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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Romance in the Rebecca Series: A Fearful Thing

Romance in the Rebecca Series: A Fearful Thing

In previous posts, I’ve suggested that, in action/mystery novels, a background romance can add suspense to the mystery and depth to the action.

That first phrase, adding suspense to the mystery, means to me that, if the author has led me to care about any of the major characters, and if one of those characters begins to have romantic feelings toward another character, then I start to be both intrigued and concerned. What is this new person really like? Is this person going to prove worthy of my favorite character? Can this new person be trusted by my favorite? Do I need now to be concerned about two people, rather than just one?

This is what I mean by the suspense “beginning to be multiplied and complicated” by the romance...

That second phrase, adding depth to the action, means to me that now one of my favorite characters must act not only on her or his own behalf, but also on behalf of the person she or he is beginning to love. The action has new depth.

In the newest Rebecca Series novel, A Fearful Thing, Rev. Jack McGriff begins to have romantic feelings toward one of the members of his congregation, Marie Campbell. He is a bachelor; she is a young widow whose husband was killed in an accident several years earlier on his Navy warship.

She seems to reciprocate Jack’s interest in her. Despite the fact that they are no longer teenagers, fumbling their way through their very first love experiences, it’s also true that neither Marie nor Jack is practiced in the art of dating, and both seem uncertain as to how the relationship should develop.

They’d both like the relationship to develop. They’re just not sure how to help it along.

At one point in the story, Marie requests a private chat with Rebecca, the lead character in the series. Although the two women are roughly the same age – early 30s – Marie regards Rebecca, now married for a number of years and the mother of four year old twins, as older and wiser in knowing how to think about male-female relationships.

As soon as the two are alone, Marie goes right to the point.


“Yes, Marie.”

“Should I say ‘Yes’ if Jack asks me to marry him?

Rebecca’s contralto laughter immediately filled the small room.

Seeing the humor in her no-preamble, out-of-the-blue question, Marie’s lighter, higher laughter joined Rebecca’s in a lengthy vocal cascade that only gradually subsided. Finally, Rebecca managed a response.

“Well, Marie,” she said, working to suppress more laughter, “Jack is a believer, and one who clearly likes being in your company. And he is a courageous and versatile professional: thus, an admirable man.

“And, importantly,” she added after a short pause, “he is an adult.”

The conversation continues for several minutes, with Rebecca introducing the topic of children, wanting to know if the two of them have discussed becoming parents. Marie replies thoughtfully that if she and McGriff marry, the question of children, she thinks, will be answered naturally in the course of their prayerful exploration of the nature of their marriage.

“… If children are to be in my life… that will come, if it does, as a result of my marriage, to use your own phrases, Rebecca, a man who is a believer, a man who loves being with me, a man who, as you said so elegantly, is a ‘courageous and versatile’ professional, and thus admirable. And, as you also said with intriguing emphasis, an adult.

“Those are the very qualities in Jack that lead me to feel that the question of children will be answered early and easily, Rebecca… We will pray and talk and the answer will come.”

This is a taste of what I meant when I suggested that, in action/mystery novels, a background romance can add suspense to the mystery and depth to the action. Rebecca’s impromptu assessment of Jack McGriff as having an array of qualities that appear to make him a worthy (prospective) husband for Marie leads the story’s readers to deepen their concern for, and commitment to, not just Marie and Jack as individuals, but now as a potential lifelong couple.

More suspense. More depth to the action. And, as well, the promise of a great deal more of each as the two struggle not only with the dangers their group must face, but with their own sense of whether or not each has finally found a life partner.

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