Think of Christian chick-lit as girl meets boy with God in the middle. This subgenre is growing with its pitch of adding substance to the familiar formula of women’s fiction. Unfortunately, Tamara Leigh’s latest novel, Faking Grace, falls into the same old plotlines with interesting characters.
Maizy Grace needs a job to supplement her dull part-time job as a reporter at a local Nashville paper, so she grabs a job at Steeple Side Christina Resources, a Christian publishing company. There’s just one problem: Maizy is not a Christian. So the heroine begins to fake her faith to keep her new job. Plenty of complications cloud Maizy’s life, including her troubled past and her meddling grandmother. Add in dashing Brit Jack Prentiss as the hot love interest, and Leigh sets up the classic chick lit novel.
The charm of Faking Grace lies in the book’s practical discussion about Christianity. Maizy’s initial approach to Christianity is filled with the typical stereotypes: metal cross around her neck, bumper sticker proclaiming her faith, and conservative clothes. As Maizy learns about the complexities that fill her fellow Christian co-workers’ lives, she begins to re-examine Christianity. Good Christian chick lit does not overpower the reader with the greatness of the faith. Leigh’s previous books, Perfecting Kate and Splitting Harriet, unfortunately read like glorified Christian tracts with little pieces of plot in between. Faking Grace adds layers to the message of faith with a genuine search from Maizy for spiritual guidance.
What keeps the novel moving is Maizy’s internal musings. Readers will either love or hate her excessive monologues. Maizy has the usual self-deprecating voice of a young heroine. “Oh God. And I really am talking to You,” Maizy pleads during her first day at Steeple. “Though it’s true I’m being a little deceptive, I’d appreciate it if You’d get me out of this. In fact, if You do, I’ll crack open that new Bible tonight.” Her pause in thought does not go unnoticed by her colleagues or the other characters in the novel. Leigh gives the novel a feel of reality with these touches of self-awareness. Other characters are introduced as two-dimensional figures, such as Fiala, Maizy’s cranky boss, but Leigh takes her time to draw out the inner conflicts of characters.
Many situations arise where Maizy is uncomfortable, such as a humorous encounter at the state fair, but a few too many. The book slows down in the middle and draws out the romance too much. When Maizy’s secrets come out, the drama is anticlimactic - but the ending is what readers will expect.
Lovers of chick lit will find Maizy’s moral dilemmas and clumsy personal life delicious. Newcomers to Christian lit may find the beginning few chapters heavy-handed, but the clichés ease up as the plot gets juicy. Faking Grace is not for beginners of women’s fiction. Casual readers may find the twisty plotlines contrived, and with good reason. Maizy’s visit from her grandmother comes off as funny and flat at the same time. Her instant hate-to-love relationship with Jack is easily transparent in their first meeting but again warms into a sweet romance.
Faking Grace is a lovely novel about a young woman’s journey in developing her career, her love life and her faith. If only the journey wasn’t so predictable at the start.