The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection: Hope Reaches Across the Centuries Through One Single Bottle, Inspiring Five Romances from Barbour Books (review)

messageinabottlecollection_barbourThe Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert

A Song in the Night by Amanda Dykes

The Forgotten One by Maureen Lang

A River Between Us by Jocelyn Green

Swelling Sea by Joanne Bischof

Linked by the premise of a bottle with the inscription “spero” (hope) as set up in the prologue, these are novellas of faith and love set in different historical times.  As the bottle is found and the inscription deciphered in each novella, the meaning of it’s message becomes clear. 

Heather Day Gilbert starts the collection with a story set in the time of the Normans with a bookish and devout Irish princess, Britta, and Ari, the Norwegian Viking who is seeking revenge against her father.  As first Ari is at Britta’s mercy, and then Britta is at the mercy of Ari’s fellow Vikings, it is Britta’s hope and faith that shines through while the devotion of another is tested.

Meg McNaughton, a Laird’s daughter, is to marry into a warring clan in Amanda Dykes’ story set in 1700’s Scotland.  Keeping watch for her, serving her family, ever living in hope is the piper, Duncan Blair.  As they travel with Tinkers, his devotion becomes clear to Meg.

In Maureen Lang’s story we meet Abigail Van de Klerk of New York in 1798, who at 20 has been trained in medicine by her father.  It is only after spending a summer learning to be a young lady that she meets Dr. Calvin Slattery, who sees her as a flirty and shallow young lady.  This story reminded me of Pride and Prejudice in some ways, and I absolutely loved Abigail’s father.

Jocelyn Green moves forward in the timeline to 1864 in Civil War era Georgia.  With her pa and brother dead and her ma sick, 20 year old mill worker Cora Mae Stewart is having to give consideration to the proposal of the 40 year old loom boss, Horace Ferguson, a friend of her father.  General Sherman’s orders to move the mill workers to Marietta, however, bring her to the notice of Sergeant Ethan Howard of the 72nd Indiana Cavalry and exposes her to situations she never would have imagined, where hope seems a very fragile thing.

Jonas McIntosh suffers from asthma, but is determined to be a champion rower as he practices with his team at the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island in Joanne Bischof’s story of 1890 California. While there he meets Rosie Graham, who was washed up on shore and raised by local lighthouse keepers, and he encourages her to meet with him despite it risking her job as a maid.

As so often happens when I read these collections, I find that the stories by the authors that attracted me to it are quite good, but that some other author whose name and writing I am unfamiliar with somehow manages to have contributed my favorite of the novellas.  While each of the stories is well constructed and engaging, it is Maureen Lang’s The Forgotten One that just barely edges out the others.

This is a solid, enjoyable set of connected novellas that will be gratifying reads for those who enjoy Historical Fiction with themes of faith, love, devotion, and of course, hope.  While I found that waiting for and wondering about how the bottle would be incorporated in each story was a bit of a distraction, I did enjoy the conceit and find myself wishing I had a print copy on my reread shelf, complete with French flaps and deckled edges.

The Message in a Bottle Collection: Hope Reaches Across the Centuries Through One Single Bottle, Inspiring Five Romances by Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof | Barbour Books, March 2017 | ebook, 448 pages

This review refers to an e-galley read courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.  All opinions expressed are my own.



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