Thursday, November 14, 2019

Serving Up Love: Harvey House Brides Collection #BookReview

Serving Up Love: Harvey House Brides Collection #BookReview

 Buy & Sample Links: You can buy a copy here or read a sample here.

When Karen Witemeyer announced on her Posse Facebook group that Bethany House Publishers would be releasing a novella collection about Harvey Girls, I knew I didn’t want to miss it.

I loved watching the Harvey Girls movie with Judy Garland when I was a child and remember reading several adventurous stories about these young ladies clad in black and white. In school, I loved studying about Fred Harvey and the beginning of standardized hospitality houses. 

Another one of my recent favorite reads about a Harvey Girl is A Bride Sews with Love by Erica Vetsch, set during the time of the First World War.

I believe Tracie Peterson has some full-length novels featuring Harvey Girls, too.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and have provided my honest opinion in the review below. :)

The Setting:

Because the time of Harvey Houses spans several decades, with establishments throughout the West, these novellas take place in four time different time periods and locations: San Marcial, NM, 1929 – Gainesville, TX, 1902 – Emporia, KS, 1989 – Grand Canyon, AZ, 1908.

The Characters:

Tracie Peterson's "A Flood of Love" gives us a no-nonsense heroine who has worked her way up the chain of command among the Harvey Girls. The hero is a tall, dashing railroad man of mixed Hispanic and Caucasian heritage, and his little daughter is an unforgettable personality.

In "More Than a Pretty Face," I enjoyed reading about the life which Rosalind, from Karen's novel More Than Words Can Say, built for herself after she left Abby and Zach and headed west. I believe we also met the leading man, Caleb Durrington, in that novel, too, but it’s been a while, and my short-term memory isn’t the best. Caleb’s father built a legacy as a cattleman, but Caleb has followed his own calling as a western lawyer. This novella also offers a supportive cast of lovable characters, including a French chef!

Regina Jennings' "Intrigue a la Mode" delights with colorful characters. Our heroine is from a large country family in Kansas, and the hero is the confident and determined son of a self-made railroad-baron. Expert dialogue and unique personalities makes these characters very hard to forget.

"Grand Encounters" by Jen Turano gives us a quiet-but-rugged businessman who is head-over-heels for a socialite-in-hiding who serves him lunch at the El Tovar Harvey House on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The hero's hilarious motor-mouth brother and the heroine's textured collection of friends provided plenty of giggles. I will mention the taciturn hero, who is now wealthy and well-traveled despite a country upbringing and limited education, did wax a little too flowery in speech for my suspension of disbelief to hold up very long during his conversations.

The Plot:

Gretchen, the heroine, and Dirk, the hero (love those names!) are continuously brought together by his daughter who has outlasted many a nanny. Gretchen becomes her nanny and protector during a natural disaster, which brings them all closer in the end.

Caleb is learning to forge his own path and make his own decisions out from under the pressure of his loving, but overbearing mother, who knows precisely the type of woman he should marry that would complement the godly reputation he has made for himself. He, on the other hand, has his sights set on Rosalind, who was assigned to the Harvey House close to her home, despite running from a mistake in her past for the last several years (readers of MTWCS will remember what this is).

The hero investigates a dangerous smuggling operation that might be scaring off his father's railroad employees and employees of the Harvey House along that line. The heroine acts as an informant.

The heroine has sworn off men, until the hero begins courting her, then she worries her former affluent lifestyle will frighten him away.

The Romance:

This is a reunion romance where the hero and heroine are in love, but the heroine has much to forgive. I enjoyed how the hero never hid the fact he admired and hoped to win the heroine. 

I enjoyed how this novella made more of hero and heroine’s compatibility in personality, intelligence, and faith than simple physical attraction. Though I appreciated that the novella doesn’t completely leave out the latter, which I think lent a realistic aspect to the story. Given the plot and tones of the novella, this focus on the inner person feels appropriate. I did feel there was a lack of description for the characters other than eye color and her naturally curly blond hair. Although, with novellas, wordcount has to be considered and I understand if some descriptions were left out in favor of character development.

Graham and Willow, hero and heroine in this novella, were thoroughly enjoyable to read about as they interacted, going from first blush to eventually trusting one another to the point of risking their lives for the other. Graham's strength of character and his never-faltering interest in and intention to pursue the heroine wins him big rewards in the end, he just has to learn to communicate those to his lady in the midst of all the intrigue of his investigation. This story had a fun hero-in-disguise thread, which is one of my favorite tropes. Willow is diligent, prides herself in excellent work, and is loyal to her family, all core values that resonate with Graham, who shines brightest when taking charge and taking care of his lady.

Jack, the hero, begins the story unable to manage more than a few words to the heroine because "she makes him nervous," which created a fun meet-cute where his face ended up covered in his plate of mashed potatoes. His brother gets the conversation started between the hero and heroine, and then the relationship proceeds at whirlwind speed until secrets derail their progress toward love. The hero, once he got to talking, was open and honest with the heroine about his interest in her and other subjects they needed to discuss, which seems to be a thread of continuity for all the heroes in this connection, though it may not have been planned, and I love that. Having courage to "have the hard conversations that matter" is so admirable in a hero.

The Spiritual Thread:

Prayer is mentioned and the heroine prays when seeking direction about a life-altering decision.

The subjects dealt with in this novella revolve around forgiveness and moving into a future that is not defined by another person’s opinion but by God’s calling on a person’s life. These truths are portrayed with grace and easily translated into our modern world.

I don't recall any religious references in this story.

I just finished reading this one, but don't remember any religious references in the story.

Book Chat: 

This Book Pairs Well With:
Candy corn and hot cocoa. Yes. I'm still munching candy corn in November. 1/2 off candy sales! (I love the pumpkin shaped candy corn pieces! How about you?)

A Note From Natalie:
Thank you for reading my reviews! I write them just for you. <3 

Tell me in the comments:
  • What other Christian fiction have you read or seen that features Harvey Girls?
  • How did you first learn about Harvey Girls? Do you remember how old you were? 
  • What are aspect are you most curious about reading in this collection?

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