Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tamara Alexander

I’ve recently become a big fan of author Tamara Alexander. In the past few months I have read (I believe) all of her books thus far and I have been very impressed. Her stories are very well fleshed out, the characters are interesting, and very importantly, you don’t feel as though you’re reading the same story over and over again with different characters.

Her most recent novel (I think), the second in her Timber Ridge Reflections series is entitled Beyond This Moment. It is the story of Molly Whitcomb, a former professor who has lost her position at a university and is now teaching school in a small town in Colorado and trying to hide the secret that she’s afraid will cost her her job, again. James McPherson is the sheriff in the town where Molly is going to be teaching. When he saves her life early on, they forge a close friendship that James wants to turn into something more. But if that happens, the secret Molly is hiding could cost her even more than her job.

Tamara Alexander’s books are so well written, they just pull you in. Her history seems to be well researched and you just don’t want to put the books down, and at the end you’re so disappointed that it’s over and you’re reaching for the next one.

One thing that I really appreciate is the way she deals with sexual desire in her books. The topic of sexual desire is a tight rope walk for Christian Fiction writers. We want our stories to be realistic, so we want to include all of the aspect that are involved in romantic relationships. But at the same time, sexual desire is not what these stories are supposed to be about, that is what separates Inspirational Romances from other romance novels. So there needs to be a balance drawn, between these two things. As though this weren’t difficult enough, with the varying beliefs of Christians about what is or is not appropriate, the job becomes even harder.

I feel that Tamara Alexander has found this balance. She is not afraid to address the desire, but has somehow found a way to do it in a way that it isn’t even potentially offensive, but realistic. One such example takes place while Molly is sick and James is taking care of her. “The warmth moving in her eyes made him intensely aware of how alone they were, and of how desirable she was, even with her feeling poorly,” (192). We can see his desire in this passage, but only in the most respectful terms.

Another example is a couple of pages later, “Struck by an uncharacteristic measure of spontaneity, he struggled against the desire to go to her and take her in his arms. His mouth went dry at the thoughts filling his head. Thoughts that were certainly warm, but that weren’t all that ‘friendly,’ not in the sense he and Molly had agreed to be friends,” (194). This passage even deals with some of what is happening to him physically, but not in a way that is graphic or offensive.

I appreciate that she doesn’t ignore aspects as some Christian writers do. Sometimes when reading these books I find them unrealistic because the characters are acting in ways that would spark sexual desire, but there is no evidence of it anywhere in the text, which just comes across as naïve and ridiculous. But Tamara Alexander’s have enough to be realistic, without too much. They’re great.

Alexander, Tamara. Beyond This Moment. Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2009. Pp. 192, 4.

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