Carolyn Lapp knows that her chances of finding love are dwindling as she enters her thirties, but she can’t help but dream of finding a ma...more3.5 out of 5
Carolyn Lapp knows that her chances of finding love are dwindling as she enters her thirties, but she can’t help but dream of finding a man who will love her, faults and all. Abandoned by her boyfriend as a teenager, Carolyn found herself a single mother at the age of sixteen, and has devoted her life to raising her son and protecting him from the stigma of being born out of wedlock. Although Carolyn’s mother has always been supportive of her, her brother, Amos, is eager to marry her off to make her seem more respectable.
Although marrying for convenience isn’t what Carolyn imagined for her life, she finds herself tempted to settle for a comfortable situation when she befriends Saul, a widower with a sweet daughter. But just as Carolyn begins contemplating marriage to Saul, she meets Joshua Glick, a bachelor struggling to run his horse farm following his brother’s death. When Joshua hires Carolyn’s son, Ben, to work for him, they find themselves continually thrown together.
Joshua is far too busy with his farm to contemplate dating, but even he can’t deny that he enjoys spending time with Carolyn. But his mother is determined to match him up with someone she deems more suitable, and Carolyn is cautious about getting involved with someone who doesn’t know the truth about her past. How will Joshua react when he learns that Ben is her son, rather than her nephew? Will he also be held back by her past mistakes, or can they both look to the future and forge ahead together?
As I mentioned in my review of the first book in Amy Clipston’s Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, I wasn’t sure if this new series would live up to Amy’s Kauffman Amish Bakery books, which were among the novels that got me hooked on Amish fiction in the first place. While A Hopeful Heart won me over in the end, A Mother’s Secret never really grabbed me or compelled me in the way that Amy’s other books have.
I will say that I liked the premise for this story, and the message that followed. While I’ve come across several Amish novels that focus on women who have had children out of wedlock, they’ve mostly focused on young adults or teenagers who quickly find a man who is willing to marry them and return them to a respectable position in the community. Carolyn’s situation is entirely different, and she’s borne the stigma of being a single mother for fifteen years. While some people have accepted her situation and think nothing of it, others can’t put the past behind them. Even in the English world, I’m sure that the way Carolyn is treated is very common. I thought that A Mother’s Secret contained a much-needed reminder that we cannot call ourselves Christians if we refuse to forgive people for their past mistakes, or continually remind them of how they have fallen short. Carolyn sought forgiveness in her baptism into the Amish church, a fact that is often forgotten by her brother.
Given the way she has been treated over the years, Carolyn has learned to let others make assumptions about her situation, which often results in people assuming that Ben is her brother or nephew, rather than her son. As a result of this, she lets Joshua believe that Ben is her nephew, and somehow he spends the majority of the book in denial of Ben’s true parentage. I wasn’t entirely sure how realistic this was—how likely is it that Ben never calls Carolyn “Mamm” in front of Joshua?—but it was necessary in order for a major conflict to occur. Ultimately, it made sense that Carolyn doesn’t automatically tell new people that she’s Ben’s mother, since she’s constantly trying to protect herself and her son from scorn and judgement. But after a while, the conflict with Joshua felt like it was far too drawn out, and I got kind of tired of waiting for Carolyn to tell Joshua the truth.
Joshua’s main conflict stems from his mother, Barbie, meddling in his life and wanting to match him up with the kind of woman she wants for a daughter-in-law. We already know Barbie from the first book in the series, so readers will be familiar with Barbie’s controlling ways and her dissatisfaction with her daughter-in-law, Hannah, who left the community to marry an Englisher. Barbie sometimes felt a little bit over-the-top and caricatured, but ultimately I realise that there are people who behave like her. My main issue with Barbie is the same one I have with Amos—at the end of the book, they both suddenly give up their pushiness as soon as they’re confronted, and admit to the errors of their ways. Given how stubborn both of them are for the entire book, it didn’t feel entirely realistic that they would have such a rapid change of heart.
I appreciated the chance to reconnect with Hannah and her daughters, who were the principal characters in A Hopeful Heart. Even if they didn’t feature prominently in the book, I’m intrigued to see where their stories go, and whether Hannah is able to reconnect with the daughter she left behind in the Amish community. Given that a lot of the characters in this book (Joshua, Barbie, Hannah and her daughters) were the main focus in A Hopeful Heart, I’m hesitant to recommend this as a standalone novel. I think it would be better appreciated by those who are already familiar with the characters.
Even if I didn’t find it as compelling as Amy’s previous books, I won’t deny that A Mother’s Secret is an easy read with an interesting storyline. I tried to put my finger on what it was that made this book not quite as engaging as Amy’s other stories, and ultimately I think my issues stem from the choppiness of the writing. Most of the scenes in this book are very short, some of them barely more than a couple of paragraphs. It was difficult for me to get truly sucked into the story and connect with a particular character because I would quickly be moved on to someone else. In places I also found the dialogue to be a little clunky and not always entirely realistic. While some characters (such as Carolyn’s mother and a friend at the hotel) give great advice to Carolyn, their manners of speaking made it sound more like they were regurgitating a speech than having a normal conversation.
Since I’m familiar with Amy Clipston’s earlier novels, it’s difficult for me not to compare them to A Mother’s Secret. Perhaps if this were my introduction to Amy’s writing, I would be less critical of it. As it is, I didn’t find this book as engaging as her previous books, but I didn’t dislike it either. A Mother’s Secret might not particularly stand out among the other Amish novels I’ve read recently, but it has an interesting premise and a sweet romance, as well as an important message about forgiveness.
Scott Grant moved to Thunder Point to get a new start for himself and his children, away from his interfering mother and mother-in-...more4.5 out of 5 stars.
Scott Grant moved to Thunder Point to get a new start for himself and his children, away from his interfering mother and mother-in-law. Raising his two small children on his own, following his wife’s sudden death, he hopes that opening a small doctor’s practice in the coastal town of Thunder Point will allow him to support his family, and spend more time with them. It quickly becomes apparent that he needs help keeping up with all the patients his practice serves, but given the remote location and low pay, Scott isn’t sure if he can attract another employee.
Peyton Lacoumette has been working as a physician’s assistant at a busy city practice for several years, but even the money and prestige can’t make up for the fact that she regrets becoming romantically involved with her boss. After her relationship crashed and burned quite dramatically, Peyton is determined to make a new start. Even if she doesn’t plan to stay in Thunder Point long-term, a stint at Scott’s clinic might provide the perfect respite to help her figure out where to go next.
It’s not until after Peyton has agreed to work with Scott that she learns that he’s a single father—exactly the kind of man she’d sworn to avoid, after her disastrous break-up with her boss. But Scott’s children are a far cry from the teenagers she’s been attempting to wrangle for the last few years, and she actually finds herself wanting to spend more time with his family, rather than go out of her way to avoid them.
Scott is determined not to get too involved with Peyton, since he’s certain that she’s going to move on to a better-paid job as soon as her three months in Thunder Point are over. Even so, neither of them can deny their attraction for each other. Would it be irresponsible to allow a relationship to develop when they know it’s not going to go anywhere?
Scott Grant arrived in Thunder Point several books ago, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the instalment where he finally gets his own happy ending. I’m not sure what it is that particularly appealed to me about Scott, but I’m always a sucker for widowed fathers in romance novels, particularly when they’re Beta heroes. I enjoyed the chance to finally get inside Scott’s head and learn more about his character. His interactions with his children and patients certainly endeared him to me, especially his desire to help those in need, even if they couldn’t afford to repay him. Peyton is not the kind of heroine I would have automatically paired him up with, which made their romance all the more intriguing.
When it comes down to it, Peyton had a lot more character growth and conflict to overcome, in comparison to Scott. It takes a while for the full depth of her baggage to be revealed, and as pieces of her story trickle out, I really felt for her and understood her hesitance around Scott. She devoted years of her life to a single father whose children never warmed up to her, despite her many attempts to bond and show her love for them. The storyline of a woman coming out of a relationship that left her hurt, but still longing for marriage and a family, isn’t unusual, but Peyton’s situation certainly was. Especially given the pressure from her family to settle down, and her own fears that maybe’s she’s missed her chance and wasted too many years of her life on a man who didn’t really love her, Peyton is a character that I imagine a lot of women will be able to relate to.
Although Peyton and Scott spend some time dancing around their feelings for each other—partly due to Peyton’s fears of getting taken advantage of by another single father, and partly because of an amusing misunderstanding on Scott’s part—it’s worth the wait when their relationship finally gets off the ground. I’ve described their relationship as “sweet”, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any passion or chemistry between them. In fact, it’s because of the strong chemistry that they find it hard to deny their feelings for each other, even if Peyton is only meant to stay in Thunder Point for a couple of months.
Most of the initial conflict in The Promise is internal, focusing in the issues that Scott and Peyton have to figure out in order to determine whether they have a future together. Peyton needs to let go of her past baggage and figure out what she really wants for her future, and Scott needs to push past his own stubborn insecurities and learn to communicate with the woman he cares about. Initially it didn’t seem like Scott had much to work through, but as the story’s final conflict reached its peak, I actually appreciated his stubbornness and the issues that evolved out of it. How often do you come across a romance novel featuring a Beta hero who lets his insecurities get the better of him? It was a refreshing surprise to read about a hero who wasn’t always confident and made silly mistakes based on his fears. Scott is certainly one of the most believable heroes I’ve come across recently.
I’m not usually a fan of romance novels where the hero and heroine spend a sizable chunk of the book apart from each other, but it worked well in The Promise. Scott and Peyton needed time apart from each other to understand the full depth of their issues, and figure out if they were worth fighting through. I also felt that I got a much deeper look into Peyton’s personality in the last quarter of the book, when she’s dragged away from Thunder Point by a conflict with her ex-boyfriend and his family. Peyton might seem tough and unapproachable to begin with, but this section of the novel showed her tender side. Even if she’s been hurt, Peyton can’t ignore someone in their time of need—but she also doesn’t let people walk all over her. Neither too tough nor too vulnerable, Peyton is a wonderfully relatable character.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about The Promise. Although the novel had a slow start, I was immediately intrigued by Scott and Peyton’s back-stories and conflicts, and the issues explored in the final quarter of this book were what made me fall in love with Scott and Peyton’s story. I also really enjoyed the time spent with Peyton’s family on their farm, and the interactions with the visitors to the doctor’s surgery. That said, the scenes featuring other characters in Thunder Point didn’t have quite the same appeal for me. The sub-plot about Rawley helping Carrie with her catering business was pretty sweet, but the brief visits we had with other reoccurring characters never really grabbed my attention. Unlike Virgin River, where I always appreciate the chance to see how other inhabitants of the town are getting along, I never long to check up on Sarah and Cooper, or Gina and Mac. The one character I did enjoy spending time with was Devon, who also worked at the clinic. The town of Thunder Point just hasn’t drawn me in the same way that Virgin River did, and it doesn’t have quite the same sense of a close-knit community. The setting is certainly interesting, but I’ve still yet to fall in love with it.
Although I still prefer Virgin River to Thunder Point, The Promise is definitely the best novel in Robyn Carr’s new series so far. Peyton and Scott are realistically flawed characters who you can’t help falling in love with, and readers will be rooting for them to overcome their conflicts and make a new life together.
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream novel and contains scenes of a sexual nature and some swearing.
Review title provided by Harlequin MIRA and Little Bird Publicity.(less)
FBI Agent Laine Carrington has been out of action for months, following an injury sustained in the line of duty. Desk work just isn’t cutting it for h...moreFBI Agent Laine Carrington has been out of action for months, following an injury sustained in the line of duty. Desk work just isn’t cutting it for her, and although the town of Thunder Point is close to the area where she was wounded, it sounds like the perfect place to recuperate and figure out where to go next with her life. Her friend, Devon, has settled into the coastal town and is planning to get married soon, and Laine relishes in the opportunity to catch up with her. Plus, Oregon is about as far away as Laine can get from her father without leaving the country, and she’s had enough of his patronising comments about her work.
Eric Gentry has entirely different reasons for settling into Thunder Point. He’s just found out that he has a teenage daughter, and he’s determined to have an active role in her life, before she heads off to college. He’s just opened a garage in Thunder Point, and although he isn’t making an effort to get involved in the local life, he can’t help but be concerned about one of his teenage part-timers, a boy who seems to have far too much responsibility on his shoulders.
Given that Thunder Point is a small town, it isn’t long before Laine and Eric cross paths. They come from entirely different worlds—Laine’s career in the FBI never lived up to the expectations of her surgeon father, while Eric earned a stint in prison and fathered a child far too young. Laine has never had a long-term relationship, thanks to her demanding job and undercover work, but she’s willing to take a chance on Eric. But when Laine’s father falls ill and requires her attention, Eric begins to doubt if Laine can settle in Thunder Point permanently. Eric isn’t leaving his daughter now that he’s found her, but is Laine willing to make similar compromises?
The Chance is the fourth instalment in Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point series, and while I haven’t fallen in love with these books as quickly as I did with her Virgin River series, I do enjoy revisiting the coastal Oregon town whenever a new volume releases. I was intrigued when I realised that the fourth book was going to focus on Laine and Eric, who were briefly introduced in the previous book in the series. Eric’s ex-girlfriend hunted him down to find out his family history when his daughter—who he’d never known about—fell ill, while Laine was working undercover at a local religious camp that was secretly growing marijuana. While I imagined that Eric would become a regular in Thunder Point, I was pleasantly surprised that Laine was going to get a story of her own.
While I enjoyed reading about Laine and Eric’s romance, and I won’t deny that it was a sweet story, I never really fell in love with them as a couple. I don’t mind romances that aren’t full of action and complications, but maybe this one was just a little bit too simple and relaxing. Aside from a few incidents where Laine and Eric neglected to communicate details about their lives to each other (Laine’s job and Eric’s daughter) there was a distinct lack of conflict in the first half of the book. Even the few miscommunication issues were dealt with before their third date. I don't need the hero and heroine to hate each other at first sight, but their relationship was practically perfect from the beginning, and it didn't make for the most riveting read. There was some conflict towards the end of the novel when Laine’s father fell ill, but most of that was in the characters’ heads and focused on them worrying that the other wouldn’t want to be together any more. There wasn’t enough to make me concerned that they wouldn’t be able to make their relationship work.
At times, I actually found the side-story about Al, an employee from Eric’s garage, more interesting than the main romance. Al has worked for Eric on and off for years, and when he moves to Thunder Point he ends up mentoring a teenage boy who is caring for his ailing mother and younger siblings. This storyline shed a lot of light on the stresses of teenagers who are also caregivers, and what happens when the one parent has to move into a nursing facility. As always, Robyn's portrayal of teenagers is encouraging and not at all patronising. This is something other authors fail to master, and I'm always impressed with Robyn's realism in this area.
Al's story linked into Ray Anne's, a regular in the Thunder Point series, and this reminded me of what I love so much about Robyn Carr's stories--she gives people second chances to fall in love and have families, even if they've made huge mistakes in their pasts or are beyond the typical romance novel age for finding love. I was glad to see Ray Anne finally get her happy ending.
Aside from Ray Anne, we only saw a few glimpses of other characters in the town in this book, and I would have actually liked more updates on how characters from previous books were getting on. I know some reviewers complain about how Robyn hops from one storyline to the next in her novels, but I actually enjoy the continuity of her books and seeing how the families in Thunder Point evolve over time.
I'm about halfway through Robyn Carr's Virgin River series right now, and while I don't adore every volume, there have been several couples that I've fallen in love with in that series. I've really connected with their stories and cared about whether they solved their problems and managed to get together. So far, I haven’t had a couple like that in Robyn’s Thunder Point series. I was glad that Laine and Eric found each other and were happy, but they didn't seem to have a whole lot to overcome in order to get there. I’m still waiting for the couple that makes me fall in love with Thunder Point. Perhaps that will happen in the fifth book, where Scott is slated to finally get his own happily ever after?
Although this definitely isn’t my favourite Thunder Point or Robyn Carr novel, I know I can rely on her to provide me with a nice, relaxing read that indulges my love of small-town stories. If you’re looking for a sweet romance without a lot of conflict, this is definitely the book for you.
Disclaimer: Since this is the second book in the Price of Privilege series, this review will most likely contain spoilers for the first book. Read wit...moreDisclaimer: Since this is the second book in the Price of Privilege series, this review will most likely contain spoilers for the first book. Read with caution!
Following on from Born of Persuasion, Julia Elliston finds herself thrust into popular London society as the daughter of Lord Roy Pierson. Not only does she have to grapple with the realisation that she’s the daughter of a highly influential and prominent man, but she is completely unprepared for the responsibilities and expectations of her new life. As much as she longs for her father’s protection and the hope of someday obtaining his love and approval, she doesn’t want to be paraded around at parties and balls. Every offer of marriage makes her long for Edward Auburn’s company, but she has no way of contacting him or knowing how he fares.
Julia’s father plans for her to marry Lord Isaac Dalry, a kind man who seems to understand Julia’s confusion at her new life. But no one outside their inner circle knows that Julia is already considered the wife of Chance Macy, a very powerful and dangerous man. Can Lord Pierson keep Julia hidden from him long enough to marry her to Isaac? Or will Chance discover that Lord Pierson’s daughter is really his long-lost wife and come to claim her? The longer Julia spends in her father’s company, the more she wonders who is more dangerous—her father, or Chance? And as much as she longs for the comfort of her beloved of Edward, she knows that marriage to Isaac may be more desirable than the other alternatives. Will she be once again thrust into an unwanted marriage, or will the passage of time offer a second chance for Julia and Edward?
I devoured Jessica Dotta’s debut novel, Born of Persuasion, when it released back in September, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second instalment in the Price of Privilege series ever since. While the first book didn’t exactly end on a cliff-hanger, there were still lots of unresolved issues that I was keen to catch up on. Perhaps it was the gap of nine months in between reading each book, but I did find that it took me a while to remember who all of the characters were, and what constituted the relationship between Lord Pierson and Chance Macy. I debated over whether to list my confusion over the plot details as a “con” for this book as this may simply be due to me forgetting some important details from the first novel. If you’re planning to pick up Mark of Distinction, you may want to reread Born of Persuasion to refresh your memory.
The other reason why I wasn’t entirely certain if my confusion over some aspects of the plot was a “con” is that the confusion I felt while reading this book pretty much mirrored Julia’s own confusion at her surroundings and circumstances. She’s just discovered that she’s Lord Pierson’s daughter and the heiress to his fortune, and she’s forced to take on a new identity and learn how to behave in respectable society. But in spite of her new social standing, her father keeps her hidden away in their home for much of the book, and every time she steps out of the house she is fearful of running into Chance Macy, and still doesn’t understand the issues between him and her father. I felt just as confused and claustrophobic as Julia for most of the book. At times I got frustrated at how passively she accepted much of her situation, but I’m not sure if I would have behaved any differently from her. Even if her father didn’t treat her in a terribly loving manner, she was protected in his home, which is more than she could hope for elsewhere.
Just as Jessica Dotta is fantastic at creating a claustrophobic and constricting atmosphere, her writing truly captured the setting of London and the social customs of the society into which Julia is thrust. Although a large part of the book is confined to Lord Pierson’s London home, I felt like I was exploring Julia’s new life alongside her—the ridiculous expense of her new wardrobe, her confusion over how to converse with men that she met at parties, the perplexing behaviour of the giggling young ladies she was expected to socialise with—not to mention the hustle and bustle of a busy city, and its contrast to the quiet country life Julia preferred. Every time I picked up this book, I felt like I was immediately sucked back into London society.
As with the first book in the series, I adored the first-person narrative. At times it’s clear that Julia is telling the story in retrospect—which begs the question of whether she’s a terribly reliable narrator—but for the most part, the reader witnesses the story unfolding through Julia’s eyes. Sometimes not being able to see a story from an alternative perspective is a downside, but for Mark of Distinction I felt that this lack of insight was actually beneficial. We only know as much as Julia does about her family, her social standing and the danger she is facing from Chance Macy. Whenever something new is revealed, the reader is usually just as surprised as Julia, which adds to the underlying suspense of the novel.
Readers of Born of Persuasion will recall that Julia spent much of the book pining after Edward Auburn, the love of her childhood. I recently discussed the first book in this series with an online book group, and a few of us agreed that it took us a while to warm up to Edward since he was such a passive character. Edward isn’t so much passive in Mark of Distinction as he is, well, just not present. I was surprised upon starting this book to discover that, for the most part, the story features an entirely new cast of secondary characters. This isn’t a massive complaint, as I particularly loved the characters of Lord Isaac Dalry and his sister Kate, and the relationship between Isaac and his valet was especially endearing. But I did find that I cared less about Edward and the other characters from the first book in the series, simply because they weren’t present for much of the story. In fact, even though Julia continually pined after Edward, I kind of wished she’d fall in love with Isaac as he seemed to be such a kind and understanding man. Isaac didn’t have a lot of flaws—or at least, not many that made him undesirable as a romantic hero—and as such, it was hard for me to root for Edward when he finally reappeared, given how attached I’d become to Isaac. I’m finding this to be a reoccurring issue with this series, since I became similarly attached to Chance Macy while Julia was apart from Edward in Born of Persuasion. Even if it is a slight flaw, this issue will definitely make for interesting book group discussions!
While I didn’t adore Mark of Distinction as much as the first book in the Price of Privilege series, Jessica Dotta’s beautiful writing and narration brought this book to life—from Julia’s confusion over her confining circumstances to the elegance and claustrophobia of respectable London society. Fans of the series will be pleased with this new instalment, and just as eager as I am to get their hands on the final book and discover how Julia manages to get her much sought after happy ending.
Having recently graduated from Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery, Charlotte Gregory is excited at the prospect of being able to use her co...more3.5 out of 5
Having recently graduated from Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery, Charlotte Gregory is excited at the prospect of being able to use her cooking skills in a real kitchen—maybe even one at a prestigious hotel. But after all of her attempts to obtain a job are turned down due to the fact that women are not welcome in most hotel kitchens, Charlotte feels dejected. Will she ever get the chance to use the skills she obtained in cookery school? She knows that cooking and nutrition are her calling, but even the doctor she attempts to talk to at a local hospital makes her knowledge feel unwanted. When the opportunity arises for Charlotte to display her cooking skills in a competition run by the gas company, she hopes this is her true chance to shine.
Dr Joel Brooks is slowly rising through the ranks at his hospital, and hopes to one day become superintendent. Unlike some of his colleagues, Joel wants the best for his patients—whether they can afford it or not. His main concern is providing the best service he can, often donating extra time and money to those who need it, like the children at the orphanage where he volunteers after work. When Charlotte Gregory approaches him to suggest a complete overhaul of the hospital’s cooking services, he attempts to brush her ideas aside. The hospital’s funds are already stretched to their limit, and he doesn’t see how new menus would truly benefit his patients’ health. But Charlotte won’t let go of the idea, and as he continues to run into her around town, Joel begins to wonder if he should pay attention to the persistent cook. But can two people so stubborn and set in their ways find a way to work together—not only for the benefit of Joel’s patients, but also their future?
I fell in love with Lorna Seilstad’s writing when I read When Love Calls last year, and I’ve been anxiously anticipating the next instalment in the Gregory Sisters series ever since. While Love Stirs picks up the three sisters’ stories a few months down the line, with Charlotte visiting Hannah in hospital after the birth of her first child. Even if you haven’t read the first book in the series, enough is summarised to give the new reader an idea of the principal characters and their respective backgrounds. I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with Hannah and Lincoln again, and I’m intrigued to see where the author takes the youngest Gregory sister, Tessa, in the final book in the series.
As fun as it was to revisit these sisters, I didn’t find While Love Stirs quite as compelling as its predecessor. The first book had been impossible to put down, with its engaging storyline and rich historical details. While it’s evident that the author put a lot of research into the second volume in the series, the story just didn’t draw me in quite the same. I won’t deny that I found the details about Charlotte’s studies in cooking and nutrition absolutely fascinating. I love to cook and I’m constantly on the lookout for new recipes to experiment with, so it was interesting to learn about the recipes that were popular in 1910, as well as the techniques and cooking styles. Since Charlotte enters a competition run by the gas company, it was also intriguing to learn about the introduction of the gas cooker, and the massive impact this had on cooking. While I don’t mind having an electric oven, a gas hob is something I refuse to compromise on, and it was something my husband and I specifically looked for when we moved house last year.
Perhaps this aspect of this novel might not be fascinating to those who aren’t so interested in cooking and its history, but Charlotte’s struggles to prove herself in the world of cooking and nutrition certainly transcend the world of food. Like her lawyer sister, Charlotte is striving to get ahead in a male-dominated arena. From being forced to enter a hotel via the side entrance, to being laughed at by male chefs, to being expected to settle for just cooking for her own husband and family, Charlotte’s struggles are representative of those faced by many women in this era.
Charlotte and Joel’s romance is your typical “opposites attract” situation. They butt heads early in the novel over the issue of the nutritional standards at Joel’s hospital, and this puts them at odds for a large part of the novel, even as they fight their growing attraction for each other. Even if their story is relatively predictable, it made for a sweet and fun read. I think I would have got more wrapped up in their story if it weren’t for the way in which it was told. The author frequently switches perspective in scenes featuring Joel and Charlotte, and while I could tell that this was intended to build suspense, it often felt like the scenes in this novel ended far too soon, not giving us enough time to care about one character or the other. Additionally, some of the scenes were so short that I felt like I barely got a chance to get a feel of the situation before I was flipped into a different perspective or scenario.
This leads me to another issue I had with While Love Stirs. While I enjoyed the insights into Charlotte’s life I’d received alongside Hannah’s story in When Love Calls, the snippets of Tessa’s life that I saw in this novel often felt out of place. The scenes were mostly short and clipped, and didn’t mesh well with the main storyline until the very end of the book, and even then I still wasn’t terribly interested in the sub-plot. While I appreciated the chance to learn more about Tessa in anticipation of her book, I wondered if there was a better way to flesh out her character, without taking time away from the main plot.
The message in While Love Stirs is a relatively simple one about learning to trust God and not feeling the need to be completely in control of your life. Charlotte has trust issues from an earlier relationship that was explored in the first book in the series, and it emerges that Joel has experienced something similar as well. Additionally, Joel displays a lot of the symptoms of OCD—needing everything in his office to be organised and displayed in a precise manner. While the physical manifestations of Joel’s need to be in control never go away, both he and Charlotte learn to lean on God’s understanding rather than their own when making major life decisions. I’m sure this is something that we all need to be reminded of. That said, there were continual references throughout the novel to the Biblical story of the widow and the jar of oil, and letting God fill up your vessels and provide for you. I could vaguely see how this related to the main storyline, but the references often felt forced, like they were put into the story to make it seem more spiritual. I think the message worked fine without these references.
Although While Love Stirs wasn’t quite as compelling or well-written as the first novel in the Gregory Sisters series, it was still a sweet, fun romance packed with rich historical details. I’ll be on the lookout for the final volume in the series to find out what happens to the youngest Gregory sister.
Rebecca Troyer watched her older sister, Claudia, slip away from her just minutes after giving birth to her only son, helpless to do anything to stop...moreRebecca Troyer watched her older sister, Claudia, slip away from her just minutes after giving birth to her only son, helpless to do anything to stop her from leaving this world. It was then that she knew that God had called her to a life other than the one expected of an Amish woman—she was to become a nurse, and educate her Amish brethren about health concerns, so that deaths like Claudia’s could be prevented. Rebecca knows that her parents won’t understand her desire to nurse, so she hides her studies from them, even keeping her farewell note deliberately vague when she finally heads off to nursing school in Oregon. Recalling how her community treated her old friend, Marianna, when she left the Amish faith, Rebecca decides to stop by and visit Marianna in her new home in Montana.
Marianna isn’t as understanding as Rebecca would have expected, especially when she hears that Rebecca hasn’t told her parents why she left her community back in Indiana, or about her plans to become a nurse. As Rebecca’s stay in Montana lengthens, she realises that Marianna has some troubles of her own to deal with, and she jumps at the chance to join a wagon train of locals who are travelling across Montana for a week. On this journey, Rebecca meets another outsider—Caleb Hooley, who is visiting Montana with the hope of gaining a winter hunting permit. Rebecca knows she shouldn’t get involved with an Amish man when she will have to leave the faith to study nursing, but she can’t help but enjoy spending time with Caleb. She knows that Caleb will be upset when she tells him the truth—but she doesn’t expect that he’s hiding his own secrets. Is there any hope of a future for two such different people?
Tricia Goyer made it on to my list of favourite Amish authors with her first book set in Big Sky, Montana, and I’ve yet to be disappointed with one of her Amish novels. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that The Kissing Bridge featured several character from previous books in both the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors and the Big Sky series. Long-term fans of Tricia’s books will appreciate the chance to revisit Marianna and Ben, but new fans won’t feel too out of the loop as plenty of details are summarised.
Rebecca hopes that her old friend will understand her struggle with leaving the Amish faith to pursue her nursing degree, but Marianna isn’t as encouraging as she expected. As we see the two women interacting, it becomes clear that leaving the faith isn’t as easy as one might assume. While Marianna’s parents have been supportive of her decision and still spend time with her, but friends back in Indiana have almost completely cut ties with Marianna, believing that she’s endangered her soul. Rebecca is aware that her family may well think the same things about her, and that it might not be easy to re-enter the community and use her new nursing skills. The Kissing Bridge featured some really heart-wrenching scenes where both Marianna and Rebecca wrestled with their decisions. Not only do they have to worry about cutting ties with their friends and families in order to pursue their callings, but they need an assurance of God’s love and forgiveness that isn’t so easily found within the Amish faith. I appreciate Tricia taking the time to show just how difficult it is to leave the Amish faith. I’ve read plenty of books where families and friends—at least close ones—are supportive of those who leave the faith, even if background characters pass judgements. The Kissing Bridge showed that this isn’t always the case.
As fascinating as the details were about Marianna and Rebecca leaving the Amish faith, the romance between Rebecca and Caleb wasn’t so exciting. Their story was relatively simple, with each of them keeping secrets from the other, and somehow I never completely warmed up to Caleb or found his secret all that intriguing. It wasn’t that the romance wasn’t sweet, or that the happy ending wasn’t satisfying—it just moved a little too fast for me. Caleb and Rebecca barely knew each other before they went on the wagon trip, and the trip barely lasted a week. I didn’t entirely buy them getting so close so quickly, or Rebecca choosing to go off on a trip with some people she hardly knew. The conflict between them—Rebecca not telling Caleb she planned to leave the faith—was resolved pretty easily, meaning that I didn’t have many doubts about them making their relationship work.
I’m not sure if it’s because most of the conflicts (besides the one between Rebecca and her parents) are resolved very quickly, but something about the pacing of this novel just didn’t work for me. I think I prefer my romance novels to have a more conventional structure, whereas nearly most of The Kissing Bridge took place over the space of a week, with the remaining concluding chapters being set several months in the future. We get to see the beginning of Rebecca and Caleb’s relationship, and their happily ever after, but not much of the development in between. I’m sure their story is realistic of many couples in their situation, but it didn’t make for the most riveting read.
Although Rebecca and Caleb’s romance wasn’t quite as compelling as I would have liked, I did appreciate the lesson that Caleb was able to teach Rebecca. While Caleb is a daredevil, always keen to try something new and compete with other Amish men, Rebecca likes to have her entire life neatly ordered and under control. Her attitude is an understandable reaction to having had no control over her sister’s sudden death, but I know all too well that it’s not possible to plan your life out in that way. The unexpected always happens, as Caleb is able to show, and Rebecca slowly learns to let go of her grip on her life and let God take the reins. Even if she knows God is calling her to be a nurse, she has to accept that he might have different ideas of how and where she should pursue this dream—plans that are better than she ever expected.
I feel a little torn over how to rate this book. As always, I enjoyed stepping back into Big Sky, Montana and visiting the community that I’ve become so fond of. I appreciated the chance to revisit old characters, and the fact that not all of them were living completely happily ever after—they had experienced troubles and sad times, like real-life friends. I always appreciate the realism in Tricia Goyer’s novels, and The Kissing Bridge was no exception. But as compelling as I found Rebecca’s struggles over pursuing her nursing career, perhaps her romance with Caleb was a little too realistic, meaning that it didn’t make for the most exciting read. This is an easy, gentle read, even if the pacing is a little different from previous books in the series, and I definitely appreciated the overarching message about letting God take control. While this definitely isn’t my favourite of Tricia Goyer’s Amish novels, The Kissing Bridge contains a sweet, touching story that I’m sure will please many fans.
Tyler Anderson found himself thrust upon his Amish grandparents when his ex-Amish mother suddenly died when he was six years old. His grandparents wer...moreTyler Anderson found himself thrust upon his Amish grandparents when his ex-Amish mother suddenly died when he was six years old. His grandparents were more than happy to take him in, understanding that Tyler’s father’s work in the military meant that he could not provide a stable home for Tyler right then. It was always assumed that his father would return for him once his tour of duty was complete, but Tyler’s stay in Lancaster County stretched on, beyond what any of them expected. By the time his father did return for him—new wife and son in tow—Tyler was settled in his Amish life.
Tyler has visited his English family in California numerous times over the years, but he’s never thought about going to live with them permanently. Still, something holds him back from officially joining his grandparents’ church. If his mother felt the call of the English world, what’s to say he won’t? Especially given that he grew up with one foot in either lifestyle. His girlfriend, Rachel, has patiently waited for Tyler to join the church so that they can get married, and Tyler knows he put it off any longer. When his father calls him unexpectedly to tell him that he needs Tyler to look after his younger brother, Brady, for a couple of weeks, Tyler wonders if God is giving him one final chance to explore the English world and discover where he truly belongs.
Much to Rachel’s disappointment, Tyler sets off to California to find himself. But will his time with Brady lead him away from Rachel and his community, or leave him more confused than ever? How can he know which world he belongs in?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Women of Lancaster County series that Mindy Starns Clark penned with Leslie Gould, and while I was sad to see it end, I was intrigued when I learned that Mindy was writing a new series with Susan Meissner. Not only did the fantastic authorship of this new series appeal to me, but I was pleased to discover that these books were told from men’s perspectives. I’ve lost count of the number of Amish books that explore the issues facing Amish women. It’s about time that we get to read about the men!
Given that this wasn’t a traditional romance-based Amish novel, I didn’t feel that the book was lacking anything in just being told from Tyler’s perspective. The plot centres around Tyler trying to figure out which world he belongs to, and how his mother’s decision to leave the Amish church impacts his life. In a sense, it’s a coming of age story, and one that a lot of readers should be able to relate to on some level. Even if my family heritage doesn’t include such a massive clash of cultures, the decisions our parents make can leave a lasting impact on our lives and the decisions we make.
I enjoyed reading about Tyler’s time in California and his discoveries about the English world. Although he’s spent time visiting his family previously, there are still plenty of quirks about the English lifestyle that he hasn’t picked up on. I was particularly amused by the list he began making of his perplexing “discoveries”, such as the presence of artificial plants in his dad’s home (which he tries to water), fireplaces that turn on with the flick of a switch, and the fact that his teenage brother would rather text him than talk to him in person. Sometimes it takes someone from another culture to point out how weird certain aspects of our lives are.
The dynamics in Tyler’s Californian family were certainly interesting and touching, and I appreciated seeing him attempt to mend fences with his brother, father and step-mother. It took Tyler a while to acknowledge that he might have hurt his Californian family by choosing to stay in Lancaster County. While the relationships between them might not be perfect by the close of the book, they’ve definitely come a long way.
His stay in California also gives Tyler the chance to delve into his mother’s past, and discover why she left her Amish upbringing all those years ago. In an attempt to connect with his mother, Tyler takes photography lessons from a family friend, trying to understand why something so forbidden appealed to his mother. His friendship with the photographer, Lark, introduces Tyler to plenty of new things aside from photography, and it was fun to read about his first taste of sushi and his visit to a modern, English church. I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d like the blossoming relationship between Tyler and Lark—I was worried that it might become clichéd, with the modern, English girl “seducing” Tyler away from the Amish—but it was actually approached rather realistically.
I didn’t have any major issues with this book, but something about the mystery aspect didn’t sit entirely right with me. Early on, Tyler mentions that he has a mysterious key that belonged to his mother, but he’s never figured out what it opens. It’s hinted that the key might be linked to the reason why his mother left the Amish church, but this mystery isn’t cleared up until right at the end of the book. Given that most of the story has been focused on Tyler’s journey of self-discovery—rather than his mother’s past—it felt like the conclusion to the mystery kind of came out of nowhere, like an after-thought. Given how both Mindy and Susan are usually fantastic at tying family secrets and mysteries into their stories, this one felt a bit flat in comparison.
Although The Amish Groom didn’t have that special factor that pushed it into the “loved it!” category, it was still an incredibly engaging story. If you’re getting burned out on typical Amish novels, I’d definitely recommend reading this one.
Devon McAllister has been a member of a closed, religious group living in a compound for nearly four years, but the community that once seemed so kind...moreDevon McAllister has been a member of a closed, religious group living in a compound for nearly four years, but the community that once seemed so kind and simple no longer seems quite so innocent. Not wanting to expose her three-year-old daughter to anything dangerous, Devon flees the compound one night, desperate to get as far away from the community as possible. She knows she’s taking a risk when an elderly man offers her a ride in his truck, but it ends up being the best choice she could have made. The old man, Rawley, has been down on his luck many times, and he can see that Devon is in need of help. Before she knows it, she’s settled in the small, coastal town of Thunder Point as Rawley’s “cousin” who has fled an abusive relationship. Little do the residents know that this story isn’t so far from the truth.
Spencer Lawson moved to Thunder Point so that he and his adoptive son, Austin, could be closer to Austin’s biological father, Cooper. Settling into his new job as athletic coach at the local high school and getting to know the locals are high on Spencer’s priority list, and he has no intentions of looking for love in Thunder Point. Spencer spent the last few years caring for his terminally ill wife, so starting a new relationship wouldn’t feel appropriate, even if his marriage wasn’t exactly typical towards the end. But he finds himself drawn to the newcomer, Devon, especially after he overhears her talking to Rawley about her escape from a nearby compound. He pitches in to help Devon decorate her new home and offers protection in case any of the men from the compound come after her.
Neither Devon or Spencer plan for their relationship to go beyond a platonic friendship, especially considering the difficult relationships they’ve both recently left behind. But Thunder Point has a habit of bringing unexpected people together...
By the time I got around to reading The Hero, there were already several reviews of the title on GoodReads, and I found myself scrolling through many comments and complaints while I was reading this novel. As such, I feel I should address some of the complaints I came across. This is not a conventional romance novel, so if you’re looking for a book which purely focuses on the hero and heroine and their journey to their happily ever after, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Just like the Virgin River series, the Thunder Point books focus on a much larger cast of characters than most romance novels, and they often revisit couples from previous books and let the reader know how their relationship is progressing. Personally, I like this. I’m a sucker for small-town stories and sometimes wish I could live somewhere like Thunder Point where all the neighbours help each other out. I also appreciate getting to see previous couple’s relationships. Sometimes what happens after the wedding can be a whole lot more interesting than what brought the hero and heroine together.
That said, the romance in The Hero took a long time to get started. I was nearly halfway through the book before I realised that Spencer was going to be Devon’s love interest, since I hadn’t looked at the synopsis before I started reading. For a long time, I honestly thought that Devon was going to be pared with Scott, the widowed doctor. It took me a while to warm up to Spencer, and I think this is because he didn’t seem to have a lot of motivation behind his desire to be friends with Devon, or any conflict keeping him from being happy. Robyn does chuck in a conflict for their relationship towards the end of the novel, but it seemed to almost come out of nowhere. I absolutely loved Devon’s character and wanted her to be happy, but at times Spencer just felt like a cardboard cut-out love interest. Even though he’d featured in the previous book, I just didn’t know enough about him to care about whether or not he got the girl.
Although it took me a while to warm up to the idea of Devon and Spencer as a couple, the book itself doesn’t have a slow start. I was immediately sucked into Devon’s conflict—her escape from the compound, her desire to protect her daughter, her reinvention and attempt to regain control of her life. Devon was a fascinating character, and it was interesting to read about someone who ended up in Thunder Point entirely by accident, rather than because they got a job offer or had family living there. Sometimes having dozens of new characters appear in a tiny town (like Thunder Point or Virgin River) can seem a little contrived, but Devon’s story worked. Another reviewer mentioned that Devon’s situation reminded her a little of Paige from Shelter Mountain, and I think she was on to something there. If you liked Paige, you’ll probably love Devon. It’s impossible not to care about Devon and her daughter, Mercy, and I was rooting for them to beat the odds all throughout the book.
While the last book in the series had a fairly large sub-plot about one of the local teenagers, the additional storylines in The Hero weren’t quite so prominent. We finally get to witness Cooper and Sarah’s wedding, and Cooper begins building a new home for them. Lou decides it’s time to leave Gina and Mac to their new life and moves in with her boyfriend. Scott feels a little sad that Devon is interested in Spencer rather than him (seriously, when is this guy going to get his own book?! He needs a little romance in his life). I think the biggest sub-plot is about Ashley’s dad deciding to move to Thunder Point to be closer to the daughter he only just discovered. There weren’t a lot of storylines left hanging at the end of this book, presumably because the next instalment doesn’t release until February 2014. Hopefully the time will speed by as I’m intrigued to read the next book, The Chance, which apparently focuses on one of Devon’s friends from the compound.
Although The Hero could have been improved with a stronger romance and better characterisation of, well, the “hero” of the story, it’s still a great addition to Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point series. Fans of Robyn Carr will pleased with this latest instalment, and most likely counting down the days until the fourth book is released.
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream romance and contains one sexual scene and a few instances of swearing.
Caddy Bainbridge runs a seamstress shop in a relatively rough area of Oxford, supporting her elderly mother and training up a team of apprentices from...moreCaddy Bainbridge runs a seamstress shop in a relatively rough area of Oxford, supporting her elderly mother and training up a team of apprentices from the local workhouse. In spite of her location, her deft with a needle has gained the attention of several local aristocratic women, allowing Caddy to expand her business and appeal to both upper and working class women. Caddy longs to visit London during the Great Exhibition in order to see the latest fashions and fabrics from around the world, but this dream will only come true if she can save enough money to afford the trip. Oliver Carmichael, the son of one of Caddy’s clients, might be able to provide passage to London, and entertainment once she makes her way there, but is he the kind of man she can trust? Rumour has it that Oliver is actually betrothed to Edith Buchanan—although he certainly doesn’t act like it. Caddy is equally unlikely to place her trust in Neal Stadbroke, the new doctor in town who appears to be hiding a secret or two of his own. But when Caddy’s mother falls ill, Neal is the only one she can trust to help restore her mother’s help. A series of unfortunate events draw Caddy and Neal closer together, but will they allow their past secrets to continue to haunt their present and spoil their future together?
Back in April, I devoured the first novel in this series, Follow the Heart. Exploring a previously unknown topic in British history—the Great Exhibition—while delving into the upstairs/downstairs relationships I love so much in Downton Abbey, with the addition of American characters, the book was a perfect fit for me. And while An Honest Heart wasn’t quite as compelling as its predecessor, it still continued many of the elements I had loved about Follow the Heart. The contrast between Edith and Oliver’s aristocratic, privileged lives—full of intrigue and social politics—and the day-to-day problems of Caddy and Neal’s lives made for a fascinating read, especially when these two worlds unexpectedly intercepted with one another.
Although I vaguely recalled Caddy’s character from the previous book in the series, I had mistakenly assumed that this novel would be set after the ending of Follow the Heart. I was pleasantly surprised to find that An Honest Heart ran parallel to Follow the Heart. I’ve never come across this concept before, and Kaye executed it perfectly. It was fascinating to see the events of the first novel through the eyes of Edith and Oliver—especially as Edith had been previously cast as a rather villainous character. Although she was still a rather unsympathetic character, I didn’t envy her position in society, especially her need to find a rich husband and not be overshadowed by her cousin and sisters. As much as I’d love to dress in one of Caddy’s beautiful creations, I wouldn’t want the drama that comes with a social position like Edith’s.
As with the previous book, An Honest Heart shed light on many of the issues facing women in this time period—both young and old, rich and poor. Perhaps I’m noticing this more because I spent my last year of university studying a vast array of literature and history from a feminist perspective, but it appears that more Christian authors are exploring some of the unjust social situations women faced in historical periods. Even little remarks—like the fact that Caddy is unable to defend a friend in a court of law because she is a woman—serve as much needed reminders that Caddy and women like her faced much larger problems than deciding which man they should marry.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any romance in this book. Neal Stadbroke is an appealing hero from the first moment he’s introduced, from his offer to teach a local boy how to read to him pretending not to notice Caddy’s mother’s match-making attempts. He felt real, which is the best compliment I can give a romantic hero. Caddy is also an incredibly admirable character, and I’d love to have her as a friend. Her interactions with her young apprentices and her mother made for some very touching and amusing moments. These aren’t characters you’re going to forget in a hurry.
My main gripe with the romance in this novel is that the conflict felt drawn out. Caddy and Neal are constantly thrown together by circumstances involving their friends, Caddy’s mother and her shop, but they keep denying their attraction to each other because of mysterious secrets that they can’t bear to reveal. Honestly, there was so much hype about Neal’s secret that I was almost kind of disappointed when I realised what it was because I’d been half-expecting something much darker or heavier. I won’t deny that Neal’s secret brought up some interesting, often-forgotten issues from this time period. Caddy’s secret was a lot simpler, and revolved around a lack of trust. I don’t think I would have minded either Caddy or Neal’s individual conflicts if they’d been presented on their own, but given that both of them were being held back by secrets and a lack of trust, it made the conflict feel a little repetitive. I’m not a fan of conflicts that revolve around something that could easily be communicated and cleared up, but if this doesn’t bother you, it might not hold you back from enjoying this part of the novel.
Although I’m pleased with the way Kaye represented the difficulties facing women in this time period, there was one sensitive issue that I felt was skimmed over. I don’t want to spoil this book for any potential readers, but there is a very brief scene in which a female character is nearly assaulted. She never talks to anyone about the incident, and on the one occasion that she thinks about it, she dismisses the thought easily. While women definitely did not get the support in this time period that they do today after an attempted rape occurs—especially when the man concerned was of a higher social standing—I couldn’t help but wish that this issue hadn’t been brushed away so quickly. Regardless of the time period, it’s not easy to just get over such an incident. I felt this situation could have been dealt with more sensitively.
While Caddy and Neal didn’t engage me quite as much as the characters in the previous Great Exhibition novel, the historical accuracy and realism in this novel made for a compelling read. Although B&H are discontinuing their Fiction line after April 2014, I do hope that Kaye Dacus gets the chance to continue this series.
Rose Yoder has always felt a little different from her siblings in her love for pretty things and desire to decorate her family home, but she’d never...moreRose Yoder has always felt a little different from her siblings in her love for pretty things and desire to decorate her family home, but she’d never considered leaving her Amish community. Her dream to settle down and start a family of her own is put on hold when her beau, Jonathan Fisher, signs up to work as a medic during the Second World War. Rose is conflicted, as she loves Jonathan but doesn’t believe he’ll be comfortable settling for an Amish life after all he’s seen of the world. But her own loyalty to her community is tested when she learns that she was originally born to an English family, and adopted by the Yoders as a young child. Knowing how her community treated Jonathan for serving during the war, she fears how they will treat her if they know she isn’t truly Amish. As Christmas draws near, Rose yearns to find out what happened to the family who gave her up for adoption. Perhaps learning the truth about her past will help her come to peace with her future. Will her discoveries aid her in finding her place in the world, or only confuse her further?
Tricia Goyer is a prolific writer, penning Amish and Historical novels as well as blogging about her personal life on a regular basis. Most recently, I’ve been intrigued by Tricia’s articles on the children she and her husband have adopted into their family. When I saw that her Christmas novella was going to be an Amish Historical novel about a woman who was adopted, I couldn’t help but be intrigued—especially as the book was set at the end of the Second World War, one of Tricia’s favourite historical settings. Could she pull off this myriad of subjects without the novella feeling messy or rushed? I wondered. With a mixture of scepticism and excitement, I signed up to review this novel, and I’m definitely glad that I did.
I will admit that it took me a while to warm up to Rose. Initially, she spent a lot of time worrying about her relationship with Jonathan (and the news of her adoption) and it took her a while to actually sit down and tell him how she felt. I will admit that I have been guilty of this type of behaviour in the past, so I have no doubt that it’s realistic, but the initial conflict between Rose and Jonathan felt drawn out given how rapidly things changed once they had a serious talk. As is incredibly common in romance novels, communication is the key! Once Rose and Jonathan got all their feelings out in the open, the story definitely moved faster.
Rose’s adoption storyline is deftly woven into the historical setting of the novel, and it’s impossible to talk about one without the other. It might be difficult for some to read about a family forced to give up a child during the depression because they couldn’t support her, but I have no doubt that stories like Rose’s were incredibly common during this time period. Tricia is always excellent at bringing realism into her historical novels, and A Christmas Gift for Rose is no exception. While I don’t have any personal experience of adoption (although my youngest uncle is adopted), Rose’s reaction to the truth of her past felt believable. I particularly appreciated the way that her parents and siblings supported her and understood her need to learn what happened to her family. Some Amish families come across as harsh and unsympathetic—particularly the men—so it was a nice change to hear about Rose’s dad and brother helping her during this time.
This novella also touches on the subject of how the Amish were treated during the Second World War. Although Murray Pura has written more detailed books on the subject of the Amish during various wars, Tricia’s brief treatment of the subject didn’t feel lacking in any way. My favourite part of this aspect of A Christmas Gift for Rose is that none of the storylines about the after effects of the war were tied up neatly. We’re still not certain if all the community members will welcome Jonathan back at the end of the novella, and the English neighbour struggling with PTSD has hope, but doesn’t know if he’ll ever completely heal. I know that most people like their Christmas stories to be tied up neatly, but that’s not possible when it comes to a subject like this, and I appreciated Tricia’s realism in this respect.
Initially I was a little torn about the ending to this novel. A lot happens in the last few chapters, and although it miraculously didn’t feel rushed, I did wonder if some readers might find some of the final events of the novella to be a little implausible. Once I thought about it for a while, I decided that I was quite satisfied with the ending to A Christmas Gift for Rose. As I said, not everything is tied up neatly, and there are some things Rose will never get to find out about her family. But she, her family and Jonathan are all satisfied with the outcome to Rose’s explorations, and I believe I am as well. Although Jonathan was present in this novel less than I’d expected, I was happy with the way he featured in the final chapter of the novel. Rose and Jonathan’s storyline isn’t your typical romance, but the conclusion is sure to please any romantic at heart.
If you’re sceptical about the possibility of an author being able to pull off a Historical Amish Christmas Romance set right after the end of the Second World War that deals with adoption and PTSD, take my word for it—Tricia knows what she’s doing with this novella. Tricia has long been a favourite author of mine, and this novella is a perfect example of her ability to create a touching story full of realistic characters that deal with difficult subject matters.
Once the daughter of a farmer with aspirations of becoming a school teacher, Cora Diehl Kensington is now a copper heiress being courted by the aristo...moreOnce the daughter of a farmer with aspirations of becoming a school teacher, Cora Diehl Kensington is now a copper heiress being courted by the aristocratic and charismatic Pierre de Richelieu. Although she has become close to her newfound siblings during their tour across Europe, Cora is overwhelmed by the fortune at her disposal, maybe even more than she is by Pierre’s attentions. Despite the changes that have occurred in her life, the man she truly has eyes for would fit right into her modest life back in Montana—Will McCabe, their tour guide.
But before Cora can tell Pierre and Will how she truly feels about each of them, the Kensingtons and their friends find themselves hunted, yet again, by the kidnappers they thought they’d left behind earlier in their journey. A devastating event occurs that puts the tour group in an even more vulnerable position, spinning Cora and Will into further confusion about how they should proceed with their relationship. Will Cora ever find the peace she needs to figure out the next step God wants her to take in her grand journey through life?
Following on from where the previous book in the series left off, Glittering Promises wastes no time in getting stuck into the conflicts Cora is facing, both in her family and her love life. After spending three books with these characters, they felt like old friends, and I think that made this book even more suspenseful for me as I felt invested in how each of the conflicts would be concluded. I could feel Cora being torn between her loyalty to the man who raised her and her biological father, as well as the man she loved and the one who showered her with presents and praises.
One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about Cora throughout this series is her unconventionality, and her confidence in speaking her mind. Although Cora isn’t scared about saying how she feels when she firsts meets her long-lost father and siblings, I could see how she felt torn between being herself and putting on a respectable appearance for the press and high society in the last book. Here, she seems to finally figure out who she wants to be, and she doesn’t waste any time making it clear to her family that she has ideas on how to improve her father’s business, as well as her thoughts on how to spend her fortune. With her suffragette leanings and her concerns about her sister’s potentially abusive fiancé, Cora isn’t just an unconventional heiress, but a woman that I think would make a great role model for teenage girls.
As with the previous books in the series, Glittering Promises is brimming with historical details and suspenseful moments. As a recent History graduate, I ate up all of the details Will spoke about on the different stops on the tour. This series must have been a lot of fun to research, and I appreciate the depths Lisa must have gone to make Will’s speeches sound authentic. If you’re not a big history buff, these sections of the novel might not be so interesting, but don’t let that put you off—this series might make a convert of you!
With the previous books, I loved the blend of history, romance, family drama and suspense. By the time I reached the middle of Glittering Promises, however, I did start to feel that some of the conflicts were getting a little bit drawn out. I won’t deny that the ever-present kidnapping plot provided some excellent suspense—especially the scene in Pompeii!—but there were times when I kind of groaned and thought, “Again? I thought we’d gotten rid of the kidnappers!” But while I did suspect one character’s involvement in the kidnapping, the other was quite a surprise, which definitely spiced the novel up a little bit. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about one character’s involvement in Cora’s kidnapping. Maybe I was just won over by him too easily, but I did hope for a little redemption for him. I guess I’m too much of a softie.
The conflict that probably bugged me the most is the one between Will and Cora. Although there’s plenty of banter back and forth between Cora and her father at the start of the novel, regarding her fortune and stake in his company, Cora and Will seem to be meandering along for a while. There is a fantastic scene at a waterfall that is an excellent example of how to create chemistry and tension without going behind the bedroom door, but then our hero and heroine seemed to keep getting into silly arguments about Cora’s money or another woman flirting with Will or whether Cora still cared for Pierre. Perhaps if the novel had been a little shorter, there wouldn’t have been the need for so many little stumbling blocks keeping Cora and Will apart, but as it is, the way in which this conflict was stretched out felt a little forced at times. I still think they’re an excellent couple, but I wished they’d stopped bickering and just told each other how they really felt.
As much as I loved the rich historical details, suspenseful drama and sizzling chemistry in Glittering Promises, there were times when I wished the story were wrapped up a little faster. After three books, some of the conflicts felt drawn out, even if they were wrapped up exceptionally well. This is definitely a series that has to be read in order for it to be truly appreciated, and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction who are looking for something a little different. The Grand Tour setting never gets boring, and I imagine that Cora’s journey to find her true identity and calling will be inspiring to many teenage and young adult women.
Hadassah Benjamin—now known as Stella Muller—was supposed to be protected by the false papers that claimed she was an Austrian of Aryan heritage. She...moreHadassah Benjamin—now known as Stella Muller—was supposed to be protected by the false papers that claimed she was an Austrian of Aryan heritage. She managed to hide her Jewish heritage, even after her uncle was taken away by the Nazis, until the day when a Nazi officer made a lewd move on her and she dared to object. Thrown into Dachau, Stella struggles to survive, and finds herself facing a firing squad when she tries to escape another attack from an officer. Stella is certain her life is about to end when freedom comes from a most unexpected source—SS-Kommandant Aric von Schmidt, who is visiting the camp and happens to notice that an Aryan woman is living among the Jews in Dachau. Stella’s plight is all the more important to him when he sees from her papers that she’s from the same village he grew up in. Determined to rectify the wrongs Stella has faced, he offers her a position as a secretary at his camp, Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia. Knowing this may be her only chance at freedom, Stella agrees.
Once she arrives at Theresienstadt, Stella finds herself in a disturbing position. Waited on by a Jewish boy and forced to socialise with other SS officers who abhor her people, Stella longs to escape the confines of the Aric’s house and her responsibilities as his secretary. But when she learns that her uncle is housed in the camp, she stays, determined to help him and the other Jews. Her uncle and his friends believe that she has been placed in such a high position for a reason—that she will be their salvation and the route to freedom. Stella is doubtful, especially when she’s asked to type up the manifests of prisoners being sent to Auschwitz. Can she do anything to help her people? The longer she spends at Theresienstadt, the more she feels torn between two worlds—the one of her people, whose God she isn’t sure if she believes in any longer, and the one of Aric, a man who seems less evil the more time she spends with him. Can she really be her people’s salvation when she finds herself falling for the man who holds their life in his hands?
While I’ve come across many Christian novels set in the United States during WWII, books set in Europe during the Holocaust seem to be less popular. Holocaust history is especially important to me as I took part in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz program when I was in my final year of high school. Not only is visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau an experience that I can never truly put into words, but the educational part of my project allowed me to see just how little some people—particularly among my generation—understand about what happened at camps like Auschwitz, Dachau and Theresienstadt.
For Such a Time does not skimp on the gritty details of life in Nazi concentration camps, nor does it attempt to romanticise any part of Stella’s experience. She might be the heroine of this novel, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t bald, weak and malnourished when she meets our hero. Even Stella’s journey from Dachau to Theresienstadt is perilous, and while I knew that she must end up at Aric’s camp somehow, her experiences kept me in suspense, worrying that she wouldn’t be able to gain the freedom Aric had promised her.
A fellow reviewer commented that she wasn’t able to put this book down for the final hundred pages, and I won’t deny that this book has its fair share of suspense. Whether I was worrying that a secret note might be spotted by one of the guards, or gripping my Kindle during the riveting escape scene, this book never failed to keep my attention. If you’ve ever listened to the escape stories of anyone who was interned in a Nazi concentration camp, you’ll know just how tense and dangerous any act of rebellion or attempt to escape was, and the author captures this perfectly in For Such a Time.
It’s been a long time since I read the Book of Esther, so I can’t completely vouch for how accurate the references or parallels were. From what I recall of the story, Kate Breslin’s adaptation seemed to appropriately match up with the Biblical story. I never would have thought of basing the story of Esther in a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia during WWII, but it worked surprisingly well.
Although some reviewers don’t seem to have been entirely comfortable with the romance between Stella and Aric, I was pleased with the way it unfolded. Stella struggles with her feelings for Aric because, although she’s lost her personal faith, she still feels bound to her people, and she views Aric as a physical representation of all the harm the Nazis have done to the Jews. As Stella and the reader get more insight into Aric’s character, we’re able to see that he’s just as trapped as she is. Kate Breslin humanised Aric fantastically—instead of making him into an unrealistic martyr who actually secretly loves the Jews even though he’s a Nazi, he was simply a man who doesn’t relish in killing innocents, but has believed in Hitler’s work for so long that he couldn’t imagine not following his orders. There were other Nazi officers who were not as compassionate as Aric, which made his position all the more unique, but still emphasised that the SS officers were real human beings, rather than cardboard cut-out evil villains. Sometimes it’s easier to chalk horrific events like the Holocaust up to “evil” rather than admitting that there were real human beings behind them.
The romance between Stella and Aric felt authentic, even if it took a long time for them to admit their true feelings for each other. Given the circumstances, this made complete sense, and although I was doubtful about whether they could make a relationship work in spite of their differences, I was rooting for them in the end. The spiritual sections of For Such a Time did not feel so organic. It’s clear from the beginning of the novel that Stella isn’t sure if she believes in God after what she’s experienced at Dachau. Once she moves to Aric’s house, she continually finds a Bible on her bedside table, no matter how many times she puts it away in a drawer, and initially believes that Aric or the Jewish houseboy is leaving it out for her. This in itself is a little hard to believe, but I could have bought it if it weren’t for the fact that every time Stella opens her Bible, her eyes fall on the exact passage that’s currently relevant to her life. Later in the book, the Bible turns up in really bizarre places, and she still always opens it to the perfect passage. I don’t have any problems with a Jewish heroine finding solace in the Christian faith, or even turning to a Bible she finds in her time of need, but it almost felt a bit comical to have this magical Bible following her around wherever she went. It was like the Christian faith was being forced on her, rather than Stella turning to it when she was ready. I wished this side of the story had been a bit more subtle and believable.
Aside from the slightly awkward spiritual aspect, For Such a Time is an authentically compelling and moving tale of a Jewish woman torn between two worlds during the Holocaust. It’s not your standard historical romance, nor is it as squeaky clean as some Christian novels. Kate Breslin isn’t scared to reveal the true details of the depravity and inhumanity that the prisoners of Theresienstadt suffered through, nor does every character get a happy ending. I applaud her for writing such a believable tale about a time that must never be forgotten.
Unmarried and orphaned at the age of seventeen, Julia Elliston finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious, unnamed guardian who is determined to send...moreUnmarried and orphaned at the age of seventeen, Julia Elliston finds herself at the mercy of a mysterious, unnamed guardian who is determined to send her to Scotland to work as a companion for an elderly woman. Despite the limited resources available to her, Julia is hopeful that she will be able to get out of this arrangement, if she can only get in touch with the boy who betrothed himself to her several years earlier. Although her mother had forbidden them to communicate, Julia has still clung to the belief that Edward has remained true to his promise to her. But after spending her last few coins travelling to stay with her mother’s old friend, Mrs Windham, at Am Meer, Julia is shocked to learn that Edward has become a minister. Considering the way that the local clergy treated Julia’s family—out of anger at her father’s atheist writings—Julia cannot understand how Edward could betray her like this. But time is running out, and she must find a way to escape her guardian, with or without Edward.
Fortunately, Julia is taken under the wing of the eccentric Lady Foxmore, who offers her matchmaking services. Faced with little alternative, Julia agrees, hoping that marriage to anyone will deter her guardian’s decision to send her to Scotland. But as she’s swept into Lady Foxmore’s world, Julia feels more uncertain about her choice. Julia soon finds herself introduced to the charismatic but reclusive Chase Macy, who seems to know far too much about her life, but offers her the safety and security she longs for. Julia is faced with a difficult decision—marry a man she barely knows, or wait for Edward to have a chance of heart and rescue her, despite his commitment to the church?
I can no longer recall how many books have come my way, claiming to be evocative of Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters. Most of the time, this claim is tided purely to the fact that the story is set in some estate in the Yorkshire moors, or it’s a humorous nineteenth century love story. It’s difficult to truly reflect one of these authors and still retain your own voice, but Jessica Dotta tackles this task well. Born of Persuasion has a Gothic undertone that runs throughout the entire novel and causes the reader to constantly be in suspense of what Julia will encounter next. Although the novel is written in first-person, the style of story-telling reminded me a lot of Austen, and several of the quirky characters Julia encounters could have stepped out of any one of her novels—without feeling at all as if the novel were plagiarising. This fantastic blend is sure to appeal to many fans of classic literature, especially those who are looking for something a little different from the typical Christian historical fiction.
This year I have been desperately trying to limit the number of books I’m reviewing, and my quota for September had already been filled when the press release for Born of Persuasion appeared in my inbox. As soon as I read the second sentence of the synopsis—“Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.”—I knew I couldn’t pass up this book. If you’ve read any of my reviews from this year, you’ll know that my final year of university was full of classes about the plight of women in different time periods, and the literature that reflects this. Unfortunately, historical romances tend to skim over a lot of the difficulties unmarried women faced, especially when they were without a guardian. Sure, there are plenty of novels where women scramble to escape a suitor they dislike, or run off to marry someone their parents disapprove of, but how often do we come across a heroine who genuinely has no option other than to marry the first man who will take her? And what if it turns out that this man isn’t the rescuer and bringer of security that he appeared to be? That is the story that Born of Persuasion tells, and as any student of history will know, Julia’s circumstance isn’t all that uncommon. It was a pleasure to encounter a novel that truly reflected what it would be like to be an unmarried, orphaned women in this period.
Even if you’re not a history buff, Julia’s desperate search for an escape from her guardian is suspenseful enough to please the majority of readers. Unlike some novels where it’s easy to predict what turn the plot is going to take next, I was as clueless as Julia, constantly worrying about how she was going to escape one situation or another. This makes Julia very easy to relate to, as the reader is in the same circumstance as our heroine—with no clue how Julia is going to escape her guardian, especially as one door after another is shut in her face. Julia might be arrogant and presumptuous in her belief that Edward will marry her after all these years, and she might jump into her relationship with Mr Macy without thinking too much about the consequences, but honestly—I don’t think I would have acted any differently in her situation. I was just as worried and anxious as Julia was about how she was going to regain control over her life. Jessica Dotta’s depiction of just how little agency women had in this period is spot on, and enough to make any woman fearful for Julia.
Chase Macy is another fantastically written character, and while I don’t want to spoil the plot too much for potential readers, I will say that he isn’t entirely as he appears. In fact, when I first met him, my writer’s brain immediately thought, “He must be hiding something, because he can’t be this charming and perfect.” But the part of my mind that was wrapped up in the story and Julia’s situation ignored this thought, ecstatic that Julia had finally found someone who could protect her. I was swept away with Mr Macy, just as Julia was—and thus, just as shocked when the truth is finally revealed. You know those villains who sometimes pop up in novels, with absolutely no motivation for their actions and no chance of redemption, who might as well be wearing a sign that says “I’m the bad guy”? Well, Macy is the absolute opposite. He has such a deep, convoluted character that I still don’t entirely know who he is or why he wooed Julia so ardently, but I’m utterly fascinated by him.
There aren’t a lot of negatives with this book, and I was very close to giving it full marks. One of the drawbacks to me is that it took me a really long time to be won over by Edward. This might just be because I was so drawn in by Macy that I kind of ignored Edward for a while, but I’m hoping the next book will allow me to get to know him better. He’s not the most sympathetic character to begin with, but by the end of the novel I’d come to appreciate him. My only other complaint is that there was just a little too much drama at times. Don’t get me wrong, the drama was all naturally arising from the plot and not thrown in there to make the book more interesting, but towards the end of the novel there was a lot happening, and I wished the story would slow down a little so I could figure out what was going on. Be warned, the pace really speeds up in the final sections of the novel!
Born of Persuasion is sure to appeal to history buffs, students of English Literature and anyone who enjoys a suspenseful, drama-fuelled novel. I’m anxiously anticipating the next instalment in the series and hopeful that Jessica Dotta will become one of my favourite historical authors.
Picking up where The Wanderer left off, The Newcomer keeps readers up to date on the happenings in the coastal town of Thunder Point. Sarah and Cooper...morePicking up where The Wanderer left off, The Newcomer keeps readers up to date on the happenings in the coastal town of Thunder Point. Sarah and Cooper’s relationship is still going strong, but Sarah is unsure about whether she should ask for Cooper’s advice on the possibility of a job relocation. After one failed marriage and being forced to raise her younger brother on her own, she’s used to being independent—but this change could affect more than just Sarah’s life. To make matters worse, Cooper has received a mysterious phone call from his ex-fiancée, and he seems to be hiding something. Is their relationship strong enough to handle these hurdles?
Meanwhile, single parents Gina and Mac are finally ready to take the next step and get hitched—provided that their children are happy with the idea of merging their families. Mac doesn’t count on his long-estranged ex-wife turning up to reconnect with the children she abandoned almost a decade ago. Gina’s family isn’t any less drama-free, with her teenage daughter, Ashley, experiencing heartbreak when her college boyfriend decides they should see other people. Ashley spirals into a deep depression, forcing Gina to hunt down Ashley’s father in order to find out if there are any medical issues she should know about. Gina isn’t sure if she should tell Ashley about where her father is living, especially after she sees the hurt that Mac’s children experience when their mother returns to town. In the midst of all this drama, will they find the time to settle down and form a new family together?
The Newcomer is the fifth Robyn Carr novel that I’ve read this year, and I’ve never finished one of her books feeling dissatisfied. Although I tend to class these books as “easy reads”, they don’t skim over the heavier elements that the characters encounter (divorce, depression, illness, etc) and the characters always face realistic struggles before reaching their inevitable happy ending. Although the Thunder Point series focuses on a larger cast of characters than most contemporary romances, it’s easy to slip in and out of these books without getting confused, and there’s sure to be a character that every reader can relate to on some level.
I was particularly pleased with Robyn’s depictions of the teenagers residing in Thunder Point, especially Ashley’s hurtful break-up with her college-aged boyfriend and the depression she sunk into. As someone who suffered from depression as a teenager—at a time when most doctors dismissed such things as “hormones”—it was satisfying to see such a realistic presentation of the situation. There were a few times when Ashley’s conversations with her friends and family didn’t feel entirely like they’d come out the mouth of a teenage girl, but other than this, Ashley is one of the most believable teenage characters I’ve come across recently in adult fiction.
One niggling issue I have with the Thunder Point series is that nearly all of the main characters have come out of broken marriages. It would be nice to encounter at least one character—even a minor one!—who had a good first marriage. As pleased as I was to read about Cooper and Sarah, and Gina and Mac, finding a second chance at love, I’m not sure quite how realistic it is for everyone in this small town to be divorced. Still, Robyn doesn’t brush the struggles of being a single parent under the rug in this book. Both Gina and Mac are forced to encounter their exes in The Newcomer, with differing experiences. While Gina’s encounter with her ex is surprisingly positive, Mac’s experience is more hurtful than helpful to him and his children. While I was glad that Robyn showed the different reactions that families can have when a parent returns after many years, I wished the situation between Mac and Cee Jay had been concluded better. The ending left me scratching my head a little and wondering why Cee Jay had even been brought into the story, other than to provide contrast to Gina and her ex.
Sarah and Cooper’s romance is continued from the previous book in the series, The Wanderer. Although some romance readers might prefer the conventional method of storytelling, in which the entire romance is concluded in one book, I quite like being able to catch up with characters from previous novels in the series. It provides a much-needed reminder that relationships require continued work, and that there may still be hurdles to overcome even after you’ve professed your love for each other. Although some readers might get frustrated with Sarah’s worries about her career and whether she should ask for Cooper’s advice with such matters, I’m sure this is a struggle a lot of women have. In a society where many couples both have jobs, it can be difficult to figure out what to do when one person receives an offer that would force them to relocate—and it’s especially difficult to decide what step to make when you haven’t made a formal commitment to each other. Sarah and Cooper’s story isn’t entirely concluded by the end of the book, but the ending is positive enough to show that they will work things out, even if it takes time.
My only real complaint about Sarah and Cooper is one that annoys me in most of Robyn’s books, and mainstream romance in general. Perhaps it’s a requirement in the author’s contract, but every time any of her characters have sex, it’s mind-blowing and the best sex they’ve ever had. Even if the characters are stressed or upset or in the middle of an argument, the sex is still amazing. Now, I know most people read romance novels for escapism, but I still like some realism in my novels. Just once in a while, could one partner not be in the mood, or have a headache? I know that no one wants to read about average sex, but surely a plot about a couple who are having difficulty in the physical side of their relationship would be an interesting topic to explore, and one that some readers could relate to.
The Newcomer has its flaws, but like all of Robyn Carr’s novels, they’re fairly minor and don’t detract from the deftly woven plots and character conflicts. Although it’s been a couple of months since I’ve read The Wanderer, it was easy to drop back into Thunder Point and pick up where all the characters had left off. After all the development the characters made in this book, it was a little sad to turn the last page and say goodbye—but thankfully we’ll only have to wait until August before cracking open the next novel in the series!
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream romance novel and contains several scenes of a sexual nature.
Review title provided by Mira and Little Bird Publicity.(less)
Anna Byler doesn’t have any doubts about settling down in the Amish community in which she was raised, but she’s having trouble finding someone to spe...moreAnna Byler doesn’t have any doubts about settling down in the Amish community in which she was raised, but she’s having trouble finding someone to spend the rest of her life with. It isn’t as if there aren’t any eligible Amish men around, but rather that they’re all too scared of her grandfather, the Bishop, to take a chance at courting her. Anna’s grandparents took her into their home when her parents died in a car accident many years earlier, and Anna loves them dearly. She knows that her grandfather is strict, but she’s certain that he only has the community’s best interests at heart. When newcomer Jacob Hostetler expresses an interest in Anna, she’s hopeful that he’ll meet her grandfather’s approval. But if he doesn’t, will Anna risk her grandfather’s wrath and continue to see Jacob in secret? Will his views on her choice in a beau force Anna to realise just how rigid and legalistic her grandfather has become?
Marianne, Anna’s grandmother, might appear to adhere to her husband’s strict rules, but she has some secrets of her own. She doesn’t agree with all of Isaac’s guidelines for how his community members should behave, particularly his belief that she should seek herbal remedies for her diabetes, rather than visiting the shunned formerly Amish doctor. She also has several forbidden items in her home, hidden away in the basement where only she can enjoy them. She doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with these simple pleasures—after all, they’re not hurting anyone—but it will take the help of two unlikely friends to make her realise when her secrets have gone too far. Despite her husband’s disapproval, Marianne befriends Jacob’s mother, Cora, who is still reeling from the loss of her eldest daughter, and Lucy, an English woman who had a child with a married Amish man. This unlikely group of women will come to help each other through the hard times ahead.
I’ve become a big fan of Beth Wiseman over the past couple of years—both her Amish and contemporary novels—so I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that she was releasing a sixth novel in her Daughters of the Promise series. I adored the first three books in this series, and while the last two hadn’t made my favourite’s list, they were still very enjoyable. Plain Peace fits into the latter category, alongside Plain Paradise and Plain Proposal. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why these last three books in the series haven’t completely wowed me, and I think it’s the age of the protagonists. All three heroines have been young adults still living at home with their parents, and given that I moved away from home right after my eighteenth birthday, I struggled to relate to their conflicts and the way that they deferred to their parents despite being of an age to make their own decisions. The protagonists from the first three books in the series were more mature and had more compelling struggles, in my opinion. That said, the secondary characters in Plain Peace definitely made up for Anna and Jacob’s immaturity.
Although it had been two years since I read one of the Daughters of the Promise novels, it didn’t take me long to remember some of the familiar faces who popped up in Plain Peace. And if you are struggling to remember who some of the characters are, there’s a handy family tree at the start of the novel to refresh your memory. I was particularly pleased with the reappearance of Lucy, who I recalled from the Land of Canaan series in addition to this one. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead if you haven’t read previous books in this series! Lucy had an affair with an Amish man and got pregnant with his child shortly before he died. Unbeknownst to her and her lover, his estranged wife was also expecting a baby. Lucy has been left to raise her child on her own, and as we discover in Plain Peace, she’s also caring for her elderly mother, who is recovering from a stroke. I was pleased with the way in which Beth brought Lucy into her own in this novel, making her into a relatable, human character, rather than a mysterious, adulterous figure. Honestly, I think Lucy ended up being one of my favourite characters in this novel. I also appreciated the way in which Beth dealt with Lucy’s mother’s personality change following her stroke. Given that my father-in-law had a stroke a few years ago, I felt that Beth dealt with the situation realistically and sensitively.
Marianne and Cora’s issues are dealt with in a similarly gentle and understandable manner. I’m still not entirely sure if I believe that the extend of Marianne’s secret hoarding is entirely believable, but it definitely brought up some interesting questions about how healthy a marriage is when you start hiding simple things from each other, and can’t share the things that truly bring you happiness. Even if Marianne isn’t entirely happy at home, she ends up mentoring Cora and Lucy, and helps them to reconcile some issues in their lives. Cora’s story was rather heart-breaking—having relocated her family after her eldest daughter’s sudden death, but finding that her husband was still withdrawing from his wife and children. Her story isn’t entirely wrapped up by the end of the novel, which I appreciated as the extend of the depression her husband was clearly suffering from isn’t something that can be fixed overnight. As always, Beth does an excellent job is presenting the Amish in a relatable, human way—full of flaws and similar struggles to ourselves.
Although my favourite part of this novel was the friendship the three older women shared, I won’t deny that Anna and Jacob’s romance is sweet. Anna’s conflict with her grandfather is probably pretty accurate for a young girl growing up in a strict, patriarchal home. But it is the only real conflict keeping her and Jacob apart, and I never really had any doubt that they’d end up together. I did enjoy the start of their story where Anna initially decides to ignore her grandfather’s rules and see Jacob in secret, and the internal turmoil she has over being a rule-breaker when really, she just wants to settle down and join the Amish faith. Aside from that, their romance was pretty standard, and maybe just a little bit too mundane for my taste. I wanted more conflict, and more insight into Anna and Jacob’s personality. As much as I felt that I got to know Marianne, Cora and Lucy over the course of the novel, Anna and Jacob still felt a little underdeveloped.
Although I struggled to relate to Anna and Jacob, the other characters in Plain Peace provided compelling conflicts and insights into the humanity and flawed nature of Amish and English alike. As with her previous novels, Beth Wiseman’s writing provides a much needed reminder that the Amish have personal struggles and familiar conflicts, just like ourselves.