WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke
Type: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Western
Basic Plot: Ariana is young schoolteacher that has been kidnapped by some outlaws. She is worried, but learns that she has to trust God at all times.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: This is one of Janette Oke’s better plots. There is a lot of drama and multiple plot twist. The ending was definitely good. Unfortunately, I believe the main character was whiny and a bit weak, and that the characters as a whole tended to be overly emotional in the series.
Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: I liked Janette Oke’s plot, but I did not like her writing style. For some reason it was not interesting. It seemed forced and awkward in a lot of places. The time the writing style was best was probably in the last chapter when Ms. Oke wrote the diary entries and the ending.
Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The main moral of the story was to trust God completely no matter what your circumstances. Ariana learns to do this when she is kidnapped and no matter what bad things happen to her. As she experiences being in different situations, danger, and heartbreaking events, she learns to always turn to God and the Bible. The key verse of the book is, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” In the end things work out for good, though it sometimes takes time before they do.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: This was better than some of the Janette Oke books I have read, but it definitely isn’t the best. I believe girls ten to eighteen would find it most interesting.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: Characters are mentioned to flirt with each other. Ariana wonders if she will suffer “a fate worse than death.” Some slightly suggestive comments are made by men.
Violence: 2/5 Mentioned and Light Violence: It mentions that a boy has shot several men, though never killed any. It mentions that two people’s parents were killed, leaving them both orphans. A man plans how to goad his son into murder. A girl scratches at a man’s face. A girl’s wrist is yanked and hurt. A snake is shot. It mentions a little boy had a tomahawk in his head. It mentions an Indian raid that left nearly everyone dead and scalped. An Indian asks if he should allow his men to attack another group of men. The Indians do not attack the group of men. A man believes he will be hanged if he confesses to the police. Another man wonders if this will happen to him. There are mentions of people shooting each other, sometimes with the result of death. This was done both personally and in a group. A man says he could die by shooting.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Mention of Swearing: It is mentioned that characters swear, but it does not say what they are saying.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Some Emotional and Possibly Disturbing Content: Ariana is kidnapped, but it is not done in a horribly frightening or dramatic way. She and several characters cry throughout the series. A man wonders if he will be attacked and killed, but he isn’t. A man asks another of the latter ever killed anybody. He didn’t. A man says he could die by shooting or weather. It mentions a man died by drowning. A man wonders if a girl broke her wrist. Various people are mentioned to have died from diseases or during child birth. A man wishes all Indians were dead. It mentions that a man was injured and died soon after. Blood is mentioned a few times in the series, the goriest mention being when a snake is shot to death.
Religious Issues: 2½/5 Brief Mention and a Possible Error: The Indians believe false gods live in a certain “sacred” mountain. The word “hypnotic” is used to describe the inside of a cave. It makes it sound as if a person must forsake sinning as much as possible if they are to get saved. In the description it says, “Had to make vow to sin no more and make restitution- as far as possible- for sins of the past.” The Bible does say to repent (have a change of heart) but it never says we must consciously forsake sin or feel extreme sorrow over sin to get saved.
Magic: 0/5 None
Others: There is mention of saloons. Men drink, gamble, chew tobacco, and smoke cigars throughout the book. It mentions some men being “snuff-chewing.” It does not go into descriptive detail of the activities.
Overall: 2/5 Child Appropriate: I would recommend it morally to ages ten to eleven and older. The worst thing would be the thing mentioned about salvation, the kidnapping theme, and some of the mentions of blood. Nothing in the book is really condemning though.