By: Tabitha Harris
As Martin Hospitality opens, we meet Gemma Ebworthy: a pregnant, newly homeless, nineteen-year-old. The book then chronicles her adventures, as she is taken in by the boisterous, kind-hearted Martin family, and seeks to make a new life for herself. I literally can’t say too much more than that, since I don’t want to accidentally give away any spoilers.
I enjoyed loads of things about Abigayle Claire’s novel, but I want to focus on a few in particular: a tastefully done romance, an accurate portrayal of an unbeliever’s conversion, and a refreshing attention to important detail.
In general, I’m leery of Christian romance novels. I used to devour them in my junior high and high school years, and it was definitely a bad mistake on my part. Abigayle doesn’t market her novel as Christian romance, though, and I found that incredibly refreshing. Romance features heavily throughout the nearly-400 page novel (don’t freak out; it’s more than worth it to read the whole thing). Yet, it doesn’t overshadow the other equally important themes of forgiveness, growth, friendship, and family.
I think what I enjoyed most was the way Gemma and her eventual love-interest didn’t fall in love at “first sight.” It was most definitely a slow-burn sort of romance; one where both parties weren’t initially interested in each other. As time passed and their friendship grew and deepened, they began to see each other in a different light. I especially loved the novel’s ending line:
“...a young man who loved her not for who she had been, but for who she was becoming through Christ.”
That’s a lovely picture of what every Christ-centered romantic relationship should be. One where Christ is at the center; the man and the woman love each other, because of what they see in each other through Christ. That bit definitely made me tear up. I’m pretty sure I just sat there, staring at my screen, and then clapped my hands together with gleeful delight, haha.
Abigayle didn’t present Gemma and her man as soulmates. She even went so far as to introduce other possible love-interests who would have worked just as well. I like that, because it’s so true to real-life. Someone once said that we can be “happy” with any number of people, because a huge part of love is learned. We learn to love the other person’s quirks and personality. The real question is, who do we look at and think: “I love what God is doing in their life, and I want to be a part of that and grow alongside them.” Abigayle did an excellent job of portraying that sentiment. Gemma and her man chose each other over other possible interests, not because it just “felt right,” but because they had looked at each other honestly and couldn’t see themselves being with anyone else.
Additionally, Gemma didn’t accept Christianity simply because she wanted to be with a Christian guy. Her eventual conversion came about gradually, and my heart danced inwardly at Abigayle’s accurate representation of true conversion. So often, Christians tend to write out dramatic conversion scenes, where the unbeliever is sobbing on their knees, or wailing in anguish. Or, the pendulum swing; there isn’t really a conversion at all, and the unbeliever sort of drifts into Christianity as a religion—without the personal saving relationship with Christ, which is so vital.
Gemma did neither of those things. She searched the Scriptures, and it was clear from Abigayle’s writing, that the Holy Spirit had already begun to work on her heart. Everything, down to her struggle with wanting to “feel” like a Christian, was so refreshingly accurate. We don’t just will ourselves to be saved; we pray in faith, and Christ always answers the believing prayer of a sinner, because He has promised to do so. Gemma knew something was missing because, although she believed Jesus was the Son of God after reading the Bible, she hadn’t believed in Him as her Saviour. There was no personal, saving relationship.
Over time, Gemma came to believe. She prayed to Christ, asking for forgiveness for her own sins, and for a heart of forgiveness toward those who had wronged her in the past. Granted, the Most High can save people any way He chooses. I don’t mean to say that the slow, gradual conversion is always how it happens. I only mean that quite a few Christian novels use the dramatic conversion as their default approach, when the slower conversion is just as accurate.
Ahh, now for the details. The details were some of my favourite bits about Martin Hospitality. For example, I was struggling to feel a true distaste for one of the main villain characters. As I read through the first several chapters, I knew I wasn’t supposed to like this individual. I just couldn’t deepen my dislike…until the ant scene.
In a rather ordinary moment, Gemma catches this particular villain methodically squishing ants to death with their finger. That did it for me. It was just something about how Abigayle described the casual ant-murdering that solidified this character’s cruelty. It came out of nowhere, and perhaps that’s what helped: the sudden shock-value of the scene. I have to paste it in below so you can read it:
“She found [them] around the side of the building mercilessly squashing ants with [their] index finger as they tried to climb the wall of peeling paint.”
They continue ant-murdering throughout the rest of the scene. The cold way in which Abigayle wrote it, left me with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
That’s the kind of detail she weaves throughout Martin Hospitality. I could tell her experience, coming from a large family, played heavily into the novel, as well. The Martin family has ten children, and Abigayle captures the ensuing, happy-chaos that brings to a home. I know a family with ten children; having been over at their house numerous times, I can attest to the sorts of loud shenanigans a large family gets up to. Reading about the Martin family made my soul smile, and I’m pretty sure it’ll make yours smile, as well.
There’s loads more I could say about the adorable baby Farris (who also has such a lovely name), and the details regarding Gemma’s pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery. So much more about all the other delightful, horrible, conniving characters, but you’ll just have to read Martin Hospitality for yourself.
Born and raised in Northern New Jersey, Tabby RH has had an immense passion for reading and writing ever since she was young. Creating stories and reveling in the beauty of words have always held a special place in her heart. Currently in her mid-twenties, she juggles the responsibilities of freelance editing, working as a teaching assistant at the High School she graduated from, editing for her church’s small-scale publishing company, and working as an intern at Crown of Beauty Magazine. She also has several manuscripts/novels in various stages of completion and she enjoys working on them as much as she can.
She adores Middle-earth and anything Lord of the Rings-related as well as Autumn, coffee, hygge, burgers and brownies, and having Adventures with dear friends among many other things. Her highest goal in Life is to bring glory to her Saviour and King, Jesus Christ, and to spread His Light of encouragement and salvation through words.
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