Further Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 2: Allegory, Schmallegory

In case you missed it….


I believe any allegory or a re-telling or even a “reframing” promises the reader a more than superficial resemblance. As an inspie reader, my Default Reader Trust Mode tells me that the author of a fictionalized Bible story — even one described in such vague tones as a “reframing” — has taken on the greater responsibility to go beyond the surface to tell the whole story.

A biblical story calls its readers to enter its world, to be captivated by its characters, intrigued by its plot, and affectively engaged through suspense and complication till its final denouement. Biblical stories invite us into a world contoured by ancient conventions, yet pulsing with continuous relevance. …[A] story is a whole that conveys meaning through its totality, through the choice and placement of its parts, and through the sum of its parts.1


The parts of the story can be understood only as they relate to the integrity of the whole literary structure, and, conversely, the point of the story in all of its complexity can be best understood by pondering the significance of each part.3

If I’m reading a retelling a book of the Bible, I take it as a given that the author will be faithful to the meaning and intent of that story — not just the character names and superficial plot points.

In all fairness, not every character and verse needs a corollary in a fictionalized Bible story. Other Esther-inspired novels do without Queen Vashti, and the beauty contest, and the poetic justice and the glorious irony of the scriptures, and still give good story.

For Such a Time is not “good story.”

Yes, I know that “reframing” equals “jumping off point.” But when you jump off something, there’s an implication you’re reasonably assured of a safe landing without falling on your arse.

For Such a Time shows its arse on nearly every page.

Arse is not profanity because it’s British.

I’d like to say I am confounded why author Kate Breslin chose the specific elements of the Esther story that appear in For Such a Time and ignored others. However, it’s painfully obvious (I’m using that phrase repeatedly, but argh) which elements got in the way of the story she wanted to tell. Some are of the “huh?” variety, while others are downright “WTF???” egregious.

Acronyms do not count as actual profanity. I checked.

In my one week of research, I found dozens of books and articles on the story of Esther, from Christian exegetic textual analysis to Talmudic and rabbinic commentaries to YA novels to preschool coloring books.

Also, Joan Collins movies. Totally not kidding.

Esther and the King, 1960

If I was an inspie author, I would bury myself in these sources and wallow in them. I would absorb everything and pick it apart and put it back together again to figure out how best to relate God’s word to readers looking for a good story.

[NOTE: I would wallow in the Joan Collins movie, but I’d probably avoid actually absorbing anything.]

I honestly believe that Breslin — and her editors — read none of the same non-fiction titles I did. I seriously doubt the editors of the book consulted even one of the eleventy-five Bible study guides available from their own publishing house.

Eleventy-five is hyperbole, not snark. Continue reading

One-Quote Review: Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

  • Title: Trust Me on This
  • Author: Jennifer Crusie
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Bantam, October 2010 (originally published June 1997 by Loveswept)
  • Source: Public library
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Trope(s): Battle of the Sexes, Mistaken Identity, Slimy Villain, Bimbo Sidekick, Mature Couple
  • Quick blurb: Fraud investigator mistakes a reporter for a con man’s shill.
  • Quick review: Fast, funny and pure fluff, but definitely worth reading.
  • Grade: B

“A million guys in this city, and I have to hit a bleeder.”

I got this from the library on a whim after wishlisting all the If You Like Mature Romance recs at Dear Author. Crusie pulls off the farce really well, zinging back and forth between the older and younger couples with great one-liners and a surprising amount of romantic and sexual tension. It’s a fun and memorable one-night read.

Book Anxiety, Part 2: Untamed by Anna Cowan

Untamed by Anna Cowan

  • Title: Untamed
  • Author: Anna Cowan
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Trope(s): Heroine Who Says the F-Word, Hero Who’s Prettier Than The Heroine, Evil Gambling Father, Tragic Pasts, Sibling/Parent Issues, Deceit & Manipulation
  • Quick blurb: A dandy in disguise changes the lives of a disgraced and debt-ridden family.
  • Quick review: Again with the Book Anxiety, but a better outcome this time.
  • Grade: C+

“I will write a book of bad ideas,” she said, pulling viciously at the buttons on her sleeve, “and the final chapter will be dedicated to this epic, gravity-defying feat of stupidity. And in a hundred years a celebrated English wordsmith will come across it and write a poetic tribute to the very bad idea that malformed in the brain of one demented duke. His work will run to eleven volumes before his vocabulary has even begun to do justice to how extremely bad this idea is.”

Oy. I need to quit whining for new and different, because more like this is going to kill me.

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Backlist Binge: Sophia James

This took me longer than I thought, because I wound up doing a full re-read of one, and I had to buy and read the newest because it finished off a series.

So… Here are the highs and lows of Harlequin Historical author Sophia James, presented in chronological order (minus the anthologies). Cover images link to Goodreads.

In summary: James is on the dark and angsty edge of Harlequin Historicals — her characters are complex and conflicted, and when she stays away from rakes and pirates, her storytelling skills are memorable. But it’s hit or miss whether all the pieces and parts coalesce enough to suck me into a full-on book trance.

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One-Quote Review: Lady with the Devil’s Scar by Sophia James

Yes, I’m still here. I have a boatload of reviews in the backlog, so be prepared for a influx of One-Quote Wonders.


  • Lady with the Devil's Scar by Sophia JamesTitle: Lady with the Devil’s Scar
  • Author: Sophia James
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Harlequin, August 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($4.61 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Scarred Heroine, Illegitimate Loner Hero, Vengeful King
  • Quick blurb: Daughter of infamous Highland rebel fights and flirts with French mercenary sent to destroy her castle.
  • Quick review: Strong characters and good historical world-building, but not something I’ll read again.
  • Grade: B-

He kissed like a warrior would, taking what he needed without discourse to the properness of society, her timid answer pushed away into sheer and blazing want.

Sophia James, along with Julia Justiss and Elizabeth Rolls, was one of my “gateway” Harlequin Historical authors – I glommed her entire backlist when I first got my Kindle.

James is one of those authors that I enjoy, but not enough to rave about, and Lady With the Devil’s Scar fits right in that middle territory – I liked it, but not enough to displace any of my favorites.

Coming up next: The Sophia James Backlist Binge….

Naughty Norsemen: Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

  • Title: Kiss of Pride
  • Author: Sandra Hill
  • Series: Deadly Angels, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, PNR
  • Publisher: Avon, April 2012
  • Source: Public library ($4.74 ebook)
  • Length: 309 pages
  • Trope(s): Vikings!
  • Quick blurb: Vikings! Vampires! Angels! Time Travel! Satan’s Minions Host a Sin Cruise! Home Improvement!
  • Quick review: An utterly goofy and stupidly entertaining read.
  • Grade: A-

“Oh my God! It has a halo.”

He jerked to a sitting position and glanced down to his cockstand, which resembled a fat standing candle sitting in a circle of light. Breathing a sigh of relief…he said, “That’s not a halo. It’s just the moon hitting off that round mirror over there and reflecting back here.”

“If you say so.” She was clearly unconvinced. “I think it’s kind of cute, that you would have a halo around your penis.”

Cute? A man does not want his cock to be cute. “It is not a halo.”

She leaned forward to study it closer. “Let’s see if you taste holy.”


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