Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

Devin Bressard scarcely blinked when Grace tossed her sweet tea in his face.
His eyes were hammered steel. “Feel better?”
“Waste of a good sweet tea.”
“Sorry for your loss.” He took a napkin from the arm of a server instantly beside him.
He wasn’t sorry for anything. She snatched her purse and stood. “It’s a perfect end to this fiasco.” -
Excerpt from Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

Spoiler alert! This review will contain spoilers (a few paragraphs down) for the plot of Told You So. Do not continue reading if you don’t want to read spoilers.

Happy Monday! I know, what’s so happy about Monday? As soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know. For now, I figure I’ll keep putting it out there and assume I can eventually speak it into being. :P  Today I’m bringing you my review of Kristen Heitzmann’s 2015 release, Told You So, a Christian novel that weaves a pinch of drama and mystery in with romance, humor, and the messiness of life and colliding values. Now, don’t read “Christian fiction” and “romance” and say “Um… nope!”, stay with me, because I’m getting a little personal with this one, because this book – while being fiction - *is* personal, for me and I suspect for many others.

From the back cover of the book:

“From the minute Grace Evangeline throws her sweet tea in Devin Bressard’s face, their battle of wits and cross-purposes overtakes their lives. Sassy “angelic” Grace Evangeline will stop at nothing to see her romance novel produced for Broadway. Devin Bressard knows all about the commercial success of Ms. Evangeline’s “novels”—as far from his literary, nerve-striking plays as anything could be.
Grace intends to pull his head out of the rarified air long eough to make her point, even if it involves stalking him and infiltrating his friends and coleagues. Devin knows she’s trouble, but who would guess the spokesperson for strength and virtue would be a calamity vortex? He mounts a fierce resistance, but when he’s forced to work with Grace, his profession and sanity aren’t the only things at risk. Collapsing walls on both sides bring a d├ętente that could shatter their bond—or resound through more lives than their own.”

I grew up in a Christian home, reading lots of Christian fiction. From the first time I read one of her books, Kristen Heitzmann was a favorite. I love that her characters have grit, spark, and spunk, that they feel real and not the perfect polished characters that are found in so much Christian fiction. Where other Christian fiction authors often write books that feel forced and boring (and/or unrealistic in a variety of ways, I’m looking at you Left Behind books), Heitzmann has always written books that draw me in and capture my imagination, and Told You So is no exception.


I think one of my favorite things about Told You So is that after the two main characters have sex, it isn’t all cleaned up and taken care of in a nice, neat, orderly fashion. Pregnancy happens, and life happens, and it’s messy, as life and emotions often are. Grace is left to wrestle not only with her decisions of how to handle the pregnancy, but how to cope with her guilt at letting go of her values and beliefs, how to cope with what feels to her and some of her fans like a betrayal and “Was she ever legit? She preached purity and it meant so much and now she hasn’t even lived up to her own standards that she’s convinced others to live up to.” She has to figure out how to handle the disappointment of those who see her as a role model. All while dealing with the publicity and security concerns.

Why is this my favorite part? Because I have been in a similar position. I know what it’s like to be faced with pregnancy outside of marriage after talking about how important it is to remain a virgin until your wedding night. I know what that guilt feels like, I know intimately the fear of how your loved ones will react and wondering how much judgment will be heaped on your head. I know what it’s like to have to wrestle with the decisions, worries, and shame in your own head, with trying to figure out how to forgive yourself, and with wondering “Have I just screwed up the rest of my life and my baby’s life?”. I know what it’s like to be emotionally exhausted trying to come to terms with all this even while dealing with the physical exhaustion of pregnancy.

I can’t even say how much I appreciated reading Told You So and seeing a Christian book address this situation with love, compassion, grace, kindness, and understanding, without shirking away from showing the emotions of all involved and impacted, from Grace and Devin to the people they know to public individuals, rather than just resolving it all quickly and easily… and without being preachy and stiff. Because the truth is, for a lot of us, this situation is anything but easy. Not only did Heitzmann do a great job telling the story and portraying her characters as human beings dealing with life, she did so with humor woven throughout. Grace Evangeline and Devin Bressard, as well as other characters in the book, are characters I can identify with and understand. I can see myself in them in a variety of ways, and I appreciate the talent it takes to make that happen, especially in the genre of Christian fiction.

On to the Big Question: What to drink?

I drank a particularly nice Caramel Apple Spice with this, and it was delicious. It really went well with the festive aspects of the part of the book that took place around the holidays, and was comforting when I was sniffling my way through the scenes where Heitzmann deftly worked my emotions like a puppet master behind a marionette. 

You can find Kristen Heitzmann on Facebook, twitter (@KFHeitzman), and her website. Stay tuned for more info on Told You Twice, Book #2 in the Told You Series and the sequel to Told you So.
28 Jun 2016: Edited to correct book title in a couple of spots.