Carving a Future by Carla Olson Gade
Trading Hearts by Amber Stockton
Over a Barrel by Laurie Alice Eakes
Impressed by Love by Lisa Karon Richardson
When the Shadow Falls by DiAnn Mills
New Garden’s Hope by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
New Garden’s Crossroads by Ann E. Schrock
Free Indeed by Kristy Dykes
A Mother’s Cry by Jane Kirkpatrick
I read this collection in early November and then neglected to post a review because, from the first story, it had me so in the mood for more stories set in Colonial America (which led to me reading Laura Frantz’s wonderful post-Revolution novel, The Mistress of Tall Acre – review here).
The first four of these “Nine Historical Romances [that] Grow Alongside a New Country”include two of my favorites from the collection. Set in 1750’s and 1760’s, introduce us to the four sons of the Ingersoll family of Connecticut. First we meet Nathaniel, a journeyman ship carver who saves a kidnapped Englishwoman by purchasing her indenture and putting her to work in the family inn. Captain Jonathan Ingersoll, a merchant trader, finds himself making port unexpectedly and must defend his reputation while pursuing the daughter of a local innkeeper there. Micajah (Micah), a baker and wounded veteran of the French & Indian Wars, finds a surprise in one of his flour barrels and Alden Ingersoll is even more surprised to find himself impressed as a ship’s doctor at the instigation of the injured Captain’s niece. Each of these stories is followed by a related recipe.
Another favorite is the fifth story, When the Shadow Falls, set near a British garrison in 1763. Ninette, the daughter of a French trapper, nurses Neal, a half-French private, after a massacre occurs at the fort. They challenge each others faith as well as their prejudices.
The two New Garden stories (more favorites) reminded me of the movie “Friendly Persuasion,” and have put the book it was based on by Jessamyn West onto my reading radar. I had forgotten how interesting a story of Quakers could be. In the first story, Ruth Payne is a cousin of Dolly Madison’s struggling to reconcile her fiancé’s involvement in the Federalist movement. She breaks off her engagement with Josiah Wall when he postpones their wedding – again. In the second New Garden story, their daughter is involved in the Underground Railroad when she meets Nathaniel Fox, a slave hunter and former Friend.
Free Indeed tells the story of a former slave, Winkie, and the man her former owner’s daughter arranges for her to meet. This was the least successful of the stories for me, or perhaps just the most difficult to read. Partly due to the prologue and epilogue being in first person and the extensive use of dialect (which I don’t usually have an issue with, but did not care for here). While I appreciated the inclusion of this type of story and the integration of faith, it just did not set well and felt (to me) too much like the stereotyped and overly broad portrayals of the early 20th century.
The final story is the reason I originally requested this collection through NetGalley. Having read Jane Kirkpatrick’s The Memory Weaver (review here), I was eager to experience more of her writing. Set in 1800’s Wisconsin, widowed Adele Marley is trying to run her husband’s farm while training 16 year old Polly to be a midwife and looking to her own midwife mother’s journal for reassurance, having lost Polly’s mother during her birthing. When Polly’s father decides to reclaim her, Adele turns to the local banker/lawyer Jerome Schmidt. Jerome also seeks Adele’s assistance in her capacity as a mid-wife (and since this is a romance, I won’t explain more – intrigued??). While I am leary of midwife stories (past trauma of an airplane ride with only an Oprah endorsed library book, which this and Laura Frantz’s novel mentioned above may have finally mitigated), I was happy to find this was a story with a mature hero and heroine. The older I get, the more I appreciate this in my reading. Go figure.
3.5/5 stars, recommended for those who enjoy shorter stories of romance, adversity and faith – particularly with early American settings. Definitely an enjoyable collection. Oh, and if you enjoy Quaker or Civil War movies, Friendly Persuasion is an excellent 1950’s film – Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire & Anthony Perkins (who overacts a titch) – and is probably available at your local library.
This review refers to a review ebook copy read courtesy of the publisher, Barbour Books, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.