Counterfeit Love (Book Review)

  • Author: Crystal Caudill
  • Publisher: Kregel
  • Available Now
  • Synopsis: Set in 19th century America, Caudill’s impressive debut novel combines intrigue with strong faith elements in a mystery about counterfeiting.
  • Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher via Audra Jennings publicity. Opinions expressed are my own.

Scripture Connection

There are two key verses repeated throughout the book:

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…

2 Chron. 20:17

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecc. 4:12

Spiritual Themes

Caudill’s novel is rich with spiritual content, with a strong and personal emphasis on trust in God. I so appreciate seeing this, especially in a historical fiction (Oftentimes, books with historical settings seem to adopt more general messages, with less emphasis on the character personally talking to and hearing from God).

I reference a lot of spiritual content below. Trust in God is huge, regardless of circumstances. There’s also emphasis on commitment to God, which goes hand-in-hand with trust. In this way, the novel raises some excellent points about spiritual purity.

What I Liked

This is a novel with a lot of content that is worth endorsing!

  • The plot is fast-paced and engaging. I had no trouble getting into the story, which is saying a bit since historical fiction isn’t typically my favorite genre.
  • The characters’ relationships with God are integral to the story and to their development, as people. While some narratives simply toss in a prayer here or there, Counterfeit Love places a strong emphasis on what it looks like to walk with God on a day-to-day basis, trusting Him in big and small things.
  • Caudill combats the idea of individualism and “pursuing your dreams,” depicting a love that is sacrificial.
  • Caudill does a good job of observing and relaying nuance: the nuances of the characters–who are not simply black-and-white, good/evil— as well as the nuances of relating with God. For instance, when one character makes a sweeping claim about trusting God, the author notes that the character is not making the statement flippantly, but draws from experiences of learning to trust God in spite of deep hardship. Overall, Caudill is skilled in her craft. The action, itself, is entertaining, but Caudill demonstrates her artistry in the way she conveys the plotline to the reader (What I mean by this is that, sometimes, a book can be interesting without being particularly well-written. That is not the case with Counterfeit Love).
  • The novel is both truthful and encouraging. There were a few key principles that stood out to me. First, God DOES pursue us. At the same time, walking with Him really is a relationship, and that means investing in spending time with another person. This is yet another example of Caudill’s skill with nuance. So many books (and so much preaching) will embrace only one half of this truth, to the detriment of the other half. Either, “God loves you, so do whatever you want with that grace,” or “Work, work, work because of all God has done for you.” The balance in Counterfeit Love is so beautiful and refreshing!
  • The second truth that stood out to me was about praising God. There’s a great passage about praising in the context of prayer.

Romantic Content

While there is a little bit of romantic content that I’ll note, as usual, by way of warning, there’s also a generous amount of romantic content that I REALLY appreciate!

On the “Reader’s Discretion” side, the main characters were previously engaged and reunite at a time when one of them is now engaged to someone else. Nonetheless, the main characters have a good many romantic thoughts about one another and even share a kiss while Theresa is engaged.

The novel includes multiple kissing scenes, which are generally passionate– albeit not as “gross,” overall, as many kissing scenes I have encountered.

Onto the positive romance! This might be a teensy bit spoiler (so skip this, if necessary)…

THE CHARACTERS’ WALK WITH THE LORD COMES FIRST! There is actually a scene where Theresa has to confront her fears and the Lord asks her if she will continue to trust Him, even if things don’t go as she hopes in her relationship with Broderick. And she does!

There’s also honesty with God as the characters seek His will, while also wanting their own. They’re real, not hyperspiritualized.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the romantic content of the book. While there is some physicality, the message is one of purity in putting Jesus first. And that is, in my opinion, a cause for rejoicing– and a strong recommendation in its favor.

Other Content

Broderick is staying, undercover, at a brothel. Women make advances at him, which he repulses. There are a few untoward comments made toward/about Theresa, at various points in the book (The innuendo is apparent, although the suggestive language of the time sounds milder than its contemporary counterpart).

I recall one use of the Lord’s name, apart from prayer.

Recommendation Status

With only minor Reader Discretion, this is a book I would highly recommend for adults or even young adults. This is a fantastic book because it is not only interesting, but also packs a powerful, truthful message. Counterfeit Love is a debut novel and I am so excited to read future works by Crystal Caudill.

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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