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Nov 21, 2012

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer

At Every Turn
Impetuous, naive Ally races to redemption...

At Every Turn by Anne Mateer
Bethany House, September 2012
Paperback 320 pages
Christian Historical Fiction
Review copy provided via the publisher, thank you!

She's off to the races!
Caught up in a whirlwind of religious enthusiasm, Alyce Benson impetuously pledges three thousand dollars to mission work in Africa. Now she just has to find a way to get the money. Alyce harbors a secret passion for speed and automobiles, and she's spent many an afternoon driving around the rustic track in the field behind her home. When she discovers that her father's company has sponsored a racing car that will compete in several upcoming events--races in which the driver will be paid and could win as much as five thousand dollars in prize money--she conspires with her father's mechanic, Webster, to train and compete. But when her friends cast aspersions on Webster's past, she realizes she may have trusted the wrong person with her secret. Will Alyce come up with the money in time, or will she have to choose between her hasty promise and the man who holds a piece of her heart?
The synopsis for this second novel by Anne Mateer uses the word 'impetuous' to describe our main protagonist, and that is exactly how I pictured her throughout the novel. She was so impetuous that I never really got to empathize with her at all, and it wasn't until the last third of the novel that I began to feel comfortable with the story.

The entire plot line follows Ally as she is trying to raise $3,000 in 1916 to offer to missionaries for their use in the Gold Coast of Africa. That was a huge sum that she pledged at a church meeting, but she thought her wealthy daddy would give her the money. Turns out Daddy doesn't have the same faith that Ally does so she is forced to do some fund raising by herself. She decides to race cars for the prize money (under disguise), and along the way she finds it difficult to hang on to her funds to begin with. The two romance angles are just waiting to collide, and throughout the novel the reader can guess what will happen with each new turn.. and it always felt like there was another predictable shoe to drop which simply made for uncomfortable reading.

The first novel by Anne Mateer, Wings of A Dream, also featured a strong-willed protagonist, but she didn't seem as naive as Ally did. I just could not condone some of the silly actions of Ally, and anticipating each twist in the story dulled the adventure for me. The first person narration didn't help endear me to Ally either, but the secondary characters helped round out the otherwise predictable story. I loved Webster Little, and Ally's grandmother, and the faith theme was very evident and sends a very good message about letting God lead the way instead of always doing it your own way. I am one of those readers that has to relate to the hero/heroine in order to fully appreciate the story, but this time I really just wanted to throttle Ally! She has charmed other readers though, so perhaps I was just in an impatient mood. The author's writing style in itself holds merit, but I would love to see her next story being told in third person to see how her writing develops.