Grace Whittaker has spent her life in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Audrey. But when Audrey jilts her fiance, Dr. Raymond McNair, hours before the wedding, Grace offers to take her sister’s place. Grace longs to win her new husband’s heart, yet fears it still belongs to Audrey. Will their marriage turn from convenience to love, or will Grace forever remain the substitute wife?
Anyone whose read my book review blog or followed any of my social media sites will know that I am a huge fan of Amanda Barratt’s writing. It should be no surprise, then, that her latest novella, “The Substitute Wife,” is now being reviewed on my blog. Aside from being a dear friend and sister-in-Christ, Amanda is an author with the poise of someone whose writing is more than just skill–it’s a blessing and a gift. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to read “The Substitute Wife” because I so enjoyed her first published novella. (Read my review of “A Bride for a Bargain” here if you’re curious to see why this novella is one of my favorites of 2015.) I’ve read quite a few novellas in the past few months, but to no surprise I continue to find that Amanda’s stories are the ones that reach my heart and soul as both a reader and a writer. “The Substitute Wife” brims with themes of love and acceptance as its characters grow in faith and understanding of times gone by.
After reading two of Amanda’s novellas, I can confidently say that one of her strongest points as a writer is her ability to completely envelop her readers in the setting and time period of her stories. “The Substitute Wife” takes place in late 1800s Connecticut, and from the first line of story I was immediately drawn into the two very different worlds in which in novella takes place. From the grand details of the characters homes to the minute details of hair styles, clothing, and dialect, I never once felt I was anywhere but 1883 Bristol, Connecticut in summertime. I almost always am drawn to British stories over American-set ones, but I will say that the more I read of Amanda’s writing the more I want to continue reading stories set in home country.
Just as the setting drew me to the novella, the main characters of “The Substitute Wife”–Grace Whittaker and Dr. Raymond McNair–compelled me to keep turning the pages. I absolutely loved Grace and Raymond: their compassion for each other, their quiet and humble attitudes, their desire to good for everyone around them. These two characters are about as good as anyone can get. The romance between Grace and Raymond is wholesome and real in every way possible, filled with the charm of first-time lovers and the faith-based core that strengthens relationships during good or trying times. I found myself proud of both Grace and Raymond by the end of “The Substitute Wife” and pleased with the ending of the story–from Grace’s development as an individual to Raymond’s desire to make more of his marriage than one just of convenience.
But more than the characters, the story, or the romance, it is Amanda’s writing that keeps me coming back to her novellas–and what I know for certain will make me pick up anything else she writes. She has a lyricism to her writing that simply is unmatched by most authors. The style, tone, dialog, character development, story, and voice Amanda employs in her writing gives a charm to her stories that brings times gone by to life. I felt while reading “A Substitute Wife” that I found a story that blended just the right amount of an Austenesque-wit with a serious tone that requires readers to truly comprehend what is on the page. Details that bring the setting to life make her novels shine; witty and romantic dialog endear us to her characters; and poetic prose give the air of novels reminiscent of the Classics.
“The Substitute Wife” has all of the traits mentioned above; however, I’m adding it to my list of 2015 favorites because Amanda–as a Christian fiction writer–has done what few authors, even in the CBA, openly take of in their writing: written about faith. The subject is mentioned early on in the novella, but Amanda employs her characters’ faith in an open, challenging, and beautiful way towards the end of the story that, in my opinion, makes “The Substitute Wife” a stellar piece of literature. I read Christian fiction because I want to learn more about my faith, go deeper into God’s Word, and learn from characters’ experiences how I can become a better Christian. Amanda’s story goes deep into a few Biblical themes that leave the reader in wonder at the blessings God gives us.
“The Substitute Wife” is a novella is a romantic love story that will leave readers knowing even if a relationship begins merely as a convenience God never put people in our lives as substitutes.
RATING: 5 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Barratt is an award-winning historical romance author with two novellas releasing in 2015 with Barbour Publishing. She fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story – a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Since then, she’s penned novels set in Regency and Victorian England, and the Gilded Age.
A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is represented by Rachel Kent, of Books and Such Literary Agency. She lives in northern Michigan with her family, where she reads way too many old books, watches period dramas to come up with new plot-lines, and dreams of taking a trip to England.