I liked so much about this novel, where do I begin? The characters were extremely well crafted. The dialog was snappy. The setting piqued my interest. The plot was well designed. That Isaac is a gifted wordsmith was evident throughout the novel.
I really liked the way Isaac set up the characters and pitted them against each other. Allie is a tour guide in New Zealand. Granted, it is an upscale tour company but that does not do justice to her PhD from Cambridge. A degree she was putting to use as a happily married university lecturer – until her husband's first wife, the wife he was still married to, came in during a lecture and caused a fuss. She's off men right now, weary from the two year legal battle to have that disgusting marriage annulled.
Pitted against Allie is Jackson. He's visiting with his great-uncle, a Tolkien buff. He's hoping to butter up his relative so he'll invest in Jackson's new endeavor. That way he'll be able to pay the investors who lost money in his previous business, the one that went bankrupt when his girlfriend stole his business secrets. Not only is Jackson off women right now, he is sure Allie, “a snarky tour guide with a fake degree,” is not even worth a look.
With the wonderful way the characters are set against each other, the novel is off to a great start. The snappy dialog between Allie and Jackson is entertaining. Isaac shows her skill in filling in the necessary back story of both characters as the plot progresses. The idea of a three week upscale tour is a wonderful setting for all kinds of adventures in New Zealand, from boating to orienteering. And Isaac's prose is delightful. For example, opening eyes become “gray orbs appearing underneath sparse eyelashes.”
Besides being very entertaining, the novel gives us some issues to think about. One is regarding occupations, as tour guides are often seen as inferior by others. But my favorite is that of parental expectations. Allie's mother had quite high expectations for her daughter – ones that just did not fit Allie's personality. And Jackson suffered from expectations he thought his parents had of him when, in fact, they had none.
I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy a well crafted Christian romance. The characters, plot development, setting, all of it is superb. It would be an added plus to be a Tolkien fan as there is much about his works in this novel. This debut novel is very good and I look forward to more from Isaac.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Kara Isaac is an award winning writer, pastor's wife, mom of two preschoolers, and public servant. She lives with her family in Wellington, New Zealand. You can find out more at www.karaisaac.com.
Howard Books, 384 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.