ALERT: for the second year in a row, Sally Bradley’s Kept was a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest! Let’s celebrate Sally’s success by purchasing and promoting her debut novel!
Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.
Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.
When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.
In an environment increasingly shadowed by promiscuous behavior with little worldly consequences but deep emotional baggage, Miska Tomlinson and Dillan Foster battle their fears and prejudices to find love.
Sally Bradley’s debut novel, Kept, first caught my attention because of its characters. Baseball runs strongly in my family, so naturally I was intrigued by Bradley’s choice of profession for one of her novel’s leading men. While the baseball aspect of Kept influenced the author’s story, I am actually pleased to say that the sport factors little into my positive rating of the novel. I loved many things about Kept—including Bradley’s insertion of athletics into the characters’ lives—but it was the Biblical storylines, deep emotional characterization, and themes of redemption, love, and judgment that make Kept a standout novel.
Christian fiction is a blossoming genre that continues to grow within the publishing industry. As in any consumer-driven outlet, Christian fiction tends to have its strongholds: Amish, World War Two, and contemporary romance consistently drive its sales. The nature of Christian fiction sets the genre apart from its partners—if a Fifty Shades of Grey type novel is bestselling in the ABA market, it tends to follow that CBA novels will market novels of the opposite nature in hopes that more conservative, evangelical readers will be drawn to Christian fiction. A growing number of Christian fiction readers, however, are vying for novels with more realistic plotlines and accessible characters. Sally Bradley has hit upon this niche—Kept is a story of hard-hitting situations faced by authentic characters challenged by their surroundings and fighting for their faith against insurmountable odds. Bradley is not afraid to address the questionable choices people make and does not shy away from situations that are normally hidden from the Christian market. Kept surpasses excellence because Bradley handles these situations with delicacy and grace. The tough situations her characters encounter are fully described, but she digresses from explicative language and details in favor of straightforward steps that show how and why God wants better for His children.
I believe that Christian fiction needs more authors who are comfortable writing novels similar to Kept because readers can learn so much from true-to-life characters that experience the situations we face on a daily basis. Kept does not sugarcoat the challenging feelings and situations that people experience. Bradley’s characters show that Christians are just as susceptible to frustrations, fear, joy, and relief that others come across. Her novel takes compelling one step further in showing readers that people can come out of their pasts and move forward from the negative emotions through Jesus’ love and God’s mercy. In laying out these feelings with empathic prose, Bradley opens up Christians in a way that that older Christian fiction was unable to do so through the pleasing—but unrealistic—novels of the past.
Kept is an exciting, compelling, and thoroughly pleasing novel that engages readers through authentic characters and rich storylines. Bradley, in addition to her writing career, is also an editor. Her storytelling and writing skills are, therefore, above standard; Kept reflects her skilled background with excellent prose, a strong plotline and structure, deep characterization, and realistic dialog and setting. Of course, I admit that Bradley’s romantic hero definitely is a strong point her novel. Dillan Foster, in addition to his handsome appearance, is a swoon-worthy hero that any lady would love to fall in love—and many female readers most definitely will. One of the author’s romantic scenes brought a huge smile to face and actually made my heart beat fast and ache for the two characters. Bradley succeeded in creating a chaste and pure, but still incredibly romantic and fulfilling, story in Kept. Her novel is a beautiful example of why God wants His children to wait for the physical intimacies of romantic relationships. She shows how a man and woman can still experience and demonstrate their affection for each other in a pure manner. Kept is fast-paced; I never wanted to put the novel down and frequently stayed up late reading when I long should have been asleep or completing other tasks.
RATING: 5/5 stars
Sally Bradley has worked for two publishers, writing sales and marketing materials, sorting through the slush pile, and proofreading and editing fiction. She has a BA in English and a love for perfecting novels, whether it’s her work or the work of others.
A judge in fiction-writing contests, Sally is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, The Christian PEN, and the Christian Editor Network. In 2000, she left the working world to have her first child. She now runs Bradley Writing and Editing Services from her home outside Kansas City. A mother of three, Sally is married to a pastor who moonlights as a small-town cop. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, doing laundry, and rooting on her favorite Chicago sports team of the season.
You can find Sally at Sally Bradley, Writer on Facebook.