Save the Date, by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson, 2011)
Lucy Wiltshire runs a Saving Grace, a non-profit home for 18- and 19-year-old young women who’ve aged out of the foster care system and might otherwise be on the streets. The daughter of a cleaning lady, she feels more in common with these girls than with the affluent Charleston society members on whom she depends for donations.
Her desperate attempt to reverse a major funding cut ends in disaster—and with only one option to keep a roof over her girls’ heads: pose as wealthy Alex Sinclair’s love interest. Alex is a former football star who’s running for Congress, and dating a hometown girl like Lucy is just what he needs to improve his image.
The fake-engagement plot is nothing new, but author Jenny B. Jones keeps it fresh and adds other layers of story. Alex and Lucy sign a five-month agreement and plan to quietly “break up” after the election. She thinks he’s shallow and arrogant. He doesn’t want a long-term commitment this early in his career.
But Lucy begins to discover the good in Alex, and the approaching breakup adds to her stress. And stress there is. The girls’ home is saved, thanks to Alex’s money, but the girls still need care and Lucy’s on a crash course to learn enough about politics and high society to stand by “her” man in his campaign. Her mentor’s trying to re-make her, the paparazzi haunt her, and worst of all is the truth she learns about her father.
In the middle of high-society Charleston and US congressional politics (neither of which are big draws for this middle-class Canadian) Lucy is a delightful character. Spunky, quirky, and with a tendency to break something when she’s embarrassed, she’s unpretentious and fun. And she’s into Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. A bonus, for me.
She’s also a Christian, and her friends don’t think lying about a relationship with Alex is God’s way of providing for Saving Grace. But they stand by her, and she makes some surprising new friends along the way.
Save the Date is a heart-warming read complete with witty verbal sparring between Lucy and Alex. These two feel like real people and I genuinely cared about what would happen to them. There are some colourful support characters that add to the fun.
It’s also a novel that takes a serious look at insecurity and poor self-image. Jenny B. Jones is too good a writer to turn the novel into anything heavy-handed, but what Lucy and Alex learn, we can learn right along with them.
These deep insights are part of what I appreciate in her adult novels. Her previous one, Just Between You and Me, deals with fear, and I count it among the handful of life-changing fictional stories I’ve read. Based on that, as soon as I heard this new novel was in the works, I “saved the date,” and this book is every bit as good as the first.
Jenny B. Jones is best known for her young adults’ “Charmed Life” series, which are good fun for adults as well. She has a new young adult novel, There You’ll Find Me, coming out in October 2011. You can find Jenny at her website and her blog. (You may also want to see my review of Just Between You and Me.)