When I read a book I usually form an impression of characters, and the opinions typically hold true until possibly a surprise is revealed near the book’s end. That was not the case in Dare to Love Again. Having read the first book in The Heart of San Francisco series, I had met the lead character in this book, Allison McClare, and remembered her as a compassionate, high spirited young lady of great faith. In this, the second book of the series, Allison is multi-faceted. One moment she is emotionally wounded and defensive, provoking sympathy from the reader; the next she is a spoiled, temper tantruming brat that the reader would like to take by the shoulders and shake! There are times when she is a bright young educator, totally devoted to her job and her students, a young women yearning for independence and self-reliance. Yet she is also capable of being manipulative, self-serving, and at times even cruel (although she eventually becomes remorseful and apologetic). Her male counterpart possesses equally diverse character traits: handsome, harsh, humorous, easily perturbed, petulant, aggressive, honest, shady, compassionate, loving, angry, … I stayed engaged with the story in order to find out these two characters’ true character.
One thing that I love about Julie Lessman’s books is the degree of research that goes into their historical accuracy. Lessman is a master of weaving in interesting historical information that helps place her readers in the story’s setting. Allison’s excitement over the sites as she takes her first cable car ride causes her to take on the role of tour guide for the handsome policeman recently arrived in the city, allowing us a lens for viewing 1903 San Francisco. The horrors of life on the Barbary Coast are made evident as Allison, her mother, and her cousin work to improve the lives of the young girls who make their homes there. By contrast Lessman paints a clear vision of the much different life among the residents of Nob Hill, the home of San Francisco’s elite. Even the fine points of the dress and hairstyles of the day have been carefully researched and described. The demands of morality during this time in the city’s history are clearly viewed in the lives of the McClare family, some who find them more easily met than others. The depths of debauchery, not so much different from today, are also evident in the circumstances found on the Barbary Coast, from which some in the McClare family may be profiting.
Trust is one of the major themes in this series of books. The McClare women seem to be destined to having their hearts broken before finding true romance. In the midst of these trials and heartaches, they learn the importance of trusting in God’s love, mercy and sovereignty. They also learn the importance of trusting their hearts to men who also trust God. I was reminded of the blessing of a husband who embraces the role of spiritual head of the household, a blessing I enjoy daily.
Julie Lessman is known for her ability to create sexual tension between characters while maintaining a storyline that does not compromise and using vocabulary that does not embarrass. She has demonstrated that ability in Dare to Love Again. While reading this book I also learned of a non-fiction book that Lessman has written in which she shares her secrests, and hopes to teach others as well. Those reading this review who are interested in writing as well may want to check out [Romance-ology 101] Writing Romantic Tension for the Inspirational and Sweet Markets.
In my review of Love at Any Cost I had expressed an interest in the continuing story of Caitlynn (Allison’s widowed mother) and Logan. I was not disappointed in the way Lessman continued to develop their love story. One of the nice things about this series is that the love story of each book’s main character is a stand-alone read with closure at the book’s end, but the story of Cait and Logan is a continuing thread throughout the series.
Thank you to Revell, the publisher, for sending me a copy of Dare to Love Again for my honest opinion of the book.