The Preacher and the Prostitute
by Brenda Barrett
Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Maribel struggled to forget her past, when she used to dabble in prostitution, made porn videos and was a nude poster girl. She became a Christian and turned her life around and made a decision to use her singing talent to give glory to God. However, she quickly realized that a young, single, attractive, talented girl was never going to remain unnoticed at church. First, she captures the attention of a jealous church sister who is determined to dig into her mysterious past and then the new pastor who seemed to reciprocate her affection. After falling in love with him, her past rears its ugly head and Maribel realizes that she has to tell her new-found love the truth about her history before she can accept his marriage proposal. Can a preacher and an ex- prostitute be happy together?
When author Brenda Barrett saw my intro post at a website where bloggers and authors can connect with each other and sent me an email, it actually got lost in my spam filter for two weeks. When I finally rescued her message, I initially wrote a polite note telling her that while I am all about supporting women writers, her book is a Christian romance, and that’s not a genre I’m really fond of. She asked me to give it a try, anyway, promising that it wasn’t “preachy,” and because I felt bad about having had her mail in digital limbo I agreed.
You’d think, on the surface, that I wouldn’t be able to relate to The Preacher and the Prostitute at all. After all, like the author, the lead character, Maribel, is Jamaican-born, and the flavor of Christianity represented in the book is something that brings to mind words like “gospel choir,” and “Baptist,” whereas I’m a culturally-Catholic, currently-vacillating-between-Episcopalian-and-Unitarian-Universalist, Italian/German/Welsh woman who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Colorado and California, and spent time in South Dakota before moving to Texas.
The thing is, fundamentally, this book isn’t about ethnicity or religion, it’s about something much more universal: women finding themselves. Maribel’s story could be any woman’s story. How many of us are one paycheck away from turning to money-making methods of questionable morality? How many of us just want to find the right partner, the best friends? How many of us have a deep, dark secret we haven’t shared with our spouse or partner? How many of us are trying to rebuild ourselves, not in the image society first presented to us, but in our OWN image?
This is the story that Ms. Barrett tells, through Maribel and her journey, and she tells it deftly. The scenes with all the church women, dressed to the nines and talking gossip and gospel in balanced ratios sing with truth, and bring nods of understanding accompanied by amused smiles and audible chuckling. Maribel’s relationship with her “best friend” is also incredibly truthful, as is her battle with herself about what, and when, to share her story.
Barrett handles dialogue in a way that suggests a musical ear. Every character is distinct on the page, which makes them live more in the mind’s eye (and ear). Nothing seemed overly contrived – not too formal, not too far into caricature.
As for the Christian aspect of the book, yes, many of the scenes are set in and around church, and yes, Maribel’s partner is a pastor, but Barrett was right when she told me the book wasn’t preachy. It’s simply an honest depiction of one slice of the cultural pie, a portrait of people who try to live their faith in a world that doesn’t always make doing so easy.
Bottom line: I went into reading The Preacher and the Prostitute expecting a formula romance with heavy Christian overtones, and what I got was a rich story with romantic elements that were well-balanced by universal truths and a thematic question: Will he like me if he knows who I really am?
Goes well with…hot tea and butter cookies. I recommend Pepperidge Farm Milanos.
Ms. Barrett is doing a giveaway of her book, which you can participate in (one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Amazon). Link: http://fiwibooks.com/giveaways/book-review-blog-tour-and-amazon-50-gift-card-giveaway