by Sandra Ardoin
Take one poor woman looking for a wealthy husband and one “miser” determined to teach her the meaning of true service, mix in prostitution and hypocrisy, and you get A Heart Most Certain, the first novel in Melissa Jagears’ new series Teaville Moral Society.
Set in 1905 Kansas, Lydia King is a book-loving young woman seeking an impending engagement to the attorney son of Teaville’s mayor. The courtship is more the idea of her ne’er-do-well and abusive father than Lydia’s. It’s the only thing to keep her family out of poverty. To prove herself worthy to her prospective in-laws, she’s given the job of obtaining a donation to the Teaville Ladies Moral Society from wealthy Nicholas Lowe, known as the stingiest man in town. Stubborn meets stubborn.
‘On behalf of the Teaville Ladies Moral Society, I’ve been tasked to present you with the opportunity to support our—‘
She blinked. ‘I haven’t finished asking yet.’
He tucked his pencil behind his ear and crossed his arms. ‘The answer will still be no.’
Well, didn’t he have all the answers. But the cold glint in his eye wouldn’t silence her.
Nicholas is convinced the church (the one he’s a member of) is filled with Christians who talk a good game but have no true compassion. He’s not about to donate to a cause perpetrated by such people. However, he’s impressed by Lydia’s persistence, so he gives her three wishes, then sets out to show her what true charitable giving really means.
For Lydia, working with Nicholas means risking her reputation. It also means risking her heart and the future that is expected of her. Contrary to her way of thinking in the above quote, Nicholas doesn’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to seeing what lies outside his own aims.
If you don’t like having your toes stepped on, this might not be the story for you, because you’ll be challenged to look closer into your own methods and motivations for service to others. While it’s admirable and a good thing to discuss in Christian fiction, I thought the issue came across as too heavy-handed. Those toes were crossing the border onto Too Preachy Land.
I liked that the story has a touch of mystery, but it could have had a really good twist toward the end if the character involved had been written differently. Instead, it was a mild surprise when it could have been shocking. The characters are well-developed and (mostly) likeable with believable flaws and sympathetic backstories. I loved Nicholas’ background, which prompted his motivations.
Overall, even with my opinion of its problems, I enjoyed the story. It was thought-provoking and well enough written to be worthy of four stars.
Maybe I found the hypocrisy issue too heavy-handed because my toes were bruised. 😉 If you’ve read the book, I’d be interested in your thoughts about how the subject was treated. If you haven’t read it, does it matter to you if a book leans a bit much on the preachy side?