The Velvet Thorn. Olivia Villa-Real. 2011. iUniverse.

In the novel The Velvet Thorn by Olivia Villa-Real, readers meet Bella Mariposa, a talented singer and composer who happens to be married to a real scumbag. Daniel Miranda, Bella’s jerk husband, is the kind of guy you’ll love to hate—the kind of guy that thinks sex is an obligation and that dinner should always be ready at the precise moment he walks through the door.

In an attempt to restore her marriage and provide a better home life for herself and her children, Bella enrolls in a spiritual retreat in Hollywood. It is there that she meets Father Derek Lindenberg, a man wholly devoted to his Catholic priesthood. At the retreat, the two establish a strong connection and, of course, eventually fall in love.

It’s not a particularly original story line, truth be told. Having a priest fall in love with a beautiful young woman has been done before. (The Thorn Birds? Anyone?) However,  it doesn’t make such a plot line any less intriguing.

Influenced by her own life experiences, Villa-Real has done an acceptable job of exploring how love and relationships can test a person’s devotion to the unyielding rules of religion and religious society in The Velvet Thorn.

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