RETRO REVIEW: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

redeeming love

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California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.

Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.

Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.

But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.

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Publisher and Release Date: Multnomah Books, July, 2009

RHR Classifications:
Genre: Inspirational Romantic Historical Fiction
Setting: 1850s, California
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Jill

Redeeming Love is one of those must-read romances worth reading at least once and is based on the Book of Hosea from the Bible, where God tells the prophet Hosea to marry the prostitute, Gomer. Here we have Michael Hosea, a farmer being told by God to marry Angel, a local whore in the 1850s goldfields of California.

Author Francine Rivers wrote historical romances and historical fiction before she became a Born-Again Christian. Originally written in 1991, Redeeming Love bridges the gap between the writing of her original romances and her later Christian fiction and it exists in two versions. The 1997 version is basically the same as the original, but was edited to remove any descriptive love scenes and coarse language to make it suitable for the Christian market. The original does contain some coarse language (for instance, “son of a bitch”, “damn”, “bastard”, etc.) and some descriptive love scenes, not contained in the second version. Nevertheless, both versions contain the same plot. For those who prefer a ‘clean’ read, then the edited, or Christian version, may be preferable.

Although the story is peppered throughout with Bible verses I don’t think they’re intrusive. It is, after all, a Christian story, based on a book of the Bible and written by a Christian. But it is one of those rare novels that though based on a story from the Bible, manages to captivate an audience who may not claim any Christian beliefs.

Redeeming Love is a widely read and hugely successful novel and is Ms Rivers’ most popular work. However, the prose is average at best, the historical setting adequate. The stubbornness of Angel in refusing to accept Michael’s love and her consequent running off is overdone and tiresome. Michael himself often forces Angel to do his bidding, believing as he does that it’s for her best, and so their relationship comes across as patronising and paternalistic at times.

Some of his thoughts and reactions are not those of a Godly man. Some of the tragedies that beset Angel’s wretched life seem gratuitous. Francine Rivers seemingly wanted to heap mankind’s collective sin onto the head of this poor woman. Some of the scenes are unnecessarily explicit. The conclusion is way too neat with its fairy-tale ending.

It can be at times depressing, heart-wrenching, horrifying and preachy. Yet, it is also uplifting, glorifying, hope-filled and romantic.

Despite some reservations, Redeeming Love is still a worthy read for lovers of Christian fiction and for lovers of romance. This book is so popular, so highly rated and reviewed that it’s worth reading just the once, even if you don’t end up loving it. Because despite its flaws, for me it still manages to resonate with the ideal of true love and the romantic notions that love conquers all.

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