A hot summer romance with Christian themes, titillating realism and a guilty conscience.
Though Francine’s debut novel may not be as controversial as Fifty Shades of Grey (2012), it nonetheless comes with a warning of adult language and explicit sex scenes. Fortunately, the realistic language and swift-paced dialogue are strengths in this otherwise stock romance. Kendall Smith, a sweet, 20-something, “leggy blonde” who’s also a Christian, has been a widow for several years. She misses her husband deeply but manages to keep busy with friends and church activities in close-knit Key West. She’s dated some men, but none of them pique her interest, so she concentrates on her love of the sea and her small business, which takes tourists on catamaran outings to coral reefs. Then David Bryce—a “bad boy” who looks like a gorgeous pirate—moves in next door for the summer, and Kendall’s neat, tidy world is turned upside down, as the forbidden fruit of lust tempts her Christian morals. Much skin tingling and deep breathing ensue, with Kendall both disgusted by and sexually attracted to the man she thinks could also be a drug dealer. In fact, David Bryce, whose real name is Bryce Tejidor, is working undercover to infiltrate the Mezaluno drug cartel, and he vowed to never get close to any woman, except on a superficial level. The author builds sexual tension by sprinkling in awkward situations that bring the two closer together; e.g., Kendall chases her rowdy cat into Bryce’s yard, and it claws his hand when he gently catches it. While leggy blondes, hot guys who look like pirates—and Kendall’s wisecracking island friend Mari—can be clichés, acting on human sexual desire is an interesting twist to the often squeaky-clean Christian writing genre. However, this book is definitely a morality tale—and a love story—as Kendall tells Bryce she can never have unmarried sex again, even as she continues to grapple with desire versus faith. The plot doesn’t lose its steady pace after the steamy bedroom scene, since a secondary storyline emerges when Bryce and Kendall encounter danger from the drug cartel, which keeps the pages turning.
Christian romance fans who don’t mind some R-rated language and a lovemaking scene will find satisfying lessons in faith.