Esquire: The Lawyer of Faith
I have read Ware’s work before, so I was already familiar with his style of writing when I agreed to provide him with a review. Being Christian, I am always on the lookout for Christian fiction that steps outside the box, so you should know I was very interested in this book when I read the description. The thought of a meek missionary suddenly facing charges of double homicide stopped me in my tracks but what I enjoyed most was the return of Charles Everson from the book Trial of Injustice.
Now… I was thrilled to dive into this book and I can proudly say I enjoyed the plot but I do have my fair share of complaints.
The first thing I noticed was a string of errors in the writing. There was nothing that made me stop reading or lose focus on the story, but the mistakes were simple grammatical errors that could have been easily fixed by a quick read-through. It seemed like the editing was either done very lazily or not at all.
I also wished the writing had been stronger. I did enjoy the story—I thought the plot was intriguing and played out well—but I found the writing to be very simple. There were a lot of passages and cheesy dialogue that read like a high schooler taking creative writing for the first time. Many of the edge-of-your-seat sequences fell flat because the writing was so painfully dull in comparison to the emotion and fear the characters actually faced.
On top of that, there are times when the point-of-view switches from Charles to Charlene in the middle of the inexplicably short chapter—sometimes one paragraph is detailing Charles going to get a drink and the next paragraph is about Charlene talking with her friends. And suddenly the last paragraph is Charles and Charlene driving home with everything summed up by saying something like ‘An hour later…’ I felt like I was constantly jumping from one person’s perspective to the next with no warning or smooth transition. It would have read better if the story followed one person per chapter instead of switching point-of-view randomly.
My last and biggest complaint is about Charles and his wife. I said before that I love Christian fiction that goes outside the box. As far as the plot goes, that’s a true statement when it comes to Esquire, but the characters are very stereotypical. As a female Christian, I have bumped into dozens of people who had the attitude that women are not and cannot be leaders—whether in their faith, their marriage, or in the world around them—and I see some of that attitude portrayed in this book through Charles and the female cast members.
Firstly, there are no especially strong or standout female characters; most of the women are stereotypical ‘good’ Christian women. The two that really stick out—and I use the term ‘stick out’ loosely—are Charles’ essentially brainless wife and Francis who is—of course—a battered wife and a missionary…How typical…
But what bothers me most is the way Charles interacts with his wife. I mentioned earlier that Charles’ wife was brainless, I didn’t mean that she was unintelligent but that she never had to use her own mind. To some, it may seem like he is just protective and loving as any husband should be. But in my opinion, it feels like his wife is nothing more than a prop. She makes no vital decisions and while Charles is never overbearing or harsh with her, it seems like everything that involves decision-making and using your brain is left to the husband. But what’s most disturbing is that it’s never a problem for his wife—it’s as if she is perfectly content with never using her brain.
Again… Charles never mistreated his wife and it was VERY clear that everything he did for her and with her was out of genuine love BUT sometimes the line between being protective and being controlling (even in a gentle, loving way) is thinner than you might think. I don’t think there was any malice in their marriage at all, in fact, controlling is too harsh of a word to use here…I think the best comparison to make about Charles’ marriage is the relationship between a parent and a toddler. While the parent obviously loves and cares for the child, there is a clear understanding that the child is a child… They are not as smart or as capable as the parent and therefore all of the decisions, the issues, and anything else that involves basic logic is done or solved by the parent with little or no input from the child. That’s probably the best description of their marriage which, sadly, is the type of marriage I often see in Christian fiction—which is the main reason I do not enjoy Christian romance very much.
Despite everything I just said… I must repeat this… I really enjoyed this book. I would probably read it again if I had the spare time and I will definitely recommend it to Christian readers and anyone who enjoys crime fiction. I know this review wasn’t as kind as my reviews in the past have been but I’m being harsh because I have read Ware’s writing before and I know what he is capable of. Both of my other reviews were 5-star reviews and it was well earned.
I wasn’t being picky with the grammatical errors, I’m a reader who can usually overlook simple mistakes here and there—I know I made a number of grammatical errors in this review! But there were a lot of mistakes scattered throughout the book paired with the weak writing, poor character development, and the unappealing relationship portrayed between Charles and his wife. Most of the issues I pointed out could have been solved in the editing process, but it seemed like that part was skipped completely or the manuscript was self-edited. Authors should never be the sole editor of their work—self-published or not! Not only are we bias to common criticisms, but we are also human, we miss things! A fresh pair of eyes can make the difference between an alright novel and an amazing novel.
While Esquire is certainly enjoyable and entertaining, it feels more like a very rough draft rather than a complete novel. Given more time, and a thorough edit, I think this could definitely be a book to remember.