Middle-aged Christian mothers of teenagers: This romance is for you! In PAPER MOON, her first offering in the "Moonstruck" series, author Linda Windsor shows she knows how to push all the right buttons that Christian romance readers like. An exotic, foreign location. The handsome, competent, lonely male. The somewhat bumbling, cute-but-not-beautiful, rejected middle-aged woman who attracts said male. A dollop of suspense. Throw in a few teenagers --- okay, a lot of teenagers --- and a conversion to Christianity or two, and you have a winning combination.
The story kicks off as Caroline Spencer, the divorced mom of 16-year-old Annie, is set to help chaperone Edenton Christian High School's trip to Mexico. She's thrown into the company of the father of Annie's best friend Karen, Blaine Madison, conveniently a widower and inconveniently at odds with Christianity. He has "no quarrel with religious people, as long as they kept their faith to themselves. He hadn't the time for a God who had ignored his prayers one time too many."
Caroline is the pert, perpetually-clumsy-but-charmingly-so type of gal often found in romance novels, who runs a daycare from her home. (Her previous husband had divorced her and married a colleague after Caroline worked to put him through law school). Blaine finds that Caroline is "a cross between teacher and philosopher, nurturing mom, and...freckled pixie." Blaine is the successful, competent, and handsome executive type ("He did for jeans and polo shirt what a cover girl did for makeup" and "could give James Bond --- any one of them --- a run for his money in looks and culture.")
Because of their close proximity on the trip, and their mutual parenting concerns over teenage daughters, the romance quickly heats up with lines like this: "His gaze devoured her as if she were a goddess, not the middle-aged mom of a teenager." Forty-something women who struggle with their self-image and fantasize about well-heeled hunky men finding them attractive will enjoy this scenario.
The suspense-filled subplot involving an international smuggling ring provides an interesting sideline but is not really the point of the story. It's all about the romance, squeaky clean romance. In keeping with Christian romance, the most passionate lines never stray much beyond this:
"The first time Adam held Eve in his arms, he could have known no more joy nor want than that coursing through Blaine's veins at this moment. Surely the first man was equally torn between the spiritual urge to worship and the primal urge to ravish this warm, soft, and yielding creature in his arms."
You get the idea.
Christian readers also will appreciate the good impression that the tour group makes on Blaine, who is struggling with faith. "He liked these people … they seemed to be ordinary Joes like him, doing the best they could in a not-so-perfect world." Some readers, however, may wrestle with a question or two about theology when Blaine tells his daughter that her alcoholic mother's death might have come because "Maybe God knew Mommy was too sick to quit on her own and took her home to keep her from hurting herself and others anymore."
Windsor is a seasoned novelist, and this experience helps pave the way for a pleasant, uncomplicated love story. Yes, you can see the end coming from the earliest pages, but the journey to get there will provide plenty of light enjoyment for readers of Christian romance.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on February 6, 2005