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Book Review: Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh

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Maizy Grace Stewart’s job at the Middle Tennessee Review hasn’t become the full-time position she expected. After her last gig as an investigative reporter blew up on her in Seattle (along with her last relationship), she’s stuck in the “Lifestyle” section writing quirky pieces about “Mule Day” and whatever other community events land on her desk. Struggling to pay her bills on a part-time salary, her search for a second job lands her at Steeple Side Christian Resources – a publisher who employs only dedicated Christians and requires them to abide by normative Christian behaviour both on and off the job.

As a nominal Christian who was ‘saved’ at a Christian camp in her teens, Maizy hasn’t had, well, anything to do with Jesus in the 10 years since. As a result she finds herself Faking Grace, trying to live a Christian life that looks good on the outside but is hollow inside. Going by her middle name Grace, dressing conservatively, and decking her vehicle with what she considers the requisite ‘Jesus junk’, with her handy Dumb Blonde’s Guide to Christianity by her side she might just be able to hang onto working as a lowly editorial assistant until she goes full time at the Review.

She can’t fool everyone though, and when the good-looking Brit Jack Prentiss challenges her faith, she knows she could be in over her head. When the opportunity to go full-time at the Review comes along with the provision that she get the dirt on her colleagues at Steeple Side, her deceptions clash with her burgeoning faith as she draws closer to God and the Christians around her, each with their own challenges and failings.

Tamara Leigh excels at writing Christian chick-lit. She had me laughing by the third page, and kept me on tenterhooks during the gut-swirling miscommunications and conflict at the story’s apex that lovers of the genre are familiar with. Maizy, Jack, Jem, and the many co-workers who Maizy comes to know during her time at Steeple Side are portrayed as real Christians – those who love Jesus but still struggle with the sin present in our fallen nature.

Maizy herself is confusing to me. As much as I want to see everything turn out right for her, I’m still not sure if we’re expected to believe that she really did come to faith 10 years ago. With hardly any evidence of a transformed life and passionate love for God, that’s hard for me to swallow. If Leigh is implying that the true beginning of her faith was borne of the desperate conundrum she finds herself in, it certainly isn’t clearly pointed out in the novel.

Maizy’s sketchy conversion aside, Faking Grace is thoroughly enjoyable, and has all of the requisite ingredients for a successful chick-lit novel: humour, caring friendships, conflict, entanglements, and a fledgling romance with a foreign bloke – what more do you need? Against this supporting structure Leigh tells a compassionate story of God’s mercy, grace and goodness, and the struggles that Christians face in their daily lives as they grow in Godliness. Her writing style is charmingly breezy, fun-filled, and easy to digest. I gobbled it all up, and while satisfying, I’m looking forward to more from Leigh’s pen.

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