Review: True to You by Becky Wade
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You'll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which will mean some spoilers, so watch out.
So...I don't read a lot of contemporary romances. I went through a phase a few years ago where I did, and it ended on some pretty sour notes. So, now I try to distance myself. (Distancing in my dictionary means the most of my modern reading is done with free Kindle eBooks and Amazon "Look Here" sections. I'm a cheapskate, I know. 😉) Well, I've already read two novellas by Becky Wade and found them to be mediocre at best. (Most novellas are.) The plot was virtually nonexistent, along with her character development and romantic aspects. Her writing, in the novellas, was so-so.
Well, the only reason I ended up purchasing and reading True to You was because I got a great discount at a local bargain outlet, everyone raves about Becky Wade, and it looked interesting.
Needless to say, it was.
Becky Wade surprised me (which is fairly easy to do, come to think of it) with her talent. She's a consummate writer, perfectly balancing plot with thought and action with emotion, her prose an even cadence that holds the reader's attention. She includes the right amount of detail and backstory at the correct intervals, colors her words with the character's own unique views and thought-processes, and manages to keep a quick pace throughout the story that not once dragged me down. In all my "Look Here" looking, I've found that most authors keep a steady voice--if one at all--during the entirety of the story and somehow manage to convince me that Kellie the pop singer and Rocky the tough bodyguard are one and the same, while secondary, non-POV characters are bland and totally unrealistic. Like eight-year-old boys who talk about flirting and forty-year-old women who act more like a grandma than my grandmother does. Not so with Becky Wade. Each and every character was colorful and real, some even reminding me of family members (I'll never tell who 😉) and her POV characters could be recognized without an introduction due to the author's own knowledge of their inner workings and personality.
That being said, in all my contemporary romance reading, I've found the greater portion of novels to have immature characters who appear to be rational adults but act and sound like teenagers. (And this is coming from a teenager, so that's saying A LOT.) Plot is either nonexistent or stupid. Writing is straightforward, action-focused, and lacking detail, leaving me thinking "What? Why did that character do that? I don't understand this situation. Who in all tarnation is Martha? Why did she say that? What is he thinking about this? Wait--when did we move from the beach to her bedroom? Huh?" The romance is bland and the spiritual aspects are either the cut-and-dry, a-heathen-from-a-foreign-country-would-know-this, I-said-my-bedtime-prayers sort of religiousness that totally belies what the character claims to believe versus what they actually do sprinkled through or not there at all. (Don't get me started on that.)
Much to my pleasure, Wade crafted two interesting and mature adult characters named Nora Bradford and John Lawson. I loved Nora, her interests and personality, the way she thinks and handle things--and I loved how she managed to be a romance-loving, brainy history nerd like myself without acting like a naive, dramatic teen. John, on the other hand, didn't have as deep a personality, but when I was reading from his POV, I felt like I was really in a guy's head. He wasn't overly oblivious, at all dramatic, or taking anybody's crap. He was a no-nonsense character and, by George, he acted like it.
The plot was a bit of fairy-tale romance, a smidgen of family dynamics, and a slightly suspenseful search for John's birth mother--each perfectly executed and melding wonderfully. I never felt out of place or dragged down. I never raised an eyebrow--I think. And I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. At times, the things Nora or John would think/say would give me chills or make me want to shout amen. I adored the way they each struggled with laying down certain worries/situations and prayed before/about things. You really don't find a lot of that in Christian fiction. Authors tend to look at their book from the plot perspective--this is what the story's about, how that's going to happen, and what's going to come out of it--rather than the Christian perspective. As in, my strong Christian character is going to take the time to pray about this before jumping headfirst into it, even though they won't get a straight answer and end up in trouble, which makes my story. (Trust me, as an author, I would know.) Since Wade's story wasn't too action-packed, mysterious, or based on too many ambiguous decisions (I mean, praying about sending a letter is a little different than praying about ordering a mail order bride; yea or nay can only change so much), everything moved along a lot more smoothly than another story might, but she still tackled it very well.
I did have a few eh moments, as I usually always do, and I think my least favorite thing was the Enhancing of Nora Bradford. As a proud possessor of "mousy brown hair," I felt slighted to know Nora dyed hers and for that and the rest of her makeover to go unnoticed. Obviously, John loved her for who she was, and so even though the makeover was for Nora's own self esteem, I think having him tell her that would have straightened out the situation rather than making it out like thin eyebrows and red hair will make you feel better about yourself. Still, Nora and John eventually saw their true identities in Christ, so that was more of an afterthought. And she ended up looking like Lucille Ball, so I'll let it go!
The twist was well-planned and perfectly executed, as a side note. (Didn't see it coming this time, ha ha!) To be honest, I really don't have much negative to say! I will definitely be reading the rest of the series (haven't read the prequel novella--I'd say to don't have to, but I will) and looking forward to it...but, no, this does not make me a contemporary romance reader. Becky Wade is an exception.
Long story short (believe it or not, this originally wasn't going to be a long story), I thoroughly enjoyed True to You and was surprised by how much I did! Becky Wade is certainly deserving of all the praise she receives!