Child in a Manger: Chapter 1

Happy Black Friday, all, and welcome to my annual Wintermas romance review!

This is a longstanding and wonderful tradition, featuring some of the most memorable characters ever to grace Heathen Critique: Tom Douten, Jordan Scoville, and, of course, Santa himself!

I sometimes wonder if any Wintermas romance will ever top Twas the Night Before and Christmas Town, but one must make a choice, and so I chose…

Child in a Manger, by Dana Corbit.  For the third Wintermas in a row, this is a Christian Christmas romance from Steeple Hill.  I kinda feel like one of these days, I should do a non-Christmas Christian romance, maybe even one of the Love Inspired Suspense line.

This is actually a novella.  Both because I thought the story sounded fun, and…

I, too, have a Christmas Wish.

And that Wish (right after getting thirty million dollars per month), is that Kirk Cameron’s Christmas movie, Saving Christmas, will do so abysmally in the box office that it will be at the dollar theater near my home before Christmas Day.

Again, I don’t know if even Kirk Cameron can top the glory that is Mitch Bright fighting his own personal War on Christmas in Christmas with a Capital C, but a girl can hope.

And given the ratings so far, I like my chances!

(This may be my new favorite phrase ever…”the fruit of Mary’s womb is falling on hard times.”)

By the way, check this out.

Anyway, to the story!


(And, as usual for my Wintermas critiques, this will be a blind read, meaning I have only read the back cover and have no idea what to expect.  Could be good, could be anything.)

Our heroine, as with all previous Christian romances here, is already a church-going Christian.  (When, oh when, will we see a preconversion heroine in one of these books???)  Allison Hensley, as a matter of fact, is so Christian that she is playing Mary in “Destiny’s first, and hopefully annual, interfaith live Nativity scene.”

Destiny?  Sorry, that’s just not as good as naming a town Bethlehem.

And the nativity scene is at New Hope Church.


I guess not, since Destiny is in “east-central Indiana,” not just-outside-Chicago.

Regardless, the cast is taking a bit of a break, allowing Allison time to banter with her co-star and bestie, David, who plays Joseph.  I thought for a minute that this was going to be a best-friends-become-lovers story, until we learn he is “eight years younger and the brother she’d never had.”

Well, I guess that settles it.  Eight years is just beyond the pale.  (Says the Ruby who has only managed to date seven years younger at most.)

“…the single women of Destiny needed a night off.” [said Allison]

“At least one of us is going on dates.” [said David.]

If my brother or my best friend said that to me, I’d deck them.  Just sayin’.

But apparently Allison and the town of Destiny have very strict standards:

It wasn’t as if guys were beating down her door to ask her out.  Or that they ever had been, even earlier than five years ago when her thirtieth birthday had come and gone.

Besides, if she went out with the city’s newest-ergo-most eligible bachelor, she would be a cradle robber, too.  Busybodies in town were always thorough, and Allison already knew the bachelor in question was just in his early thirties.

My God, the woman has lived in this Earth for thirty-six months longer than the man!  Call the newspapers!  And the National Guard!

Seriously, what is it with these crap small towns?  I mean, I’ve lived in cities and suburbs my whole life, so I don’t know from experience—do people really have so little to do that they’ll give a 35-year-old woman shit for dating a 32-year-old man?  Really?

But I guess Allison should expect no less—she is apparently the sad-sack spinster:

A lifetime of being the chunky girl whom boys chose for a pal instead of girlfriend had taught her plenty about too-high expectations.

Dude.  That sucks.  And her (pfft) “best friend” shouldn’t make fun.


In the audience is sitting our presumed romantic lead, one Brock Chandler, new cop at the Cox County (pretend) Sheriff’s Department.  I’m assuming he is the early-thirties guy, though it’s not exactly clear it’s the same guy.  Anyway, it’s his night off and he is just “get[ting] to know his new community by watching one of its folksy events.”

Sorry, but I can’t see the name “Brock” without thinking of this guy:

So. Brock and everyone is taken by surprise when the live manger thingie restarts and the baby in the manger turns out to be a real, crying baby, and not a doll.

Brock, being a cop and all, rushes the stage, but the baby is already safe in Allison’s arms.  And although Brock had previously thought of the show’s Mary character as “cute,” he suddenly thinks she is “lovely,” what with cooing over an innocent baby and all.

But he quickly turns off that little feeling and gets down to being a dickweed:

As was his habit, Brock ignored the woman and searched for a man who could provide details.

Wow.  Really, just wow.  I mean, just…let’s look at that again:

As was his habit, Brock ignored the woman and searched for a man who could provide details.

Give me Tom Douten or Jordan Scoville or any other kinda-nonbelieving “Scrooge” any day—I’m not sure any novella will have the time to redeem such a misogynist as this.  Such a process would take years.

Helluva cop he must be, by the way.  Obviously top-notch at his job if he simply ignores any woman involved in a case and only seeks out the statements of men.  Class act, too.

Hilariously, though, this is all turned on its head when Allison takes complete control of the situation.  She’s a family case manager with local social services, so she immediately organizes a call for an ambulance, and dragoons the Wise Men into crowd control.

I…kinda like this chick.

Allison and Brock immediately disagree regarding the baby’s mother—Allison thinks must be just some poor, misunderstood, “desperate” creature, while Brock falls more on the side of the mother being a “perp” who “dump[ed the baby] like a bucket of slop in that hay trough.”

Hee, nice imagery, Officer!

And all this is, of course, because Brock “believed and all,” but tends to question God’s all-powerful…powers when babies are abandoned.

Can’t say as I blame the misogynist pig.

Honestly, you’d think a family case worker would be a bit more cynical, but being A Girl, I don’t think Allison is allowed to be.

Anyway, Allison and the baby head to the hospital, and Brock is left to investigate the crime scene.

I’m sure he’ll do a heckuva job, Brownie.  Fantastic cop that he is.


Posted on November 28, 2014, in Books, Child in a Manger, Christmas. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Ready and waiting to hate everyone in the town this book is set in, too. Somehow all these good, godly people in these small towns in these books keep turning out so horrible.

    • I must admit though, this book thus far has done an admirable job of making the unsaved man a bigger jerk. And y’know what, I actually think that “ignore the women” bit is for once intended as criticism.

      Call me cautiously optimistic on this movie. By which I mean “I suspect I may not wish I could firebomb this town by the third act.”

      • Exactly who is unsaved, though? Brock seems to be somewhat of a Christian, since he “believes and all,” he just doesn’t trust that each and every little thing and life, such as a newborn baby being abandoned, is part of a plan made by God that is for the best of everyone, or at least every RTC, like Allison apparently does. Her seven-year-younger best friend is the only one not to have his Christianity explicitly stated, and he’s portrayed more-or-less sympathetically.

        Or does the plot here center on converting Brock from a “Christian in name only” into a Really Real Honest for Real Christian instead of a straight up atheist at the start like in the Christmas books and movies we’ve had before? If so, that seems . . . not all that smart, since a lot of this book’s intended readers will be of a different denomination of Christianity than this book portrays.

        Also, I noticed that the nativity play was described as “interfaith” – what exactly does that mean? Is it just open for different denominations of Christianity or does the “interfaith” label also include other religions? (although I’m not sure why people belonging to other religions than Christianity would even want to take part in a nativity play – well, Jews and Muslims, maybe, I guess). And is this portrayed as a good or bad thing? I’m fairly sure most of the communities in the books that have been reviewed on this site wouldn’t be that happy about letting non-Christians, or even Christians of different denominations, inside their reenactment of Jesus’s birthday, and if they were allowed they would be preached at pretty much nonstop.

        • Yeah, by saved I mean “Learns not to doubt the almighty god’s plan by something minor as a baby being abandonded”. Probably because it’ll turn out that thanks to him finding that baby, he meets the love of his life.
          Isn’t it nice when you can write those happy endings to bad beginnings to make your readers marvel at god’s perfect plan? And can ignore all those cases in the real world where such bad beginnings actually had horribly endings. Those cases will just confuse your narative. “Haters and atheists” have a tendency to get all up on god’s case about it. Whiney bastards. It’s not like god can be everywhere at once. OH WAIT, YES HE CAN.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Somehow all these good, godly people in these small towns in these books keep turning out so horrible.

      Unless you’re so deep in the Christianese Bubble that all these “good, godly people” and “these small towns” are completely true-to-life. Like whichever executive green-lighted Seinfeld — “THIS IS SO TRUE TO LIFE! HE’S JUST LIKE ME!”

  2. I do hope you get your Christmas wish RubyTea. Kirk is already accusing us “haters and atheists” of trying to ruin his great masterpeace, so we might as well do so.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      This the same Kirk who’s considered extremely neurotic even by Hollywood Celebrity standards? The same guy who barricaded himself in his dressing room when he heard there were “Heathens(TM)” on the set so their presence wouldn’t contaminate him and lose his Salvation? The guy who Yes-Manned Ray Comfort in the infamous “Banana BJ” video?

    • Yeah. Though I’ve sneaked a peak at some other reviews, and it apparently isn’t quite as entertaining as I’d hoped based on the poster. It’s not even really a movie. It starts with Kirk Cameron doing a forword while faking drinking chocolate. Then it sets up “the conflict” with Kirk’s brother in law who is feeling bummed about Christmass. Most of the running time is then just Kirk talking with said brother in law about why he’s wrong and everything about Christmas is awesome. And then the scrouge is all happy, and they have a painfully faux-hip Christmas party for an epilogue.

      I think a review of this movie by RubyTea would look a lot like the review for Murphy’s lectures. Just a case to dismantle all the bad arguments Kirk gives (and, oh man, there are some doozies in there, particularly about why Christmas trees are totally not stolen from pagan religions).

  3. >>>I kinda feel like one of these days, I should do a non-Christmas Christian romance, maybe even one of the Love Inspired Suspense line

    Oh my Ceiling Cat. Christian romantic thrillers?! Yessss!!!! (Christian *erotic* thrillers would be even better, but I’m not sure it’s possible to pull off without breaching any number of ridiculous guidelines.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy


      I shudder at the image.

      • The bodice could be ripped consensually, by a Christian heroine’s equally Christian billionaire husband. Then they’d have super hot consensual marital sex. Which I would have absolutely no problems with. You don’t *need* non-con for erotic thriller – just sex and danger. Alas, even sex between spouses might be against guidelines…

        (I don’t hate romance novels. I just don’t like the majority of those I’ve read. But I spent *years* lurking and semi-lurking on romance-related blogs, so I know there are good ones – even good het ones – out there. So I’m not joining any “All romance novels are garbage!” movement any time soon, just so you know.)

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Happy Black Friday, all, and welcome to my annual Wintermas romance review!

    Happy Black Friday, Ruby. Only one shooting this year, though we had a big two-shopper fist fight at Kohl’s in Tustin that made the local news.

    And to commemorate:

  5. Let me guess, “interfaith” means that we include both Real, True Christians and Real, True Christians from the next town?

    “And since Brock has been working for our department, accusations of rape have dropped 80%!”

    (The man’s named after a badger.)

    Isis-sama, I am in the second camp: I’m predicting that “believes and all” is code for “hasn’t personally dedicated himself to Christ, therefore hellbound”.

  6. As was his habit, Brock ignored the woman and searched for a man who could provide details.



    How would Brock last even a week as a police officer?

    “Can anybody tell me what happened here?”

    “Hello, officer, thank you for your help. I was stopped at this stop sign when the person behind me rear-ended me, and then he pulled back and sped off. I didn’t get a good look at the driver, but I did get the license number. I wrote it down on this notepad. And the car was cobalt blue, a big sporty two-door.”

    “Now, now, just you be quiet, little lady. I need to find a man can provide details.”

    “What? Officer, I just told you what happened. Also, the driver hit me pretty hard and my neck and back are really sore — could I get a lift to the hospital, maybe?”

    “I said hush your gob, woman, I’m policin’. Hello? Anybody? Can anyone tell me what happened here? Huh. Guess not. We’ll never know how this car with the crumpled rear end wound up abandoned by this stop sign. Reckon I’ll call in a tow and send a citation to the registered owner. Welp, it’s time for my lunch break. Have a nice day, miss.”

    • How would Brock last even a week as a police officer?
      In the type of rural villages where these RTC romance take place? I give it even odds he’ll make it till honorable retirement.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, All Deconstructions | The Slacktiverse

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