The Mountain Midwife is a contemporary Christian romance with a great blend of sweet romance, mystery and suspense.
Our heroine is a midwife in a small area of the Appalachians. Ashley Tolliver is 29 and single with cats. She wanted to be the first woman doctor in a family with a long history of having at least one midwife in every generation, but circumstances led her to return home and complete a Masters in Midwifery at a more local university. After having a young mother and her baby abducted right after she assists in the birth, Ashley feels she has failed a patient who was in need of hospital care.
Our hero is a recent media sensation. Hunter McDermott is a 32 year old engineer who travels the world digging tunnels. After an act of kindness in Lisbon goes viral, he has started to learn unexpected things about his family and his past. He arrives in Appalachia seeking answers from the midwife who attended his birth. Instead of the elderly backwoods woman he expects, he finds an attractive young woman who challenges his preconceived notions. Lucky for him, she’s the midwife’s granddaughter and she is willing to help.
This is the first contemporary romance I’ve read in quite a while, and I really had no idea what to expect beyond my resistance to reading contemporaries and, especially, anything about midwives. I purposely skimmed the back cover and avoided any reviews to avoid further prejudicing myself against it (quite a different approach from how I usually pick a book, but then this was picked for me by The Fiction Guild). My dislike of midwife stories, due to a traumatizing Oprah pick as my only companion on a Seattle to San Diego plane ride years ago, is now officially dead.
The book begins by alternating chapters between the two main characters, until in chapter 5 when they are still separate but begin to connect.
In Hunter’s book, churches came down here to save the mountain people from their ignorance and poverty. Mountain people didn’t go to other parts of the world to do the same. He was apparently wrong. (p.90)
Ashley and Hunter come across as very real characters, both career focused and lonely, both beginning to long for families of their own. That they both, coincidentally, have above average looks is pretty standard for romances, as is the repetition of what they find attractive in each other. As a reader, I could make do with one less mention of the different hues in Ashley’s hair (and any use of ‘tangy’ to describe her scent) and how gorgeous Hunter’s eyes are behind his nerdy glasses. What I really like about these characters is how down to earth they both are, in Hunter’s case in spite of a privileged background. They are both also very grounded in their faith, and I especially enjoyed Ashley’s realization that her focus was misplaced. It made me stop to take a look at her attitudes and evaluate how I had just been accepting them as I read. The personal growth that each of them experience was well done and interesting to read.
The look of impatience she shot him reminded him he had no power to stop her from doing anything. They had barely crossed the line into friendship, if they had crossed it… (p.203)
The romance factor is slow building, a sense of community is ever present, the mystery and suspense aspects are pitch perfect (not too suspenseful, but complete with a car chase), differences in financial circumstances are sensitively portrayed and secondary characters are interesting and three dimensional. Any preconceptions or prejudices are expressed as coming from the characters, rather than judgment by the author, which is a writing choice that I appreciate. There is also a nice, background exploration of family love and relationship in different forms, including families that are physically or emotionally distant.
“I am so inadequate in what I can do,” she had finally admitted. Their faces registered concern, love and understanding. They didn’t give her a lot of platitudes… simply prayed with her to have wisdom in the work ahead of her… (p.75)
There are small moments in this story that I truly appreciated, like the moment Hunter pulls a chair out for Ashley and her internal reaction to it. The action and the tensions in the main and secondary story lines keep the narrative moving and the reader questioning just enough, but the gentle, quiet nature of this novel really hooked me in and left me smiling at the end.
He tried not to smile at the way she turned the word hollow into holler. So mountain. So adorable. (p.202)
4/5 stars. Highly recommended. Being a reader of romance or having a preference for contemporary not required. If you are wary of midwife/childbirth stories then be aware that there are childbirth scenes, but without the squishy, squirminess that usually accompany them. If you find that you love the writing, a look at the author’s back list will provide quite a few midwife-centric historicals to add to your TBR list.
The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes | Zondervan, 2015 | paperback, 334 pages + discussion questions | review copy
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild (“The Fiction Guild”). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in