A Match of Wits, author Jen Turano’s fourth novel in the Ladies of Distinction series, is a novel about God’s love and acceptance for His people. Through the main characters’ adventures and challenges in New York City and Colorado, Turano teaches readers that acceptance of ourselves and others is only possible once we understand that we are loved exactly as who are.
It is 1883, and investigative journalist Agatha Watson is traipsing around Colorado Springs for her next story for the New-York Tribune when she comes across her old friend, Zayne Beckett. These two friends parted two years previously in disgruntled company—neither of them is exactly thrilled to see each other in and unexpected setting. Agatha finds Zayne, who was supposed to be in California with his fiancé, broken and dispirited physically and mentally. True to her nature—and to Zayne’s annoyance—Agatha takes up the challenge to bring Zayne home to New York City and reunite him with his family.
Life continues hectically for Zayne and Agatha upon their return to New York City. Agatha, who returns to the city despite threats upon her life, takes it upon herself to help Zayne regain his sense-of-self; Zayne, while he is retained in bed recovering from injuries sustained while out West, believes it is his role to find Agatha a suitor capable of keeping her in line. Both characters relish the opportunities to irritate and annoy the other just for amusement. As attempts on Agatha’s life continue to grow, Zayne finds that he knows Agatha less than he realized. With Agatha becoming increasingly determined to find her assassin, Zayne must discover whether his battle to understand his feelings for her are out of a protective nature or whether the two of them are truly a match of wits.
A Match of Wits is an enjoyable story that brings numerous smiles and out-loud laughter throughout the novel. Turano’s dialog is witty, her characters unique in both originality and for the setting of the novel, and the spiritual lessons relevant but not overwhelming in the presentation. The lively banter between Zayne, Agatha, and the two minor characters, Drusilla—Agatha’s companion—and Mr. Blackheart—Agatha’s body guard—make this novel because of the humor and compassion the characters exemplify through conversation. The characterization Turano employs in A Match of Wits is enough to keep readers satisfied with its development but also surprised in the author’s creative manner of making those characters unique. All of the major characters retain vestiges of their roles: Zayne is the hero who keeps his feelings to himself; Agatha is the damsel looking for love. But, Turano continually discloses tidbits throughout her novel that change those roles her major characters play—changes that make her characters all the more loveable and keep the plot of her novel fresh. Readers spiritual or not will enjoy the spiritual aspect of A Match of Wits for its relevance to the story and real life. Turano keeps the spirituality light—it is not a main focus of the story but the characters refer to their faith enough to keep its discussion of consequence. Readers who look for the spiritual aspect will find the teachings significant while those who do not necessarily choose a book because of its Christian genre will not feel overwhelmed by preaching.
Turano’s novel is one that is light but holds deep lessons of acceptance and love. Readers will have to force themselves to read slowly because the novel is so enjoyable that it can easily be finished in one sitting. Nevertheless, there are points that could be refined to make A Match of Wits more substantial: in particular, the lengthy and wordy sentences distract from the content of the novel. Nineteenth-century language was more prosaic, but the dialog of A Match of Wits takes this distinction to unnecessary lengths. Some readers may also find the plot of the novel too far-fetched for any believability. The numerous scrapes that Agatha finds herself in makes even the most raucous behavior look tame. These aspects of A Match of Wits can be overlooked, however, for the pleasure of an entertaining novel with beautiful themes and witty dialog shared between likeable characters within a humorous plot.
Rating: 4 stars
Review originally posted for TheChristianManifesto.com