It is 1885 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, when Jessica O’Malley finds a man on her farm, beaten and with no memory. As he recuperates, choosing the name of Grant Parker, she finds herself caring for him but unable to trust due to a past betrayal. Grant, in turn, finds himself caring for Jessica but, not knowing his past, unwilling to pursue a relationship.
The idea of amnesia has long fascinated me and since reading a nonfiction memoir of amnesia, fiction that incorporates it in the storyline really appeals to me. Combine it with historical fiction, and I am halfway to being hooked before the story even starts. That said, there are certain things that can make or break an amnesia storyline for me as a reader. It needs to be consistent, believable, and not too coincidental or convenient. Unfortunately, this story failed at some of these requirements. I had some issues with the believability of Grant’s amnesia. He seemed to know more about himself than I would expect. He has no memory, but knows to tell himself to focus and maintain control, as if this is something he does often. His amnesia seemed to play out a bit too coincidentally or conveniently at times, though I did appreciate when it was not. Having an event occur that Grant hopes will spark memories, but does not, was a great choice.
While Grant’s situation and Julia’s slowly unfurling history of a past relationship that turned bad and clouded her life are interesting, it was when, on more than one occasion, Jessica and Grant volley theories back and forth over who he might be that I really fell for this story and these characters. The exchanges are humorous and I found them to be endearing. I also appreciated the little moments, like a one on one conversation when she finds him strumming a guitar on the porch, and how they both seek God almost from the very beginning of the story.
Events like a chestnut picking trip are wonderful details that incorporate aspects of life in the Appalachians during that era, but these aspects were a bit hard to picture. It is likely that the length of the book, though it is part of the appeal these Harlequin Love Inspired Historicals have for me, hampered the author’s ability to include more detailed descriptions.
The reveal of the back story explaining Jessica’s lack of trust and forgiveness for herself, and her doubt of the Sheriff’s trust in her as he looks into Grant’s past, was very nicely paced. However, combined with the inclusion of Jessica’s extended family, it became quite obvious that the story was a continuation of a series. Despite this and my various difficulties with some of the aspects of the story, I very much enjoyed reading it and would definitely read more by the author.
An honorable hero, a traumatized heroine, her protective family, and a suspicious sheriff all come together for a pleasant, quick read. Though not without issues, the faith of the main characters and the slow building of trust and relationship are part of what makes this an enjoyable story.
Reclaiming His Past (Smoky Mountain Matches) by Karen Kirst | Harlequin Love Inspired, February 2016 | review ebook, 284 pages
This review refers to a review ebook copy read for free courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.