This is a second in a series of Steeple Hill Inspirational Historicals book reviews.
In The Law and Miss Mary, Mary Randolph and her brother, James, travel to St. Louis on a secret mission to discover who is skimming funds from their family’s steamship line and allowing the steamers to fall into disrepair. James, posing as the new manager, plans to go alone, but Mary learns the man she expected to marry only wanted her for her dowry, and she begs her parents to let her go with her brother. Brokenhearted, she longs for a godly man who will love her for herself, but doubts that could happen since her tall, skinny shape, plain face, and outspoken personality make her undesirable. What’s more, she’s convinced God couldn’t love her either, for if He had, He would have created her small, beautiful, and demure.
Samuel Benton, Captain of the St. Louis Police Department, who methodically strives to build a powerful reputation for himself, suspects the Randolphs are behind the steamship company’s woes. Soon after meeting them, he escorts Mary to the city’s shopping district, where they happen upon a young orphan who’s caught stealing food to keep from starving. Mary stops Sam from arresting the child by paying for his food and taking him home. When she learns there are more orphans with similar problems, and their plight is hopeless due to the cruel behavior of civil authorities, she begins a quest to save as many of the destitute children as she can though with limited resources.
Sam agrees with her in principle but must enforce the laws that deny the orphans’ basic rights. As Mary continues to fight for them, Sam tries to help but soon reaches a point where he must examine his attitudes not only concerning his actions and career, but more importantly, toward God Himself. And he is forced to choose between Mary’s dream of providing an orphanage to care for the children, or pursue his goal of marrying the mayor’s daughter and succeeding her father into office.
I enjoyed the characters in The Law and Miss Mary and found them very believable and genuine with strengths and flaws that added to their depth and vulnerability. I especially loved the way Dorothy Clark depicts Mary’s poor self-esteem and her bad habit of comparing her physical attributes to other women’s and falling short. But she also exhibits wonderful compassion, tenacity, and courage. Sam’s shallow, life-long goals overshadow his strong sense of honor and generosity, but when challenged with the children's difficulties, his true personality comes to light. He struggles for the cause of justice, but his greatest battle takes place within himself.
The despicable antagonists whose necks I wanted to wring provide a great source of conflict, and James’s warmhearted wisdom and encouragement is precious. The author paints our God as the faithful and loving Provider, who opens the eyes of His imperfect vessels to truths that set them free and enables them to help Him manifest His perfect plan for children and adults alike.
3 Praise him [God] with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. 4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. 5. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. 6. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
For He is worthy to be praised.
Winner of the 2009 Phoenix Rattler "Does Your Story Have Bite?" Contest--Contemporary Romance Category.