Heart of Stone (Irish Sister Series, 1) by Jill Marie Landis
Finally free to pursue her dreams, Laura Foster is trying hard not to fall in love. She knows that the Reverend Brand McCormick’s reputation would be shattered if her former life is discovered. But it’s not only Laura’s history that threatens to bring Brand down—it’s his own.
Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis is a novel I acquired through a Goodreads bookswap. I cannot for the life of me remember where I first found the book or who recommended it to me. I was excited to read the novel from the description, and I dove into it this evening after receiving it in the mail.
Though the plot line is not completely predictable, I was slightly disappointed. I had trouble connecting with the characters and feeling their emotions. The basic story is a classic tale of forgiveness. Laura is a self-made young woman who was sold into prostitution as a child. She now owns a boardinghouse and desires only to live a normal life. Her love interest, Reverend Brand, is a lovesick suitor, who determinedly pursues her. She avoids him, in order to protect his reputation. But it turns out that he has a past of his own. The forgiveness background is based on the verse John 8:7 - "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." A personal believer in not judging people by their circumstances or mistakes, I greatly enjoyed the idea of the hypocritical first reactions of the townspeople and friends being replaced with grace. I truly thought these parts of the novel were well-written.
However, the romance slightly eluded me. The title, Heart of Stone, is supposed to be based on the idea that, in order to survive, Laura has walled herself off from everyone - completely void of emotion. I never felt that. She seemed caring to me from the beginning. I also had a hard time seeing the past Laura and the present Laura as the same person. In books with past/present contrasts (and in real life), putting a past behind oneself does not mean being completely free of it. Scars are always present, and healing is needed. Laura seemed almost two-dimensional, as one moment she is completely ashamed and putting up a facade and, the next, she is willing to tell everyone her story and live as a person unashamed. I understand that healing and forgiveness through the Lord is present, but even then, healing is not instantaneous. It's a process to learn to love oneself through Christ. I just thought it was a little too much of a snap-your-fingers-there's-a-change story. It is once she has had this change that she can open herself up to loving Brand. But since I did not really feel the change, the "love declaration" was a little flat for me as well.
Overall, I gave this book a 3/5. I enjoyed the story, and I am not sorry I read it. I probably will not read it again, but I might pick up the next book in the series with the hope that I can connect to those characters a little better. I recommend this novel for those who greatly enjoy Christian fiction and Christian romance. Those into mysteries and thrillers may be bored, so unless you are looking for laid-back paced plot, you may want to pass this one up. Those who enjoy Christian fiction will enjoy the plot, which is not completely predictable, and the backdrop of forgiveness.