Book Review: Bandit's Hope by Marcia Gruver

Bandit's Hope by Marcia Gruver is the second book in the Backwoods Brides Series of Christian, historical romances. I have not read the first in the series, but did not feel the lack except for when we meet the hero's family toward the end of the book. As I have said before, I do not read a lot of Christian romance, simply because it is so easy to go wrong, but this hit all the right cords with me.

In Bandit's Hope, readers meet Reddick “Tiller” McRae. He is traveling with outlaws, acting as their decoy to help them commit robbery. However, Tiller is tired of the outlaw life and is looking to make a change. When the company robs an older man, Tiller has had enough and heads off on his own, with no promise to return. Mariah Coffee Bell has just lost her father, but kept that news to herself. As a woman, a woman of mixed heritage no less, she has no claim on the property and inn that she has been running with her father since her mother died. Now she needs to marry in order to keep control of everything that she loves. When Tiller stumbles upon the inn in bad weather, it becomes harder for Mariah to follow through with her plan to marry a local farmer, but she is determined to hold onto her mother's beloved land. Tiller's life seems to be crumbling when the older gentleman that was victim in his last act with the outlaws is brought to the inn in bad shape. Then Mariah's uncle comes to the inn determined to bring her to live with the rest of her mother's family. Secrets are in danger, and the cause of misery. Can everyone find the future and forgiveness they seek, while offering others the same forgiveness they desire?

Bandit's Hope is definitely a Christian romance, with strong messages about forgiveness, family and honesty. However, the message is one that people of all faith's and backgrounds can enjoy and take something from which is important in a world with so many different religions and cultures. The mentions of the bible and faith flowed perfectly with the story, rather than feeling forced or added on just for the sake of the label 'Christian Fiction'. The story was complex, but not in a bad way. The cast of characters were varied, and extremely well built. They all felt fully three dimensional, even the characters that we only see once or twice.

I think I can safely say that Bandit's Hope was the best example of Christian romance done well that I have ever read, and I can recommend it for all fans of the genre. I would also recommend Bandit's Hope to readers that enjoy well fleshed out romance novels, and might not normally seek out Christian fiction. The only people that might not enjoy this book are those that do not like romance novels, are bothered by mentions of faith in their fiction, or do not like historical fiction set in early America.
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