As a Christian teenager in the mid-2000’s, I read many books about dating, and soon realized that there was contradictory information out there. One book said kissing before marriage was okay, another said you should absolutely not do it. One book said couples should pray together, another said that if a guy and a girl pray together, they are “spiritualizing their hormones” (yes, it actually said that!). In spite of these small disagreements, most books contained the same two basic core values: Don’t have sex until you are married, and don’t date non-believers.
A couple years ago, I signed up for the book launch team for Love Defined, the second book written by sisters Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird (now Bethany Beal). I was reading their blog at the time, and I was trying to do more of my own writing, so I thought joining the book launch team was a smart decision. Perhaps they could offer an interesting take on the topic of dating.
Unfortunately, the book soon ended up in the pile of many other books I started and never finished. (Once upon a time, I was an ardent reader. Social media changed that for me.) I recently realized that not finishing this book was keeping me from reading other books, and I still owed the authors my review, so I finally set out to finish it.
I will break up this review into two parts—what I liked, and what I did not like. Admittedly, I will need to flip through the book because there has been a huge gap between the last time I read it and just finishing over the past few days.
What I liked:
- The discussion questions after each chapter and the “make it personal” prompts. These sections help readers remember and apply what they read. This also makes the book recommendable for group discussions.
- The sections, chapters, and headlines within the book make sense and give it easy readability. The book is broken up into five parts, focusing on how our culture has shaped our views of romantic love, how to have Godly relationships, how to thrive in a season of singleness, nitty-gritty issues, and marriage. Each part has at least two chapters and each chapter has headlines for each section. This format is great for people who are used to reading articles and blogs rather than books.
- The advice is sound. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with everything the authors say, but none of the advice here will steer you in the wrong direction. There is great advice on how to pursue purity when dating and how to make sure you do not allow yourself to get in over your head with shallow romance.
- The chapters on singleness were excellent. I wish there was a little more content on this topic!
What I didn’t like:
- The authors’ understanding of scriptural gender roles seems slightly off. Based on what I’ve gleaned from their blog back in 2018, the authors appear to be in the camp that believes women should not work outside the home, among other things. There are traces of that mindset throughout this book, which kind of distanced me as a reader. (For those who are curious, my understanding of scriptural gender roles within marriage is close to Phylicia Masonheimer’s. The differences may seem subtle, but the impact on life application can be profound.)
- The writing felt a little dry at times. The subject matter was not boring, but the authors’ “voice” did not capture my attention the way other books in this category have.
- There is no groundbreaking new information in this book. And I suppose this is to be expected, since there are many Christian dating books on the market. However, I liked the presentation of the information in this book, and I think it will appeal to a new generation of readers who are not familiar with the books I read growing up.
I enjoyed Love Defined when I saw it for what it was. It did not blow me away like other books I have read on this subject, but it covered a lot of ground and was written with love. Clark and Beal have a heart for ministry and want to see young women live fearlessly God-centered lives, and this book will help those who read it to navigate dating and romance with more wisdom. My apologies to Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal for my tardiness with finishing and reviewing this book.
Rating: 3.5/5 (I will rate it 4 stars on Goodreads)
Recommended for: Girls ages 14+
Other books on this topic that I recommend: The Mystery: Finding True Love in a World of Broken Lovers by Lacey Sturm and Dating Declassified by Jeanne Mayo
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book when I signed up for the book launch team. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.