Kaye's Reviews > When Calls the Heart

When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
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bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, inspirational-fiction, hist-20th-century, historical-romance

1983 Rating: 4.5 stars
2014 Rating: 3 stars

This is the first time I've re-read this book since it came out thirty years ago. As a YA reader, I absolutely adored it and the first two or three sequels (I think I read four books in this series as they came out); it went quite well with the Sunfire romances from Scholastic that I was reading at the time. I do remember that I enjoyed them much more than the Love Comes Softly series that I was reading around the same time. (I went to a very small, very conservative Christian school for junior high, and Oke's books were available in the school library and so were acceptable to carry around and read on breaks; most of the rest of what I read at home wasn't.)

I've been . . . well, "enjoying" is a bit strong of a term . . . entertained recently by the Hallmark series inspired by When Calls the Heart, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to re-read it. I'm going to count this as my Inspy Historical Romance in my 2014 Genre Reading Challenge, though there are a few things about this book that, even by my definition, disqualify it from that genre.

First, it's written in first-person. I'm not a big fan of first-person historicals and I have a hard time counting anything but those in the Gothic subgenre as "romance" novels---because for me, romance novels need to include the hero's POV as well as the heroine's.

Second, though she gets a glimpse of the hero about 1/3 of the way into the book, she doesn't actually meet him and have a conversation with him until 50% of the way in. There's "insta-love" (because, let's recall, this is an Inspy romance, so it's definitely not insta-lust) on her part. His? We don't know---because, again, we don't get his POV.

Third, there's very little relationship development between the two of them in the last 50% of the book because they're so rarely together. A picnic here, a family dinner there. All the while, he's maintaining his attitude that Mounties shouldn't marry because it's selfish---unfair to the woman, who won't be able to handle the kind of rough living that a Mountie in the outback of Canada (can I call it that?) would have to deal with.

Other than those things, it's pretty standard Prairie Romance fare: City Girl goes West to teach in Country Town and has to learn how to rough-it while falling in love with Local Law Man. It even includes the Big Misunderstanding trope: she believes he's married and the father of one of the boys in her school. This Big Misunderstanding carries through most of the last half of the book because, let's face it, there is almost no relationship development, so there's no conversation in which the truth can be revealed. And Wynn never uses the terms "my sister-in-law" or "my nephew," which might clue her in. If he's as interested in Elizabeth as he's supposed to be, you'd think that, after continually getting the cold shoulder from her, he might take the opportunity to drop a few terms like that into a conversation to see if that makes a difference.

This book is basically Christy-lite: first person, wide-eyed, naive heroine; country school house; learning the quirks of a small town, etc. The good thing here, though, is that there's no love triangle forced upon the heroine. (Oh, and as far as that goes, in Christy, I'm Team-David all the way!)

Revisiting this book, I was really surprised by how little a presence the Mounties have, and what little attention is paid to the fact that Wynn is a Mountie. I guess because I have the memory of the story as it continues after they're married in the sequels, and because that's a huge draw of the TV show (ahhhhh, Mountie Jack!), I expected it to be more of a...thing in the book. The red serge coat, the boots, the hat, etc. But it's really downplayed in the book.

Another thing that surprised me going back to this one was how light it is on the Inspy part. It's clean, she goes to church, she prays, she's shown reading her Bible. There was one long "internal sermon" section that I skipped over (when she's having a long internal monologue over what she's just read in her quiet time), but other than that, there isn't any Bible thumping, verse quoting, witnessing/evangelizing, or sermonizing in this book (unlike in Love Comes Softly, where there's a full presentation of the gospel so Marty can get saved to be worthy of Clark's love).

All said, this was a quick, light read, and, while at twelve years old, I couldn't wait for the next book in the series, I do believe that a revisit to the first volume is quite enough for me now.
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2014 – Started Reading
March 17, 2014 – Shelved
March 17, 2014 – Shelved as: books-read-in-2014
March 17, 2014 – Shelved as: inspirational-fiction
March 17, 2014 – Shelved as: hist-20th-century
March 17, 2014 –
25.0%
March 18, 2014 –
85.0%
March 20, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 1, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-romance

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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message 1: by (Jen) (new)

(Jen) The Artist Librarian Thanks for the review! I also have ... (grown out of?) Janette Oke's books a bit ... I think it just shows how much the quality of Christian fiction has grown since then ...

I'll probably get around to the "Canadian West" books --maybe after I watch the "When Calls the Heart" movie. =)


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