Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Book Review: Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly (Whitney Finalist)
Author: Carla Kelly
Enjoyment Rating: 8/10
Referral: Whitney Finalist
Source: Library Copy
Books I've read this year: 18
Carla Kelly is a veteran Romance novelist whose who has published about 40 novels (mostly Regency Romances) with major publishing houses. Kelly, who has a master's degree in history and has worked as a professional historian, really knows her stuff, and the details and setting are part of what make Borrowed Light such a fun read. Borrowed Light is the story of Julia Darling, an almost 28-year-old Mormon living in Salt Lake City in 1909 who decides to breakup with her stuffed shirt of a fiance even though she recognizes that it might be her last chance for marriage. A graduate of the Fanny Farmer cooking school, she signs a contract to cook on a ranch in Wyoming for a year. The proprietor of the ranch turns out to It sounds like a pretty stereotypical romance novel so far, doesn't it?
But that's the thing. Kelly uses the conventions of a romance novel. It looks like a romance and sounds like a romance, but it's missing some of the elements I've come to expect in a romance. For example, there's no rival to Otto, the handsome rancher. Julia doesn't waver in her growing love for him once she meets him. The conflict comes not in the relationships, but in Julia's relationship with her faith. As the title suggests, Julia has been "living on borrowed light," and this year living in Wyoming helps her determine how important her faith is to her. Instead of a romance, this feels more like a bildungsroman. Of course, there are the essential plot twists and misunderstandings, but I'm not surprised at all that Kelly chose to publish Borrowed Light with an LDS publisher instead of with Signet or Harlequin, since the story is essentially a Mormon "coming of faith" novel. Whatever the category, it's interesting and engrossing and very well done.