Genre: Christian fiction; romance; historical fiction
Plot Summary: Edythe Amsel is finally doing what she’s always dreamed of –teaching school in a rural farming community in Nebraska. She’s not interested in being courted, although a few of the town’s young men have shown interest. The children all love Miss Amsel because she makes learning fun. But the town council may not be as fond of her as everyone else seems to be. Her teaching methods are a little too progressive for their tastes, and Miss Amsel constantly finds herself at odds with some of the leaders of the community. When her bold ideas finally reach a climax, she may find herself in a tight predicament. And despite her best efforts, she also finds herself falling for the guardian of two of her students.
My Book Review: Hoping this would prove to be a little more of a substantial read than your usual run-of-the-mill Christian fiction romances, I gave this a try. I usually shy away from out-and-out romances, but this looked interesting enough. The front cover is beautifully done, with bright blues and reds catching my eye.
Right away I knew this wasn’t the book I was hoping it would be. It had the cutsy style of a feel-good Hallmark movie, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but not really my type. If this was a movie, everyone would be wearing lots of makeup, even the kids. Even though I was a little disappointed, it takes a bigger reason than that for me give up a book once I’ve started, so I decided to trek on.
It didn’t take me long to work my way through it. With short chapters and an easy reading style, it was a cinch. It made a light read while I was sick for a few days. And I was glad to discover my interest in the story picking up about halfway through, so I was glad I hadn’t given it up.
The characters of Luthenia and Missy were realistic and were nice additions to the story. I liked the backbone Miss Amsel exhibits in standing up against many heated confrontations. She decides what she wants to do and goes and does it, even if she’s not sure how others will receive her decisions. You have to admire someone who leaves an unhealthy home situation to pursue her dreams, instead of staying bound to what could easily have been her identity for so many years. And credit to the author Kim Vogel Sawyer—she had me doubting about how the story would end in the last chapter.
But although the author tries to weave somewhat of a secret background for the teacher that is slowly divulged bit by bit, I can’t really say I really felt connected to the heroine. The love interest in the form of Joel Townsend (the sparkling nice guy) seemed to lack personality. I didn’t really feel there was anything of a substantial relationship going on between the Edythe and Joel. The most they do is admire each other from the other end of the room the whole way through the book, without any real conversation going on between them. Sometimes he came off appearing a little self-righteous, too. SPOILER: When he finds out Edythe doesn’t share his faith, he drops her like a hot potato, instead of seeking to understand where she’s coming from and caring about her as a friend. He only seems interested in her as a star-candidate in the romance department. END OF SPOILER.
SPOILER: Another thing that sort of bugs me. The first time Joel suggests courting to Miss Amsel, she lets him know right away she isn’t interested and one of her reasons is that since she’d spent so much many years raising her younger siblings, she isn’t wanting to jump into a “ready-made family.” Good reasoning. But by the end of the book, she seems to have completely forgotten that obstacle. Or seems to have gotten over it or something, but we’re not told why she’s decided to overlook it. END OF SPOILER.
I appreciate that this romance novel escapes the trending “edginess” that is working it’s way into the Christian fiction genre. So definitely one I’d let my daughters read! If you’re looking for an easy Grace Livingston Hill-type story, this is for you. If not, you might prefer to skip it.