Friday, July 8, 2011

Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

A story of emerging faith, love and renewal

From the Publisher

When Susannah goes to Dakota territory as a mail-order bride, she finds something she never dreamed she would-true love. 

With no prospects for marriage and her parents recently deceased, Susannah Underhill agrees to go west to the Dakota territory to marry her minister's homesteading brother, Jesse. But Susannah is painfully shy, doesn't see herself as worthy of love from either a husband or from God, and lives in constant fear that Jesse is going to ship her back to Detroit.

In spite of her petite size and the fact that Susannah doesn't look like she could survive on the prairie, Jesse quickly discovers that his new wife is a greater blessing than he even hoped for. The years she spent as her father's veterinary assistant allow her to save Jesse's ox and twin calves and to help neighboring farmers with their animals.

But Susannah's feelings of unworthiness are deeply rooted, and she can't believe that Jesse's praise-or the tenderness and love he shows-could possibly last. The thawing of her heart seems almost as distant as Spring in the midst of the winter blanketing the Dakota prairie.

My Take

Normally I’m not a fan of the historical romance novel but the description on Spring for Susannah intrigued me with the mail-order bride scenario.  It’s not your typical mail-order setting but more of a “last choice” option for Susannah.  She knew this was her last alternative to even hope for a husband and home.

Susannah had no idea what she was getting herself into when she got on that train going west. She assumed her new husband would have a home like she was accustomed to and she would take care of it and her husband as her mother taught her. What she did get, however, was nowhere near what she anticipated. 

Put yourself in her place—leaving everything & everyone you have known your entire life and going into a wilderness where there is limited access to food, farming materials, and even other human contact. Her mother’s teachings of the way a lady should act and project herself had no place in this new world and Susannah felt lost. I loved how patient and kind Jesse was with Susannah—having just met her, he tolerated her ineptitude around the house, her social constraints, and her lack of trust, with a faith that God will provide in time. 

Susannah’s lack of trust and faith slowly turns around with Jesse’s intervention and the way he lives his own life. Over time, their love grows and we even learn a little about their lives “behind closed doors” which is unusual for the typical Christian novel---don’t get me wrong, there are no sordid details but this time we actually know they share a physical relationship.

There were a few slow spots in the middle, almost as if repetition would fill the pages, but once I got past those the story picked back up and got back in the groove. Then at the end, I felt the book ended kind of abruptly as if it was getting too long or something.

For a introductory novel, Ms Richmond has done a fabulous job of getting the reader emotionally involved with the characters. I felt as if I was looking through a window actually watching the story—not just reading about it. I look forward to her next release. Overall, I’d give this a 4 out of 5 for the depth of characters and a new approach to the mail-order bride/historical fiction category.

This Book was provided by Litfuse Publicity and Thomas Nelson in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions expressed were my own.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Promise of an Angel by Ruth Reid

Surprising and Fascinating—not your traditional Amish tale

From the Publisher

In Mescota County, Michigan, an angelic visitor's words inspire Judith to a future she never imagined. After a barn raising accident, Judith Fischer's convinced she's met an angel. However, her attempts to convince others end up frustrating her Old-Order Amish community. Only Andrew Lapp believes her, but the rest, including Levi Plank, the man's she's waited to marry, demand she forget the nonsense.  Meanwhile, her younger sister Martha has taken a fancy to Levi and sees her sister's controversy as a perfect distraction for turning Levi's head.

In a dream, the angel tells Judith she must choose her path. As her faith continues to grow, so do her feelings for Andrew. Will she continue to place her hope in the angel's message, even if it means losing all she knows and loves?

My Take

I’m a junkie for Amish fiction—let’s just get that out there.  So when the opportunity came up to read The Promise of an Angel, I was excited to read a new perspective on the Amish.  At first I was a little surprised with the addition of the angel Tobias, especially when Judith began having real conversations with him. Amish beliefs are so strict that it was hard for me to imagine how talking to an angel was going to fit in with those beliefs. After getting more and more into the book, I realized Tobias represented Judith’s deep faithfulness in God. Why couldn’t the “elders” in the community see that?

Family and community is the most important concept in the Amish lifestyle. So when Judith’s stories of the angel began to spread, the community banded together against Judith—just because the elders said they should. It surprised me the community would do that when she was only expressing her belief that God was speaking to her.

Another surprise to me was the relationship between Judith’s sister, Martha, and Judith’s beau, Levi. I guess there are many sects of Amish but normally these teenage relationships are pretty hush-hush. Through the entire book, the boy-girl interactions were completely public.  In addition, the way Martha was visibly treating Judith was a little startling to me—the envy, rudeness, and disrespect is so out of the ordinary for the Amish. 

Overall, The Promise of an Angel was a good summer read (I had the e-book version)—a story of faith, acceptance, and love with a couple twists and turns. I’m not sure if I’m going to read the next book in the series—guess we’ll have to wait & see what Ms Reid comes up with! I give The Promise of an Angel a 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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 Advertising."

About the Author

Ruth Reid is a full-time pharmacist who lives in Florida with her husband and three children. When attending medical school in Stanwood, Michigan, she lived on the outskirts of an Amish community and had several occasions to visit the Amish farms. Her interest grew into love as she saw the beauty in living a simple life.