Last summer I read Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer and completely fell in love with the Archer brothers. Travis, Jim, Crockett, and Neill had my heart the minute I learned of their tragic upbringing. I felt so bad for them and how they’d lost out on the innocent and whimsical childhood that all children deserve. Forced to become adults well before their time they become a serious and a fairly un-trusting group of men, that is until Travis marries Meredith. Meredith is able to bring love, kindness, trust, and compassion back into their lives. When the book ended I wondered if Witemeyer would continue writing about the Archer brothers. With the publication of her newest novel, Stealing the Preacher, my question was answered with a resounding yes!
Crockett Archer is on his way to what he thinks will be a normal interview for a pastoral position at a rural church in the Piney Woods of Texas. However, on his way to said interview he is forced off of a train by a mysterious man and kidnapped. He is brought before the man’s daughter, Joanna, on her birthday. Although she had been asking for a pastor to come and revitalize her community church for as long as she could remember, Joanna didn’t want it to happen like this. She is torn because although her wishes for a pastor have been answered, it is at the expense of Crockett’s freedom. Fearing that this experience will jeopardize his future aspirations as a pastor, Crockett tries his best to flee his situation and eventually succeeds. However, he can’t shake the strong feeling of attachment and connection that he feels towards Joanna. As an attachment grows between them, Joanna must hope against hope that her prayers are being answered and that she may actually have a chance to develop a relationship with Crockett. Crockett, on the other hand, must hope that Joanna’s father’s objections to his daughter dating a preacher are short-lived. Will things ever work out between the two of them?
Witemeyer’s strongest attribute as an author is definitely her character development. There are so many characters developing in this novel which makes it easy to become captivated by the story. The plot gently unfolds around the development of Crockett, Joanna, Silas, and Jackson. Silas definitely undergoes the most drastic of changes and is the character you’re rooting for during most of the story. While the story is primarily about the romance between Joanna and Crockett, it’s also about a father and daughter’s love for each other, and also the transformation that occurs from having a strong faith.
Joanna was my favorite character hands down. She’s a strong woman who has the best of intentions, always. The largeness and goodness of her heart is simply immeasurable. She tries to see the best in everyone and believes that even the worst of souls can be redeemed. As an individual who isn’t religious personally, I think a lot can be said about how strong and moving Witemeyer’s writing is when the character who is probably the deepest spiritually turns out to be my favorite. The inspiration in her writing is moving and holds a depth of meaning that anyone (religious or not) can appreciate.
Between the characters and depth of her works Witemeyer has found a fan in me for life. You should definitely add her works to your to-read lists. I’ve read Short Straw Bride, A Head in the Clouds, and To Win Her Heart and would recommend every single one of them. Heartfelt, pure, and good, Witemeyer’s novels will definitely warm your heart.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my seventeenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House (2013)
eBook: 352 pages
Special thanks to Bethany House for my review copy via Netgalley!