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The Measure of a Lady    by Deeanne Gist order for
Measure of a Lady
by Deeanne Gist
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Rachel Van Buren arrives in San Francisco with her two younger siblings after a harrowing ship voyage from her native New Jersey. Her father, who had dreamed of coming to California to claim his share of the bountiful gold he read about, died on their trip. Now Rachel, the oldest, is the guardian of her fifteen-year-old sister Lissa and her fourteen-year-old brother Michael, and San Francisco in 1849 is anything but accommodating for them.

Very few women remain in the city, the only ones left are unsavory types, not sunbonnets (or respectable women) like Rachel and her sister. Former missionary-turned-saloon and gambling parlor owner Johnnie Parker takes pity on the group and provides them a shack to live in, in exchange for housekeeping and cooking duties. The wild city quickly lures Lissa away from their Christian upbringing. Rachel's pleading does not convince her to return to her family. As Rachel spends more time with Johnnie, she finds herself drawn to his charismatic personality, yet she does not agree with his lifestyle or the fact that he's turned away from God. Can Rachel reunite her family in a city that God appears to have forgotten?

I was looking forward to this story, because I enjoyed Deeanne Gist's A Bride Most Begrudging so much. Although this second novel is interesting, it doesn't hold the charm of the previous one. The descriptions of San Francisco in the 1800s are vivid and place the reader at the center of the sights, sounds, smells, and rough atmosphere of the time. Rachel is a very headstrong and moral woman. All she wants to do is go back to New Jersey, but she's forced to live in a city that is unwelcoming and unsavory. Rachel's legalistic and judgmental attitude wears on the reader after a while. She is rigid in her beliefs, even though she doesn't back them up with the Bible, and spends most of the novel with a condescending attitude toward everyone around her. A bit of softening would have made it easier to relate to her character.

Christian fiction readers should be warned that the romantic descriptions are more detailed than in most novels in this genre. While it's handled appropriately, the story crosses over to more sexual tension than romantic tension at times. Overall, the detail, intriguing drama and exciting conclusion will appeal to historical fiction readers.

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