Beguiled – A Review

The first part of this week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA) is featuring Beguiled by J. Mark Bertrand and Deeanne Gist.

If you read yesterday’s guest post by Mark, you know a little about his ideas regarding Christian fiction. You may then wonder, how did his concepts translate into an actual novel? I’ll be happy to give you my opinion. (Have I ever been shy about stating my opinion? 😆 )

The Genre. Beguiled is an adult Christian romantic suspense novel.

The Story. Only child Rylee Monroe has no one when her parents die—no one except the clients for whom she walks dogs and a caring neighbor in her rundown apartment building. Shortly after a frightening late-night encounter with reporter Logan Woods, Rylee becomes embroiled in a sequence of crimes committed by the Robin Hood burglar. Within days she is the prime suspect.

Logan is convinced of Rylee’s innocence. His reputation as a writer and his pending book contract depend on him finding out who is actually behind the thefts. He and Rylee team up, but suspicion leads to police accusation. Even as Rylee and Logan grow closer, she becomes the target of the Robin Hood burglar.

And I’ll stop there. I’ve probably already said too much.

Strengths. For the most part, the writing was strong. I had a good sense of who these characters were. They had depth—a past filled with difficulty and problems that affected their present.

The suspense was just the right amount as far as I was concerned. I worried for Rylee, but I wasn’t so afraid I wanted to close the book and read something else. In fact, the story questions piqued my curiosity as did the developing circumstances, so I kept turning pages in the wee hours of the night simply because I wanted to know.

Regarding the “faith elements,” which I don’t necessarily discuss in a review, I thought they arose naturally as part of character development. There was no overt preaching, but one character’s Christianity clearly influenced that person’s decisions and actions.

The authors did an excellent job establishing place. I had a real feel for the tight Charleston community south of Broad as well as the rougher, poorer area where Rylee lived. And place turns out to be more important than it first appears.

If I had to name a theme, I think I’d say it involved trust—both giving it and earning it. However, since Mark and I used to have long argu discussions about intentionally incorporating themes in fiction, I suspect I may be seeing something cohesive that the writers never purposed.

Weaknesses. I realize this was romantic suspense, not mystery. However, the fact remains, the story centered on a mystery that the two main characters were trying to solve. The problem was, there weren’t sufficient numbers of characters in the story to supply an adequate amount of red herrings.

Consequently, the perpetrator was apparent quite early (though that person’s motives still remained unclear). Since I’m a mystery lover more than a suspense fan, I was disappointed in this lack of additional suspects.

Apart from a couple minor, and probably imperceptible, inconsistencies, the story was well told.

Recommendation. Anyone who enjoys clean romantic suspense should move Beguiled to the top of their list. It’s got tender moments followed by breath-taking ones. Lots of reason to keep turning the page. Must read for fans of the genre. Recommended as a light, entertaining story for everyone else.

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Disclaimer as per current FTC rules: In conjunction with the CFBA, I received a free copy of Begiled for review from Bethany House Publishers.

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 10:58 am  Comments Off on Beguiled – A Review  
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Beguiled by J. Mark Bertrand

😆 I realize the title to this post is misleading on two levels. First Mark hasn’t beguiled anyone that I know of, and second he isn’t the sole author of the novel Beguiled.

The latter, however, is on point. As part of the CFBA blog tour for Beguiled, co-authored by Mark and Deeanne Gist, I offer the following guest post by J. Mark Bertrand. Tomorrow I plan a review of Beguiled, an ARC of which I received for free from Bethany House Publishers.

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Films About the Wheat Harvest?

    by J. Mark Bertrand

I didn’t realize until it was pointed out to me that I sound like a broken record, always intoning the same quotation. In my defense, I’m often asked the same question, namely, “How can you justify what you’re writing as Christian fiction?” Short answer: I don’t even try. In the same way I don’t try to justify it as crime fiction, or even good fiction. All I can say is it’s my fiction, a reflection of the world as I see it.

The long answer involves the aforementioned quote. Claude Chabrol, the French film director, was asked by Robert Ebert back in the 1970s how as a communist he could justify the kind of movies he made. “I am a Communist, certainly,” Chabrol replied, “but that doesn’t mean I have to make films about the wheat harvest.”

The reason I cite this response so often is that it underscores a false assumption behind the question — i.e., that an artist’s ideology ought to dictate the kind of work he does and whatever meaning it might convey. How could a Communist sleep at night knowing a particular film, perhaps the only one of his movies a certain viewer might ever see, didn’t include a persuasive pitch for collective farming and the redistribution of wealth? His only chance to convert a movie-going capitalist and he blew it!

A novelist’s perspective doesn’t have to function as a pair of blinders or a pigeonhole. Think of it instead as an influence. People are influenced by their politics, by past experience, by religious and philosophical convictions, and these influences combine to form an interesting (or at any rate, unique) way of seeing things. When a Communist puts pen to paper, he’s not representing a monolithic movement; he’s revealing himself. The same is true for any ideologue, including the Christian.

Naturally, there are people who believe by definition that Communist art should be about dialectical materialism and Christian art should be about the gospel. “Redemption,” broadly speaking, is the term often used. Paradoxically, these totalizing narratives are straightjacketed into narrowly-focused niche products that can’t speak to the whole of existence, or at least shouldn’t.

I can respect the position, but I don’t happen to share it. As a writer, I prefer to take on the world at large, the big messy scope of reality, pursuing it subjectively and (I hope) convincingly wherever it leads. I’m confident enough in my ideas not to think they need special coddling, and have a high enough view of my readers to realize that while my work might entertain and engage them, even influence them, it’s hardly capable of scrubbing away their own conception of life and inserting my own.

So when I write, I’m speaking for myself, for better or worse. I’m a Christian, and in my less humble moments (which are all too common) I prefer to think of myself as more influenced by that theological tradition than many people who’d own the label of “Christian novelist” with less ambiguity. My books come with no implicit guarantee that they’ll match up to anyone else’s notion of what they should be. For better or worse, the worldview they embody is my own.

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J. Mark Bertrand’s novel Beguiled, co-authored with Deeanne Gist, is in stores now. His crime novel Back on Murder, the first in a series featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March, releases this summer. More information at and on Mark’s new blog

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 9:50 am  Comments (2)  
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