Melissa has outdone herself with this story, an enchanting read from cover to cover. I’m even grateful for the summer cold I caught while reading this one, so I could read with fewer breaks. It takes an excellent novel to make me appreciative of a cold. :)
Let’s start this review with Nicholas Lowe. Hero material down to the core. Why? Because however misguided and flat-out wrong he may be in other areas, he is seeking God’s will above anyone else’s and is actively pursuing God’s calling on his life. He’s not a missionary or a preacher or even a Sunday School Teacher—indeed, the ministry he’s called to is unconventional and broadly misunderstood by those around him. But he’s actively and passionately reaching out to the lost with the love of Jesus, doing his best to become a world-changer for God, and that, dear readers, is incredibly attractive. As for other facets of Nick’s character, I love the undercover hero aspect—evidently a lot, since I was not only delighted to find the thread in this book, but the story I’m currently writing contains that angle as well. Yay for disguised crusaders!
Lydia King is one of those heroines I related to on the very first page. Her love of books, her desire to help people and make a difference, and yes, even her myriad flaws, mirrored many of my own tendencies.
The love story was beautiful. I especially liked how the hero and heroine got to know one another while doing ministry work together—a very intriguing sort of ministry I must say. And the way the hero risked rejection and became vulnerable enough to show the heroine his interest with no guarantee of her returned admiration... *sigh* ...though he waited forever and a day to bare his heart, even after he knew he loved her—so long I wanted to whop him over the head with his shiny new copy of Mark Twain’s Roughing It. However, seeing he was hurt so deeply in the past makes that detail forgivable—and the ending that much sweeter. The snow, the garden bench, the wounded knight beseeching his lady to love him in return… Such is the stuff of fairy tales. The characters certainly have to slog through their share of troubles, doubts, and failures to get there, but watching two imperfect characters learn to forgive, grow, and love selflessly gives this book-lover’s heart cause to patter.
Kansas, 1905. I love the historical details Melissa has included and the world she creates visually and with sensory descriptions, as well as social attitudes fitting for the times. She delves into some less-featured characteristics of life in a small Kansas town during the turn of the nineteenth century. If you like the historical era of Hallmark’s fantastic “When Calls the Heart” series, you’ll like this book.
The smooth, subtle graduations in each character’s learning arc delighted me as the story unfolded. Then to watch these characters I liked turn into characters I could love… Bravo! And of all the host of characters in this sprawling cast, none of them fell flat. That is a great feat in itself.
The Spiritual Message:
The spiritual threads convicted me. It isn’t often a work of fiction searches out and spreads light on our standing with God such as in this novel. Melissa Jagears writes with great depth of insight and a sensitive counselor’s soul. The truths in this book are lived out (with no small struggle) in the lives of the characters and discussed from several points of view, with scripture as a basis. Would make a great book club pick for those sincere in wanting to become more like Christ.
This story is different from others I’ve read from Melissa in that the main story action starts much sooner in the plot—which kept me turning pages into the night. Several twists had me alternately smiling and blinking wide eyes. One thing I just realized about this plot—usually I’ll start grinning about halfway through a book, seeing how the author is leading the reader's emotions, guiding them right where s/he wants them. With this novel, I forgot everything except the characters and their plights. I so wanted to help Lydia, and help Lydia help Sadie, and my heart broke for Pepper, Angel, and little Robbie. I was incensed at the gall of some characters who paraded spotless reputations while secretly profiting from and supporting wickedness. A great read with a few red herrings that kept me guessing for a while. Fun stuff, y’all. If you haven’t picked up a copy, I have a giveaway of this book going on through the 29th. Comment with your email address either on this post or my character interview with Nicholas and Lydia, and you’ll be entered in the draw!