Monday, March 12, 2012

A Study in Conflict, Character Growth, Love, Redemption & Living Christian Values

New Harmony, Iowa, 1901

Lies, Secrets, & Misunderstandings
in Small Town America
– 5-Star Christian Romance –
Inspired Reading Enjoyment! 

Love Inspired Historicals

“An Inconvenient Match is Janet Dean's most intensely psychological novel to date. It represents quite a risk on the part of the author. The story is drawn on a small canvas in the 1901 town of New Harmony, It features a small cast of characters with most of the action being internal. I don’t believe one could say that the hero has an outer journey unless it is to open a furniture shop a few blocks away. The conflict itself is risky because it is based on lies, secrets, and misunderstandings. Since this type of conflict can often be cleared-up with a genuine, heart to heart, conversation, a great many roadblocks must be placed in the way to prevent these conversations from ever taking place. 

A Town Like "Our Town"  by Thornton Wilder

“An Inconvenient Match” would make a fine three act play. In fact, it reminds me, in feel and in tone, of “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. This was a very risky play to produce at the time (1938) but it became a huge success and is now considered an American Classic. It is said that “Our Town” is always being performed somewhere in the world. 

Like “An Incovenient Match, “Our Town” takes place in small town America, 1901. Like “An Incovenient Match” the important values in the play involve traditional American ideals: Christian morality, the family and the community. There is also a celebration of the simplicity of life and the things that made people happy at that time. I’m thinking here of the town women auctioning off basket lunches to raise money for the folks who lost their homes in the great fire. Christian morality, the family and the community,  all represent universal themes that people love. These are the themes that make “An Inconvenient Match” such powerful reading.

Real Characters You'll Care About

The success of “An Inconvenient Match” depends on the reader coming to care strongly about the characters. This  caring happens  almost at once. The characters are both sympathetic and believable. They are believable because they have many faults. Even the best of them must work through many problems. Here is where the help of strong Christian values comes into play.

In New Harmony people live and practice their faith. This is done by actions and not by preaching. People struggle to do the right thing -- the Christian thing -- even when it hurts and even after they have failed before.

Driving the Success of “An Inconvenient Match” 

The ‘small canvas’ in “An Inconvenient Match” allows the reader to 'see' the characters as the central focus of the story. The location and other outside actions do not get in the way of the unfolding narrative. 

The real enjoyment comes from watching the whole town and each of the major characters grow, little by little, as they face life’s greatest problems. Sometimes faith overcomes these problems. Sometimes it does so only at great cost. 

The Conflict Runs Several Levels Deep

In the story, the major characters suffer both physical and mental wounds. This psychological damage  sometimes manifests itself in outright hostility.  While the hero’s family is at peace with the town, the town is at odds with them. The hero’s father, George Cummings, is the town banker who had to foreclose on property or face losing his bank. George is also a gruff and irritable man. He may have no friends at all in the town. 

George Cummings needs a caretaker after he is injured in the town fire. No one will take care of him because he is so unlikeable. Even his own daughter won’t care for him. His long term housekeeper and cook, Cora, (who probably is in love with him), quit because he was treating his own son, Wade, so badly. Cora didn’t want to stay around and watch it happen. 

The romance between Abby Wilson and Wade Cummings is complicated because the hero's  father foreclosed on the heroine’s family farm causing her family great pain, dislocation and perhaps even her father’s death. That George made a big profit from his actions when the rail road bought the foreclosed property, does not make him any more popular with the town. The community pretty much can't stand George and by association, his son Wade.

A Once Jilted Heroine

The heroine also has good reason to dislike Wade Cummings. Abby and Wade were once an item and Abby was lead to belive that they would marry after high school. It didn't happen. Wade went off to college back east without giving an explanation. 

Abby Wilson is now a school teacher with time on her hands in the summer. No one in town will help take care of the hero's father, George, even for good pay. The hero has far too much work to do, running all his father’s businesses, to be of much help as a caretaker either. In desperation Wade begs the heroine to take care of his father until school starts in the fall. She really needs the money.

Abby Wilon's Conflict of Interests!

The heroine is compassionate and really needs the money so she agrees to help George but she can’t tell this to her family! They would just go crazy to know that their Abby is helping the enemy -- an enemy who ‘killed’ her father.  

Resolving conflict in this book is never easy. Being Christian and doing the right thing can be very painful. All the characters struggle with this. Some not as well as others.

In the below scene from the book Abby is distrauth over what to do. She enters the church to talk to God. 

“Forgive me, Father, for not trusting You. She slid off the pew onto her knees, weeping tears she’d bottled up for years. 

When she raised her eyes, a beam of sunlight had broken through the clouds, coming through the stained-glass window behind the altar, shooing prisms of color through the sanctuary. She felt cleansed.

A blessed peace enveloped her. The love of God. God loved her even when she was most unlovable. He didn’t love according to what she deserved. He loved according to who He was. 

He loved her, loved  her family.

          He loved Wade. George.
          All mankind.
          If only she could love like God did. Yet how could she forget the hurt Wade had caused? How could she trust him when he’d tossed her away years before?
          She rose and left the church. The rain was a mere shower now. As she popped up her umbrella, a smile sprang to her lips. Across the way a rainbow hugged the heavens, the sign of God’s promise to never flood the earth again.
          As if God had planted the thought, she knew what to do.” (page 264 Kindle)

As always, Janet Dean writes in a crystal clear prose that I admire in itself. I’ve never read one sentence in any of her books, that I had to read twice in order to understand the meaning. In this respect I think Janet Dean puts words on paper (and on computer screens) better than anyone writing today. 

“An Inconvenient Match” is not only a great inspirational romance -- it is also a work well worth reading. I think this is an important romance.

A Study in Conflict, Character Growth, Love, Redemption & Living Christian Values


  1. Vince, I'm overwhelmed by your lovely review, especially by the comparison to Our Town! You've encouraged me more than you can possibly know. Thank you!


  2. Hi Janet:

    Did you know Aaron Copland wrote some beautiful music for the movie “Our Town”?
    That might be some nice theme music to listen to when you write your next romance.

    As I was reading your book, I kept having feelings that I was trying to identify. Finally I remember feeling much the same way when I saw “Our Town” at the Pasadena Playhouse forever ago. The feelings are timeless, the memories are not. The stories are not alike but the values and the towns are.

    I always appreciate reading your books. It is like listening to a guitar player who never slides his fingers over the strings when he changes his fret positions. The sound is so clean. Listen to a guitarist who slides his fingers over the strings unintentionally because it is too hard or takes too much effort to lift the fingers and replace them exacally where they need to be for the next chord.

    I think this is a way to hear crystal clear. (Some guitarists slide over the strings on purpose because the like the sound it makes. This is a whole different story. I'm not talking about them.)

    Keep up the great work.