Keep the Faith by Ana Tejano
Published by indie author on July 31, 2016
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time she spent on disaster relief missions. So when her five-year relationship ends right before she left for a mission trip to a typhoon-stricken town in Iloilo, she tries not to make a big deal out of it. How can she be broken up about a breakup when she’s with people who literally lost everything?
But now that she’s back, all Faith wants is for her life to go back to normal and have people stop looking at her with pity. Never mind that she still has a lot of questions about the breakup, or that she feels a tiny ache every time her ex comes up in conversations. She’s okay now, and happily distracted by Nico Tamayo, the attractive new guy at work.
With new possibilities in the horizon, Faith thinks she is well on her way to moving on. But when her past comes calling back to her, will all the good things in her present be enough to keep her on the path? Or will she finally learn that there was more to heartbreak and recovery than what she knows?
I’ll admit I was a little dubious about reading Ana Tejano’s Keep the Faith. I was delighted to learn that it would feature the same barkada (group of friends) as her debut novel, Fall Like Rain, because I’ve been waiting years to see more of one of the characters. But knowing that there would be a Christian factor to the romance made me pause because, to be honest, that is just so not my thing. Still, I had friends assure me that the religious aspect was more a matter of circumstance than an active factor in the romance. So I dove in.
The first thing I need to say is that, I have a feeling that the religious elements of this novel felt a little oppressive to me, but I also have a feeling that had I grown up in a traditional Filipino Catholic household, I suspect a lot of it would have seemed “normal.” I had to ask some friends of mine if some of the traditions mentioned in the story were legit. Like the whole family really going to mass on Sunday was actually a thing, and whether your parents would check up on you to see if you went to service on your own if you didn’t get to go with the family—yes, I was told, many families make a big deal out of Sunday masses. It took me a while to adjust to the way God and faith (even outside of puns on the main character’s name) were mentioned so frequently and so casually.
I did eventually roll with it, and I will say that there were two characters I was just sold on in this novel. The first was supporting character and BFF Meah, who’s been my girl since Fall Like Rain, and whose first appearance in the book had me crowing “Yes!” and singing “Meah, meah, ma-meah, banana fana fa-feah” and making me instantly glad my husband had his earphones at the time. Seriously, anytime I see this author at an event, I have to ask her when a Meah book will make it into my waiting hands. No-nonsense, cut-the-crap-and-face-up-to-your-emotional-BS Meah is my favorite of the main character’s gal pals, which was the same thing I said about Fall Like Rain. I am not at all surprised that I am saying the same thing about Keep the Faith.
What did surprise me was how much I liked the love interest, Nico, who had me at “history major.” And while I wished he’d shown off more of his history geekdom in the story, he was just generally a good guy. If it was almost to the point of a male Mary Sue, I still didn’t hold it against him because he was this gorgeous, well-toned bastion of good sense and emotional stability against which Faith crashed her waves of screwed-upness time and time again. And he still held true until the end.
Although, in hindsight, I have to wonder if the absolute swoonworthiness and book-boyfriendable quality of Nico’s character didn’t serve to highlight the flaws in Faith’s. I had a hard time relating to her and at times actively disliked her. Her multiple protestations that she was “fine” had me convinced early on that she would suffer a massive breakdown, and by midway I wasn’t just expecting it, I was anticipating it. I think I would’ve liked to have her breakdown a little bit more. I hated her a little over her treatment of Nico, and I was viciously satisfied when her cocoon of denial fell apart and she bled all over the pages—figuratively, not literally.
I have to admit that I got a lot of satisfaction from schadenfreude, and that was one element I really enjoyed in this book. It was like eating a yummy, gooey, chocolatey cake of smug satisfaction and not having anyone judge me because nobody knew about it until, well, now.
Once I was done with this read, I asked myself, what would I have wanted to change if I could? I think the first was that I had some issues with some of the grammar and syntax, particularly in terms of verb tenses and some of the phrasing. However, this wasn’t so significant I couldn’t sit back and enjoy the story or the characters. The second thing I might’ve changed was to add a little more Nico to the story. I felt like the story was more of Faith’s journey toward healing rather than a love story between Faith and Nico. Which would’ve been fine, frankly. But it was categorized a romance, so I was expecting more romance.
I think I would have loved this novel a lot if I’d been Catholic. Or even vaguely Christian? Instead of a religious unitarian and functional atheist. I didn’t have a bible to look up the passage frequently referred to in this book, but never quoted, except for a loose translation in Ilonggo, which I don’t speak. As it was, I liked it a fair bit. There were moments when I swooned over Nico and just wanted to hug Meah. There were even moments when I wanted to pat Faith on the shoulder. And Keep the Faith definitely delivered on feels.
But I still can’t wait for Meah’s book.
Feel Factor Rating
Excerpt from Keep the Faith by Ana Tejano
I froze at the sound of that now all-too-familiar deep voice—now less sleepy—and my panic gave way to anger. I turned around slowly.
Nico’s expression was friendly, oblivious to my seething. “I just want to say sorry for sleeping on your desk. Alvin told me you were coming back but I thought it wasn’t until Monday so I didn’t transfer immediately.”
“Did you touch anything here?” I pointed to my cubicle’s walls, ignoring his apology.
“You’ve been using my desk since you got here. Did you remove anything?”
He shook his head, his messy hair flopping on his forehead. He brushed it away with a hand. “No. Why would I remove anything? I only sleep at other people’s desks, but I don’t take anything.” He gave me a cheeky grin at the last part, an attempt to make a joke, but I was too worked up to play along.
“Then what happened to my pictures, huh?”
I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned, and there was April, holding out a small paper bag. “Hey. I almost forgot to give you this.”
“April, do you know—”
“I heard you. They’re in the bag,” she interrupted gently. “I took your pictures down, okay? It’s not Nico’s fault. He didn’t even see them.”
I took the bag from her and peeked inside, and found the smiling face of my ex-boyfriend looking at me, beside my own. I was unprepared for the stab of pain when I saw our matching grins, remembering exactly when that photo was taken (second year anniversary, right after he took me out to dinner).
“I thought it would help if I cleaned it up when you told me what happened. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” She squeezed my arm, and left to answer her phone that started ringing again.
Squashing the urge to sort through the photos and memories, I shoved the paper bag in my bottom drawer, shutting the drawer with a loud click. When I looked up, I saw that Nico was gazing at me intently, and my face burned with shame again. Twice now. I can’t seem to get off on the right foot with this guy.
“I told you I didn’t know about anything,” he said, amused.
Well thanks a lot for rubbing it in. “If you hadn’t been sleeping on my desk then I wouldn’t have asked you.”
“Didn’t you learn much from what you saw on my profile?”
“I wasn’t stalking you!”
A small line formed between his eyebrows as if I was a Math problem that he was trying to solve. I tried to stare back at him but his brown eyes were too intense. Then to my surprise—and frustration—I saw the beginnings of a smirk tug at the corner of his lips.
“Aren’t you going to say something?” I crossed my arms.
Then his lips stretched into a full-fledged smile, a dimple popping on his right cheek. “I’m sorry. I promise I won’t sleep on your desk again.”
“Good,” I said with a firm nod. Then I started to feel a little silly for my outburst, especially after he seemed so gracious. “I’m sorry, too.”
“Peace?” he asked, extending his right hand to me. I uncrossed my arms and looked at his hand warily before glancing up at him again. He was still smiling.
“Okay,” I said, just a little begrudgingly, and reached out to shake his hand.
“My name is Nicolas, but everyone calls me Nico.”
“Hi, Nico,” I said, trying not to think of how warm his hand was. “I’m Faith. Faith Alvarez.” I let go of his hand. Too much hand-shaking was weird.
There was that dimple again. “I know.”
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