Title: A Promise for Breanna
Author: Al Lacy
Publisher’s Synopsis: The Angel of Mercy series follows the adventures of certified medical nurse Breanna Baylor as she seeks to serve her fellow man and restore her relationship with her true love-John Stranger of the Journeys of the Stranger series-in the post-Civil War West. A Promise for Breanna finds the heroine face to face with Frank Miller, the man who once broke her heart and led her to mistrust men, sabotaging her relationship with John Stranger. Suspense, danger, romance, and spiritual truth each play a part in this compelling story that draws readers into the life of an angel of mercy.
As popular as Al Lacy is, I’ve never read anything by him before this book. From what I understand, this is the introductory book in a splinter series from one of Mr. Lacy’s other series.
I’ll be brutally honest, I rolled my eyes way too much in the beginning of this book. At the risk of sounding like an impossible to please twit, I think Mr. Lacy needs to stick to writing action and back off the romance. While the story, once it got started anyway, is engaging, interesting, and full of scenarios that are not only plausible but exciting, the romance left much to be desired. If I never read another line that makes me want to break out in My Darling Clementine, it’ll be much too soon.
The exception was a character that I’d love to read more about. Rip Clayson’s romance was real, readable, and refreshingly free of obnoxious endearments, and repeated dream scenes left over from silent films (can you say Don Lockwood from Singing in the Rain? I love you, I love you, I love you…. no wait, that’s too free from the sappy drivel I had to endure). The sweet romance between Rip and his young woman (won’t give away by giving her name) was so realistic that it’s hard to imagine that both were written by the same man. Our heroine receives a– oh wait. Let me quote the scene you get to read so many times…
“Oh John! I love you, I love you! I made such a horrible mistake that day in Wichita when I sent you out of my life. I knew it before you were even out of sight, but it was too late. Please forgive me, John! Oh I’ve prayed so long and so hard that the Lord would bring you to me so I could tell you how sorry I am and how very much I love you! I’ve been so–“
John’s forefinger was on her lips. “Hush, darling. You don’t have to do this. All that matters is that I know you love me as I love you… that we can have each other. There’s nothing to forgive.”
I won’t go on… Well, honestly, I can’t. How can a man write a story about gunslingers, gamblers, plucky women who brave the wilds of the west in their quest to reach California, spunky nurses who will do anything to save a life– including fighting in Indian raids and take on a lustful chief… How can a man who in one section gives you a genuine tender moment between two dear people, turn around and nauseate you with drivel like that up there. It’s in the book at least three times… I’m pretty sure it’s there more than four. The same words. Every. Time. Blessedly, she’s awakened a few times cutting it short.
My only other objection is the evangelism our heroine does. I don’t object to the idea… I’m quite fond of evangelism myself. However, aside from certain theological issues, the conversation is rushed, stilted, and the conclusions are a bit too “sanitary” for lack of better words. In my experience in discussing salvation with the unsaved, you don’t just tell them Jesus loves them a few times and the people suddenly “get it”. His conversion scenes with Curly were much better than the others in the book, but honestly, it left a lot to be desired.
I feel horrible writing this. I mean, when I first started reading, I told my friend, “I feel like an arrogant jerk, but I’m a better writer than this guy. How is he so popular?” Well, having gotten into the book, I can see how. Al Lacy creates characters that come alive on the page. You can see their nose wrinkle with distaste, their eyes sparkle with amusement, and their personalities shine throughout the stories. I like who he writes about (and I’m pretty sure he didn’t end a sentence in a preposition!). I also liked his plot. It was truly interesting– much to my surprise to tell the truth. I just think perhaps it’d be better if he left out most of the romance and had a few conversations with people uninterested in Jesus. Talk to them… listen to them… see what makes them reach and reject. I have a feeling those scenes would become as alive and interesting as girls taken hostage at gunpoint. Oh that was probably my most favorite scene of all.
Finally, there is one scene that tugged at my heart in a way that no other scenes did or ever could. There’s an Indian raid… we don’t see that one, thankfully, but when the wagon train comes upon it after fire and bloodshed, a man finds a young girl… in bushes… alongside a river… and she has hazel eyes. On top of that, this story takes place in Wyoming. They mentioin Fort Bridger… Just like the song Dad used to sing about California Joe.
…You’ve all heard tell of Bridger
I used to ride with Jim.
And many a hard day’s scouting
I’ve done by the side of him.
Well once near old Fort Reno
A trapper used to dwell
We called him old Pap Reynolds
The scouts all knew him well
One night in the spring of fifty
We camped on Powder River
We killed a calf of buffalo
And cooked a slice of liver
While eating well contented
WE heard three shots or four
Put out the fires and listened
… We heard a dozen more.
To save was our desire.
Too late the painted heathens (please no offended PC comments… this is from the 1800’s)
Had set the house on fire.
We unhitched our horses quickly
And waded up the stream
While close beside the water’s edge
I heard a muffled scream
And there among the bushes
A little girl did lie
I picked her up and whispered
I’ll save you or I’ll die…
…One month had flown and Maggie
We called her hazel eyes…
Can I recommend the book unreservedly? No. Am I sorry I read it? Again, no. I started reading this book praying about how I’d review it. I don’t want to write a review that says, “this is drivel; don’t bother,” but neither do I want to lie and pretend to like something I didn’t. So, absolute honesty here. If you can ignore a little bad evangelizing and over dramatized romancing, get the book. The story, aside from my previous caveats, is really a fascinating piece of fiction… and I don’t generally like “Westerns.” His characters alone are well worth the time you’ll spend reading it.
And… in the continual spirit of funness… I’m giving this copy to one of the commenters! (and I have 2 others to ship so if you’re waiting for a book from me, sorry!!! I’ve been ill!) Just leave a comment and I’ll draw names sometime next weekend.