The more I read of any particular genre of literature, the pickier I become about it. And two types that I have read my fair share of are Historical Fiction and Christian Romance. So my standards are high in those genres, particularly because the publishing standards seem to be extraordinarily low. "Thorn in My Heart," which falls into both genres, is therefore under heavy scrutiny.
The verdict? Keep reading.
"Thorn in My Heart" is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, set in the 18th Century Lowlands of Scotland. Author Liz Curtis Higgs uses this format to have(from her website) "the freedom to explore all the “whys” and “what ifs” of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah’s stories without tampering with the Word of God. I also wanted to demonstrate that the stories in the Bible are so powerful they can be framed in any time or place—sixth-century Italy, eleventh-century France, or eighteenth-century Scotland—and the glory of God’s truth will shine through."
And shine through it does. In the pages of this book and the three sequels, Jamie McKie, and Rose and Leana McBride struggle with deep questions of faith, love and loyalty in honest, realistic and thought-provoking ways. All three of them, like their biblical counterparts, are deeply flawed individuals. They have their secrets, temptations and failings but also their virtues, struggles and redemption's.
And the story is all the more heart wrenching because the love triangle involves two deeply devoted sisters. It explores the question- how do you continue to love your sister when she has stolen the man you love? How do you balance your own desires, and the loyalty you owe her? Eros vs. Philia?
The characters are strikingly three dimensional, which is part of what makes this series so endearing. Not always lovable, yet no matter what the situation, one is always able to empathize with one of them.
And the situation is a tough one. I'll tell you right now that Higgs follows the biblical story pretty closely. And it's a masterful twist how she manages to pull off Jamie marrying both sisters legally - that is, without committing bigamy. She accomplishes this by using the tools of historical fiction to her advantage. The laws of 18th century Scotland fit the needs of the plot surprisingly well.
On that note, the historical aspect of the series is nearly faultless. Extraordinary research shines through the pages, but is presented with life and resonance, not dreariness. And if you take the time to read it, you'll find yourself sprinkling your words abundantly with Scottish words and dialect. Och, and guid fun it tis!
So, the verdict? "Thorn in My Heart" and its sequels pass my expectations for Historical, Romance and Christian fiction with flying colors. I heartily recommend them to my fellow lovers of these genres.
One word of caution to my younger readers. This series, though Godly and delicate, is directed towards an adult audience. There are matters discussed which are not necessarily suitable for the under 18 crowd of most conservative homeschooling circles. I read one of them and enjoyed it when I was 16, but overall I would not recommend the series to an under 18-year-old. Every family is different however, and if in doubt, go ahead and ask your mum to read it first. She'll probably thank you for the good read.