I almost didn’t choose to read Justice. I loved the evocative mid-twentieth century feeling portrayed by the cover—the retro streetlight, the 1950s hairdo and plain black dress, but I didn’t want to have to deal with how 1950s small-town America would deal with an unplanned pregnancy as the result of a rape.
Imagine my surprise when I realised the story is set in the present day, complete with wifi and mobile phones. That’s not bad. I prefer contemporary romance, and I figured that would put a more understanding spin on Brooklyn as she “wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means”.
But we didn’t see Brooklyn wrestle about the hard things: how to recover from rape, what her pregnancy means, or how to keep following the God who allowed all this. The challenges of her personal journey were glossed over to the point of almost being ignored. Sure, they would have been hard scenes to read and even harder to write, but I think Justice missed an opportunity to speak to Christian survivors of sexual assault (including #ChurchToo).
I guess the old saying is true: don’t judge a book by the cover.
This isn’t a novel set in 1950’s small-town America, and the female on the cover isn’t the main character. Sure, her background and actions provide the motivation, but this is not Brooklyn’s story (although she is a great example of forgiveness, and the power of God to heal).
Instead, we focus on Jake and his search for justice.
But he’s not looking for justice for Brooklyn. He owns a coffee shop and has inadvertently started a war with the bookshop owner across the road. Now Jake wants justice for what the bookshop owner has done. Priorities, please?
This really annoyed me until Brooklyn called him out on it and I realised the novel wasn’t about her at all. It was about Jake. I’m not sure if I’d have read Justice if I’d had realised it was a contemporary romance about a man whose inappropriate quest for justice (aka revenge) leads him away from all he holds dear.
I wasn’t sure what to think about Justice.
It was definitely Jake’s story, and that made it hard. I found myself liking Jake less and less as the novel progressed. The Jake of the early chapters was a strong Christian, encouraging those around him with lines like:
But Jake’s need for revenge for Brooklyn and for the unknown troublemakers attacking his business gave me the impression of a small god, a god who needed Jake’s help to make things go right. Of course, Jake learns God is God, a big God who doesn’t need Jake’s help. But the business subplot detracted from the novel I was expecting—a novel about God’s everlasting love, His healing hand in times of personal difficulty.
Justice fails as a romance novel.
Why? Because Jake and Brooklyn’s relationship wasn’t the central focus. Nor is it a great example of women’s fiction, because it glosses over Brooklyn’s issues to focus on Jake and his #FirstWorldProblems. Some readers will be thankful Brooklyn’s rape and recovery are glossed over, while others will be frustrated by the lost opportunity to minister to women who have been through similar troubles.
Justice also didn’t work as a suspense novel, at least not for me. I felt Jake jumped to conclusions regarding the identity of the evildoer, and it seemed a little too convenient when he ended up being right. My issue was that the evildoer’s motives seemed weak. They were later explained, but I wasn’t convinced.
Having said that, Justice did work on many levels.
The characterisation was convincing, as evidenced by my dislike of Jake. The Christian elements were particularly strong—Justice is definitely Christian fiction, a strong examination of some of the big dichotomies of faith: justice vs. mercy, and faith vs. works.
It’s a novel about Christians who mess up, but who are forgiven and redeemed. It’s also a novel of miracles—one of the few I’ve read where the miracles were believable (I’ve blogged about the use of miracles in Christian fiction: click here to check out that post and let me know what you think!)
Overall, Justice was a solid first novel which may appeal to readers looking for something a little outside the Christian romance/women’s fiction norm. Just don’t expect a romance.
Thanks to White Rose Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
About Emily Conrad
Emily Conrad writes Christian fiction. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two 60+ pound rescue dogs. Some of her favorite things (other than Jesus and writing, of course) are coffee, walks, and road trips to the mountains.
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Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she’s pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. As Brooklyn wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake, she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth.
To make matters worse, if the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake’s coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both.
Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God’s love and in each other?