Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Christian Romance, Religious & Inspirational Fiction
Buy the book: Amazon
Confession (see what I did there? 😉). I make dumb jokes, I know. Being totally honest, though, I don't really like Christian romance books. Like any genre, there are things that automatically come along with this type of book...things that I don't love. To be clear, I am a Christian, so I know what I'm getting into on that side of things, but a lot of the things the mainstream church in America does annoys me...to put it really lightly. That being said, Armor for Orchids really impressed me in some ways, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was fortunate enough to win an audiobook version of this book from the author, Diana Anderson-Tyler, herself. How did I do this, you may be asking yourself. Audiobooks aren't cheap, so that's a pretty sweet prize. Because I'm signed up for her newsletter! You should sign up for it too. You get a free book and opportunities to win cool stuff. Plus, Diana is a super sweet person, and I can personally attest that she won't spam you or sell your email address. You can sign up here to be cool like me. 😎 So I won the audiobook. Hooray! Again, if I'm honest, there were a lot of things working against me and this book ever coming together. I already said I'm not really a fan of Christian romance books and for a long time I thought I hated audiobooks.
In general, I can read faster than an audiobook can be read to me, so I'd better enjoy what I'm listening to. This was not the case with the first audiobook I ever listened to: The Hunger Games. Golly Pete, I hated that series. It was Cecil Baldwin, the voice of the amazing podcast Welcome to Night Vale that salvaged any remaining shreds of enjoyment I had in me for listening to a story. The narrator of Armor for Orchids, Margaret Glaccum, did such a lovely job. I think my favorite thing about her reading was the subtlety with which she characterized each different person. I always think it sounds ridiculous when a female narrator goes super low to portray a male character or vice-versa. The different voices were distinct enough to be able to recognize one from the other but not so much that it was distracting. After you got to know each voice and who it represented, they all flowed really well. Well done!
As for the story itself, let's start with what I liked. Firstly, I really appreciated that one of the characters, Marissa, struggled with an eating disorder. Granted, it wasn't dealt with on a super deep level, but the book is about four different women. It would have had to have been much longer in order to address the specific issues of body dysmorphia, self-esteem and self-image, etc. Given that some people don't take eating disorders seriously and that Christian romance has a tendency to be quite Saturday-morning-cartoon-esque, I really applaud Diana for bringing this very serious issue into the light.
I also really liked how distinct each character was. All four women had different personalities, histories, interests, etc. My two favorites, however, were Elise and Poppy. I can forgive the gender role complaint I make further down in Poppy given that she's a much older lady from a time where those gender roles were very much in play and a part of life. And the proud geek in me loves Elise for her interest in Star Wars and science, though her character does still fall prey to the gender role assignment issue.
And I loved the flower theme that runs throughout the entire book. You know how some themes are really labored and you're like, "Yes. We get it! It's a metaphor. Blah." The theme in this book is woven artfully, naturally, throughout the book. I would kind of forget about it for a while, and then it would reappear in some small way before moving on. Excellent book craftsmanship!
Okay, now for what I didn't like so much. Basically, I had two hang-ups with this book. Firstly, I hated just about everything that had to do with Charlotte's story. Her attitude pissed me off, I could have smacked her husband (he just up and leaves the room left, right, and center!), and Charlotte describes herself as "belonging" to him and vice-versa. People are not objects; they are not possessions to be owned. They are independent, free individuals, married or no. And I found the description that Charlotte uses for erotic romance novels as "filth" to be quite a judgemental descriptor.
Secondly, the super-duper-mega-strong gender role assignments. I dislike any entertainment that separates men and women, dumps them into separate boxes, and says, "Okay, now all these characters are women so they have these specific traits and predilections and personalities. And now we do the same thing to the men-folk." As I said above, I can forgive this in Poppy because she's much older, and that sort of outdated thinking is applicable to a much older time period, but not for a modern-thinking, younger character. Lots of movies and TV and books need to learn this, though, so it's not like this book is alone in this issue.
All in all, if you like Christian romance stories and authors like Francine Rivers, you will love this book! Thanks for reading!