Substitute Daddy

Joy in His Heart
by Kate Welsh
(Love Inspired, Steeple Hill, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-87335-2
These characters are better people than I am. I’m sure if I was riding in a small airplane and it was hit by lightning and I was forced to parachute out over heavily wooded wilderness, I’d be saying – or at least thinking really loud – one of those words depicted in cartoons as something like %@#$&. Nary a hint of any such naughty language out of these two.

Maybe that’s why I don’t read inspirational romances all that often – they don’t seem solidly grounded in realism. But sometimes I feel in the mood to read something a little different, and that’s why I picked up Joy in His Heart.

Joy Lovell is a pilot and director of a general aviation charter company, Agape Air, based in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her company does Angel Flights for critically ill children. She is called in at the last minute to substitute for the pilot on a flight to northern New York State. The doctor accompanying the patient is also a last-minute replacement. Brian Peterson is a trauma surgeon and someone Joy tries to avoid.

Brian and Joy have known each other from childhood and were engaged ten years earlier. But Brian wanted a wife who would be the perfect doctor’s wife, not a woman who wanted to pilot airplanes and fly into danger. Joy knew she could never live up to his expectations so she ended the engagement. They have tried to avoid each other ever since.

It is too late to back out of the trip so Joy flies Brian and the child to their destination. But on the return their previously uneventful flight takes an unexpected detour. Six children on a church camping trip are lost, and Joy is asked to do a visual reconnaissance of the area. A storm comes up, and lightning strikes the plane knocking out instruments. Joy and Brian bail out, and the plane crashes some distance away.

Joy knows their chances of rescue are increased if they are near the crash site so they begin hiking. Along the way, they meet up with the children. Can Joy and Brian work together to save their own lives and the lives of the children? Can this be a new beginning for them, or are their differences still too great?

The conflict between Joy and Brian over their opinions of what it means to be a wife is real enough. Brian is caught in a 50's time warp – the little woman stays home and takes care of the well-behaved kiddies. But it’s exacerbated by Joy’s own misconceptions. She thinks she knows what Brian wants and needs and she’s not that. Even in the face of her obvious abilities and achievements, she stubbornly sticks to her I’m-not-good-enough-for-him complex.

Brian eventually wises up – he’s never stopped loving her and it’s time to rethink his position: “Where in the Bible did it ever say women can’t work outside the home?” I’ve got to wonder, however, if Joy is so stuck in her old mindset that this issue is going to come up again and again.

Keeping the kids safe provides another challenge for them. It also provides effective chaperoning. There’s no opportunity for anything hot and heavy with six rugrats popping up every few minutes. This story is safely in G-rated territory.

I understand that there had to be a crisis sufficiently dire for Joy to divert her flight, but the original circumstances of the lost kids scenario are questionable. A minister has brought six boys camping in the wilderness without another adult, and – get this! – he also brings his little daughter along – with teddy bear yet! Candy is a cutesy moppet (kind of a Cindy Lou Who) who provides yet more opportunities for conflict, but if my minister arranged such a trip with so little supervision, I’d be seriously wondering about his judgment. And if I were the parent of one of those kids, I wouldn’t be signing any permission slip.

Joy in My Heart is an inspirational romance which means that faith plays a role in the story. Joy and Brian pause regularly for prayer and ponder God’s plan for them, but religion is not a heavy theme.

Readers who are tired of the secret-daddy-cowboy plot and are looking for something different may want to check this one out.

--Lesley Dunlap

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