by Karen Wiesner, contemporary (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-583-2
Foolish Games takes place about one year after Peter Samuels has lost his wife Lydia. He owns the local Christian bookstore, but in the past year, his sister-in-law Kimberly Wolfe has practically run the show for him. Kimberly has nursed a crush on Peter for a long time now, but she had quietly remained on the sidelines as Peter married Lydia. Now that Lydia is gone, can Kimberly finally get a chance with Peter? It's not going to be easy, of course. Peter, having been married to Lydia for over 20 years, is still grieving over her. Having feelings for Kimberly is going to make him feel plenty of guilt, as if he is betraying Lydia's memory.
Meanwhile, Kim faces another dilemma: her father is ill and is pretty much ordering her to come home and take care of him. The trouble here is that she has deliberately avoided her father all these years because the man, claiming that God has wanted the husband to rule the wife, had pretty much broken the spirit of his wife. Kim refuses to be like her mother and submit meekly to her father's physical and verbal abuse. As a result restricts contact with her father to as minimal as possible. Now that he claims to be dying, she has to confront her own fears and make a decision about her father soon. Kim's dilemma is a spiritual one. Because most people she encountered took the side of her father, she often experiences doubts. Sometimes she doubts whether she is being a good Christian by feeling that way about her father and sometimes she doubts her faith in a God that, if the reaction of those who side with her father is anything to go by, allows men to treat women badly.
I find Foolish Games an unusual and interesting read because this story starts off like an inspirational romance take on the usual widower-finds-love-again premise, but it ends up seeing the author going on a soapbox to lash out against the way the Bible is interpreted by some men to justify their heinous treatment of women. This is somewhat TMI, sorry, but I am acquainted with some senior pastors who feel the same way and most of these pastors are men. One even wrote and published a book with his own unexpectedly pro-feminist interpretation of Eve's role in the fiasco involving the apple, the serpent, and the drama in the Garden of Eden. I'm not a Christian, but I enjoy sitting through his sermons because I always find myself surprised and intrigued by his interpretations of the Bible. Likewise, I find it most intriguing that I'm reading an inspirational romance with a similar theme. The Christianity that I was familiar with during my Catholic schoolgirl days was a far cry from what I am shown here. Maybe it's time I take a more open-minded look at inspirational romances.
Anyway, enough about me, let's talk about this book. As interesting as I find it, I find the romance somewhat lacking though. This is the unfortunate consequence of the author getting on her soapbox - it stops being about the romance and starts being instead about the author's personal beliefs. While in this case I find the message interesting enough to keep reading, other readers may beg to differ. The story is actually more about Kim than it is about her and Peter. She and Peter have very little quiet time together in this story. There are always external problems involving various secondary characters coming between them, causing the romance to take a backseat to the message the author is preaching via these external conflicts.
At the end of the day, I'm not sure whether I can recommend this one as a romance due to the lack of it. This is more of an "issues story", a stark contrast to the author's previous more romance-driven two stories in this Family Heirloom series of hers. I find it an interesting read due to the message of the story, but I can't vouch that other readers will feel the same way. Therefore, approach with more caution than you would with Baby, Baby or Shadow Boxing.
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