where Aaron and Miriam mock Moses for his choice of wife).