Christ's Glory, Not Mine

by science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

CFBA Tour: Reclaiming Nick

In Reclaiming Nick, a novel by Susan May Warren, Nick Noble returns home to ensure the family ranch stays in the family, just as the back cover said (always nice when the cover copy accurately describes the story). He’s also definitely the prodigal son (in the modern sense if not the original sense of wasteful)—which means the reader can expect sexual immorality and a violent temper in his past. I appreciated the honest handling of youthful transgressions and the damage the hot-blooded eldest Noble brother left in his wake, not to mention a man returning after his father’s death to face up to his past.

What can I say? Warren kept her view point almost too well. The only real flaw in the infrastructure of her novel is that I spent so much time in the first chapter, two tops, flipping back to earlier pages, trying to figure out if Piper was the redhead or the brunette, with her complaining of how he poured the coffee and watching the redhead leave when the brunette had beans served improperly instead and I could only find him pouring coffee for the redhead. But readers that don’t try and make Piper’s account of the prior scene match Nobel’s rendition shouldn’t find the opening frustrating as Mrs. Obsessive here did.

But passing that by, Warren really brought these people to life, and eastern Montana. I spent two years in Kalispell, and though I’d heard that the eastern half of the state was middle-of-no-wheresville, she really brought the reality home. I’d like to have seen more of Kalispell, and would have loved it if she could have worked in a tour of Glacier (maybe next book?) and shown Piper drinking the Chai latte she couldn’t get out east (perhaps at Tidyman’s, that grocery store has a fairly chic coffee house for Montana, if I recall.)

I’d ask for Piper to take a wrong turn down 2nd street past a white church-turned thrift store across the street from a yellow house with a red metal roof and a horse barn-turned duplex out back, but I suppose we’ll have to save that for a novel with the name Graham on it. Can’t let Ingermanson out do Adam and I in the cheese department, and we?

On a more serious note, I am curious whether Kalispell’s paper, The Daily Interlake, has new competition I am unaware of, or if Warren decided to change the paper’s name in fear of facing litigation for some reason. I’d humbly suggest authors using real settings should not change the names of local establishments, but as much as a nuisance as this kind of thing was, her writing was plenty strong enough to make up for it. She succeeded at every author’s goal of making the reader feel like they’re right there in the midst of things—in her case, for most of the book, on a ranch in eastern Montana and decidedly not Piper’s neck of the woods (Kalispell, where the vegan must be used to being surrounded by cowpokes, or wannabe cowpokes at least.)

Faith has definitely been woven into the fabric of the story, and should be subtle enough even for those strange, ah, believers, that object to the use of scripture, as it arises quite naturally. Besides an early reference to psychic abilities that I considered inappropriate, but in line with Piper’s character, two or three comments Nick’s old girlfriend Maggy made came across as if those of us who didn’t make their mistakes are somehow at a disadvantage in our marriages.

As Maggy’s husband would certainly attest—based on the author’s portrayal, not my inference—past relationships of that nature are anything but a help to a marriage and too often prove a stumbling block. Besides the jealousy issues for your spouse, keeping your heart intact in the first place, while difficult in this age, is much easier than putting your heart back together again so your spouse can possess all of it.

But I suspect Warren was just trying to find a non-clichéd way to say that Maggy never really knew what love was before she experienced her husband’s.

For the genre, this one had quite a few twists, and though I picked up on the first from at latest the second hint Warren gave, we both got our satisfaction. The author maintained fairly excellent control of how much and when she revealed this back story. She gave enough clues to get us to guess (rightly) at what’s going on, but held back a surprise or two while tossing out a red herring to throw us off her trail.

One thing I can promise. With the possible exception of formula-snob, fans of western romances will find Reclaiming Nick tough to put down.


4 comments

  1. Actually Tidyman’s closed down. Josh told me a while ago. I just forgot to mention it. There are quite a few places to get a good latte in Kalispell including an expresso stand out on Meridian Road.

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