WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The Centurion’s Wife by Davis Bunn (Thomas Locke) and Jannette Oke
Type: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Inspirational Romance
Basic Plot: Leah is filled with a bitterness against all men, so when she is commanded to marry the Roman centurion Alban, she is filled with despair. Alban, though, is kind and intelligent, hoping to one day heal Leah. Both of them find themselves unexpectedly changed when they are ordered to investigate Jesus’ disappearance and his disciples’ ways.
Plot: 3/5 Average: The story was a bit cliché and predictable. A lot of the characters acted in a predictable manner. I will say that there was a plot twist at the very end that I did like, as well as believable character traits, there was just also a lot of the “mysterious Christian” feel to the Bible characters.
Writing Style and Setup: 3½/5 Above Average: The descriptions were beautiful and detailed. Whether it was people, actions, or places, the descriptions were vivid. My only complaint was the dialogue, as there was some dialogue that was just over done in formality or fake feeling. This was constant, but it did occur occasionally. The thing I best enjoyed about the book was, though, was probably the historical accuracy. Customs, government, and religion are all talked about in detail, mainly from a Jewish perspective.
The pace of the book was a little slow. It took 378 pages to get through a story that talks a lot about things most Christians would probably already know about, but some people might like the novelization of Bible characters.
Moral: 2½/5 A Good, but Not Clear Moral: The moral of the book isn’t spelled out or too distinct, but one can see it. Leah is in torments about the idea of marrying, as she has always witnessed abusive and unloving marriages in her family. Alban, her betrothed, is meanwhile working hard to become a great, well known person. Both of them learn to trust in Jesus, putting aside their fears and replacing it with Christ’s love and security. This is a good moral, though I don’t know if non-Christians who read this would be willing to be swayed by it.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: I will say this is a tolerable book, being better than the average inspirational romance. (I will say that my expectations for inspirational romance, though, are quite low.) The descriptions are beautiful and the historical facts are thorough. The plot and dialogue are still both weak and watery, making it a bit of a trial to read. If someone wanted to read this, I would say that girls and women fourteen years old and older would like it best.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Brief Mild Suggestive Content: A man and woman hold hands once. It is mentioned a few other times that the man wants to touch her, though never sexually. It is mention at least three times that characters do not make passes at a certain woman, though they are known for regularly doing so. Once it hints that “impertinent comments” have been made at least once before. It is mention that Jewish people believe that mixed gender bathing is wrong. Characters use single gender bathhouses for baths and massages, though it never talks about them being naked, once mentioning the men wearing towels. A man asks another if “he would be willing to sell” his niece; the first man refuses. It is once briefly mentioned that a woman’s mother committed adultery. A brothel is briefly used in a question once. “Sent to the bed of” is once used to refer to marriage. Girls are once mention to give men suggestive glances. It mentions that Herod married his brother’s wife. A man calls a woman “my dear” and refers to another Pilate’s wife as “lovely,” though whether he means it in an impure way or not is up debatable.
Violence: 2/5 Brief, Mild Violence: Violence is used in descriptions. A man fights some men in battle twice. The first has little actually described fighting, but the second is more graphic, including the beheading of a man. Soldiers use landslides in battle. A man taps and pokes a woman with a cane, as well as whips empty air, but does not beat her with it. There is mention of violent robberies once. Men pound tables at least twice. It is once mentioned that “lambs” were “were being brought for the slaughter.”
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Brief Mention: “By Jupiter” is used once. It is implied twice that a character used foul language.
Disturbing, Intense, and Emotional Content: 2/5 Some Disturbing and Emotional Content: Death is used in descriptions. A woman is spared from a beating; she later says that women are sometimes beaten by their sadistic master “until their ribs show.” A woman is mentioned to have dreamed of being beaten by a cane and screaming. It is mentioned that a woman accidentally spills boiling water on herself, and is unable to walk for several days. There are mentions of the different Roman punishments, including beatings, crucifixion, flaying, flogging, and scourging. Sometimes characters are threatened with or worry about these things, though they never come to pass, and it mentions that Jesus went through some of these. Characters sometimes worry about being killed, or such worry is mentioned, as well as that others want to kill them. It is mentioned that John the Baptist’s head was served on a platter and that Herod has soldiers murder infants. A woman has headaches and nightmares, though they are not described. A woman has a nightmare about a beast-like groom lunging for her. A woman faints from sickness and is unconscious and nearly dies for several days, though little detail of this is given. It is mentioned that a boy was once also sick and near death. It mentions that a woman once broke her hip. It is mentioned that only one man was wounded after a battle. It mentions animal’s fear and cries when they are being brought as a sacrifice. Characters cry a few times from emotional circumstances. Characters are mentioned to have screamed from nightmares or in them. Certain characters constantly worry about revolution, and others are hired to investigate if their will be one. It is mentioned that characters in the past died, one because her husband abandoned her for another woman. A blade is pressed against man’s neck, though not to kill him. It is mentioned once that floods “carried away whole villages.” Twice, characters are mentioned to want or have wanted death, though once suicide is only contemplatead briefly. Characters are mentioned to have “calluses,” “scars,” deformities from broken bones, and injuries after crucifixion. A man once fakes a limp. A man once mentions hating “the sight of blood.”
Religious Issues: 1½/5 Brief Mention: False gods such as Diana, Mercury, and Epona, as well as occasionally what they stand for, are mentioned by name, and there are references occasionally to “the gods” in general. It is mentioned that they are given offerings and that they have temples and alcoves devoted to them. It is also mentioned that people from Gaul sometimes fervently worship “wood sprites and fairies” as well as nature. Once a character makes “the sign against the evil eye.” It is mentioned that a woman was once demon possessed, but that she was healed by Jesus. It is asked if Jesus was a wraith after he arose from the dead. “Demon,” “ghost,” “haunted,” “haunts,” “idol to be worshiped,” and “worships” are used for descriptive purposes. Incense is used, but almost always for non-religious purposes; otherwise it is used correctly for the worship of God. Certain characters refuse to accept Jesus as Savior, and it is mentioned he was accused as a blasphemer.
Magic: 0/5 None
Other: Characters drink and are served ale and wine. A character asks if a man was drunk, but he wasn’t. There are mentions of taverns, and at least twice a man enters one, though not for any worldly reason. It is mentioned that a man divorced his wife, and divorce is mentioned at other times. Men have shoulder length hair at least twice. Gambling is mentioned at least twice. Dancing is mentioned, sometimes for worldly purposes and at other times for Jewish celebrations, though never described sensually or otherwise.
Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: I would say the book is overall clean. The worst thing was probably the scene of violence when a man was defending himself and some mentions of false gods, but other than that I would say it has nothing that anyone would probably object to morally.