"If he's foolish enough to cross us, then our election strategy will have to be reevaluated. What's the point of electing him if he's uncooperative?" (189)Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings is a historical Christian fiction story about Nick Lovelace, a railroad and government man, and his unlikely encounter with an old acquaintance, Anne Tillerton. The story begins with both Nick and Anne standing up to some train robbers, after which their paths continue to cross and a dynamic relationship forms between them.
At the beginning of the story, Anne is very much a type-character: she rebels against societal norms for women and that seems to be the only character trait she has. She dresses like a man, hunts buffalo, and refuses to accept any attention from a man.
Through a series of unfortunate events, Anne becomes the caretaker for a young boy, Sammy. Again, the focus is mostly on the fact that single parents do not fit in to society, regardless of the circumstances. Stereotypically fitting with her refusal to don a dress as is considered proper for a lady, she is also unsure of how to care for a child, seeming to completely lack maternal instinct.
At the story progresses, the character becomes more fully developed and begins to make realistic decisions instead of just going with whatever the obvious rebellious action would be.
Part of being accepted into the 1883 Garber Texas society includes going to church. Anne is not a woman of faith at the beginning of the novel and her Christian development through the book seems a little strained. When she decides to become the official mother to Sammy, she decides that "she would start small, ease into this new role. Instead of ridiculing the sermons on Sunday, she would give he pastor a chance. Praying would be a good start, and she could learn the language of faith that everyone around her spoke so fluently. If it paid off, then maybe she'd trust God with a little more" (153). Her thought process in connecting becoming a mother to becoming a Christian was not clear.
However, Nick, the pious and God-fearing man, had more realistic faith dilemmas. No Christian character can know or understand everything, just as no Christian can, which is why Nick's faith experiences were more relateable. Nick struggled with God's role in his life: "Success always involved risk, and God had faithfully smiled on his endeavors. And would continue to do so. He had to, right? As long as Nicholas followed the rules and obeyed the Bible, his fortunes would continue to rise, his domain would continue to expand. Wasn't that the bargain?" (194).
The plot is captivating, although it was a bit slow to start even with a train robbery in the second chapter. Through the rest of the book Anne and Nick overcome many different types of challenges: fitting into society, raising a child, dealing with corrupt political schemes...Anne also has to overcome a troubling past, as we learn more and more captivating details.
My mother who enjoys Christian historical fiction often enjoyed this book, though she too, found some of the Christian conversations to be forced or unrealistic. I would still recommend Caught in the Middle as a heart-wrenching struggle between doing what is right and doing what you want.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.