In Vicki McDonough’s book Gabriel’s Atonement, Gabe Coulter knows what he wants out of life—a comfortable lifestyle free from want and worry. An experienced gambler, Coulter profits from novice card players who end up at his table. But when a foolhardy family man dies by Gabe’s hand, Coulter begins a quest of redemption that leads him to an unlikely place. Meanwhile, Lara Talbot, trapped in an unhappy marriage, must carry the responsibility of keeping her entire family afloat. Facing eviction and not knowing where to turn for help, she must trust in a God who works in mysterious ways. Will she and her family survive?
Gabriel’s Atonement takes the reader back to the prairie lands of Kansas in 1889 where it was still a struggle to survive and people yearned for a better life. The most appealing aspects of the book are the descriptions of the landscape and the sod houses, which are integral to the story, well-researched, and authentic.
Gabriel’s Atonement has several points of view, but the story is mainly seen through the eyes of the two main characters, Gabe and Lara. The minor characters add flavor and variety to the narrative without being a distraction to the main plot. They actually keep the story from becoming stale and slow.
The plot and pace of Gabriel’s Atonement begins well. The reader is able to get right into the story world and into the characters’ lives. The external and internal conflicts which Gabe and Lara face are portrayed well throughout, and the strong romantic conflict builds successfully. The obstacles placed in the characters’ paths reveal Gabe and Lara as likeable and empathetic, and the reader will instinctively cheer for them.
The dialogue in the book remains true to the time and place, but the same words and phrases are repeated regularly by the characters. As a result, different characters sound like the same personality, and the speech patterns appear overdone with “Old West” jargon.
McDonough has a strong moral approach throughout the novel and it is expressed in thought, dialogue, and action. Somewhat didactic, the Christian message is clear and avoids being preachy in most places.
Gabriel’s Atonement is clearly directed at a Christian audience but is suitable for anyone who is looking for a clean historical romance and wants to travel back in time in a well-developed setting and story world.
However, one of the weaknesses of the novel is that the romance angle is overplayed. The internal conflict in Gabe and Lara’s relationship is overdone and, at times, failed to move the plot forward. In addition, some of the dialogue lacked the unique voice of a specific character. Finally, the end of the novel is strangely incomplete. It leaves the reader hanging without the satisfactory feel of a continuous storyline.
All in all, Gabriel’s Atonement is an entertaining read for anyone who enjoys a love story with a little historical flavor.
I received a free copy in exchange for my honest review.