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“The Nearness of You” by Dorothy Garlock

I have been reading Dorothy Garlock’s books for years.  Her latest are usually set in the 30’s or 40’s, which is my favorite time to read about.  “The Nearness of You” will be published in July, 2017.  This novel is set in 1937 in Hooper’s Crossing, Hew York during their famous Harvest Festival.  Lily Denton is the overprotective mayor’s daughter and she really wants to get away from this little town.  She plans on running away with her friend, Jane, but at the last minute gets cold feet and backs out.  In the meantime, two small-time crooks are planning to rob the town bank after all the money from the festival ends up there.  Life magazine is sending a team of writer and photographer to do a spread on small town festivals.  Boone Tatum is a well-traveled photographer who is not happy at being saddled with this hick assignment.  As always, in Ms. Garlock’s stories, there is a hint of romance (maybe more than a hint) and a hint of mayhem involving the characters.  This book did not fail to provide the story I was expecting.  A light novel, but with characteristic twists and turns.  Check out her other books too.  You will be glad you did.

“The Amish Widower” by Virginia Smith

“The Amish Widower” by Virginia Smith is probably the best Amish story I’ve read that wasn’t a suspense novel or thriller.  Seth is the second son in an Amish family which means that he does not inherit the farm.  He lives with his parents, grandmother, brother’s family, and sister’s family.  It’s a little crowded.   Seth has tried to deal with the deaths of two wives, one in childbirth and one in a buggy accident.  He blames himself for both and has vowed never to marry again.  His family and the district’s bishop have decided that he has grieved enough and keep pushing him to find another wife.  Not only is he dealing with this, but he feels like a fifth wheel in the family.  He is not really needed to help with the farm, a job he hates anyway, and the house is getting too small for the number of people living there.

While he is visiting a pottery shop with the women in his family, he becomes very interested in being a potter.  He is taken as an apprentice by the Amish man who runs the shop.  For a while he travels to the shop from his family home using a driver, Robbie.  Robbie has a secret though and when Seth finds out, his anger overcomes him.  Even though this was not a page-turning thriller, I could not help reading more and more until the situation was resolved.

I think Ms. Smith did a wonderful job of portraying the grief, guilt, and anger that can take over the whole being of a person.  Giving Seth the power over it all is, I think, the gist of the story.  I enjoyed reading this book.

“A Love So True” by Melissa Jagears

In “A Love So True” by Melissa Jagears, Evelyn Wisely and her parents run the local orphanage in Teaville, Kansas.  They are employed by Nicholas and Lydia Lowe who had previously worked there.  Evelyn has a secret, but no one knows anything about it.  She has determined never to marry and is leery of men…all men.  Because of this, she is very active in the Teaville Moral Society and works to bring help, food, medicine and faith to the “soiled doves” of Teaville.  She plans on opening a shelter for these women who want to leave that “profession”, teach them a skill, and see that they get a job.  Of course, all of the members of the Society are not in favor of this.  She must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to accomplish this.

David Kingsman has been sent to Teaville by his father, a cold, unfeeling man, to try to revitalize his father’s business there.  He happens upon Evelyn as she is hosting a Saturday picnic for the children of the women she is trying to help.  She wants them to at least have one good meal.  Sometimes the mothers venture to this outing and Evelyn attempts to lead them away from the brothels.  David is captivated by Evelyn and her cause and decides to help.  Along the way, the two find each other, but with everything they have against them, their plans seem to go awry.

I found Ms. Jagears writing style to be very appealing.  Her characters jump from the page as realistic and true.  The story moves along at a steady rate which makes for a leisurely read.

“The Captain’s Daughter” by Jennifer Delamere

Jennifer Delamere wrote “The Captain’s Daughter” which takes place in London around 1873.  We find Rosalyn Bernay venturing out on her own from the orphanage that has been home for her and her two sisters since their parents dies.  Becoming a lady’s maid was a good job and provided an income and place to stay for Rosalyn until the lady married a no-good rake.  His dastardly designs on Rosalyn and his lies about her thievery cause her to run away.  Attempting to avoid detection by this rogue, she made her way to London.  There she was immediately taken in by a local Madame to a brothel.  She escaped, but lost her money and belongings along the way.  She stopped at a doorway and was taken for a new hire in the theater.  Unknown to her, the ex-soldier who attempted to help her at the train station also worked at this theater, where Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta H.M.S. Pinafore was playing.  Rosalyn became the dresser, all the while looking over her shoulder for the lady’s husband to find her and cause trouble.

I thought this was a really interesting story and I loved the references to the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas that were so popular at this time.  London seemed a dirty and dangerous place, especially for a young woman on her own.  The rewarding part of this novel is the generous help Rosalyn had along the way.  I know you will enjoy this story.  It is a little out of the norm, but I thought it was well written.

“What the Bishop Saw” by Vanetta Chapman

“What the Bishop Saw” begins in Goshen, Indiana.  Henry Lapp is beaned in a baseball game and as a result has acquired savant syndrome.  This allows him to display unusual skills in art.  He is able to draw everything he sees, right down to the facial expressions.  He and his parents almost consider this a curse.

Fifty-two years later finds Henry in San Luis Valley, Colorado as bishop of an Amish community.  Someone is setting fires and in one of them a man died.  The whole town is on edge, but it seems that the arsonist is targeting only Amish families, causing some of them to move away instead of trying to find the person responsible.  Henry resists using his “gift” to help, but pressure from his friends cause him to draw exactly what he saw at the first fire.  His uncanny ability to capture absolutely everything around him at a particular moment finds clues that would not be recognizable at all.  This novel by Vanetta Chapman is entertaining.  It is centered around a syndrome that is quite rare and the story surrounding it brings to light the problems that it sometimes causes.  I like the book, it kept me interested.

“A Cup of Dust” and “A Trail of Crumbs” by Susie Finkbeiner

“A Cup of Dust” and “A Trail of Crumbs” are two books written by Susie Finkbeiner.  Her stories take place during the Great Depression as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl.  The writing was so descriptive that I could almost taste the dust and grit in my own mouth as I read.  The depiction of life in Oklahoma, in the middle of the Dust Bowl, was heartbreaking.  Farmers became destitute…no food, no money, no hope.  Businesses closed down, no one had money to purchase anything.  You could only barter so much.  Many pulled up stakes and headed west to greener pastures.

Pearl Spence and her family lived in Red River, Oklahoma, where her father was the sheriff.  Pearl was a normal little girl, not particularly interested in doing girly things, but more interested in climbing trees and getting dirty, which was not hard to do with dust blowing all the time.   Keeping house during this time was a waste of good energy because as soon as you swept it up, it just came in under the doors and through the cracks in the window frames.  Pearl was mostly a happy girl with a best friend in Ray Jones.  Ray and Pearl did lots of things together, and got into trouble together too.

I loved these stories.  They were written in the vernacular of the time and the expressions used were reminiscent of life in the country.  The accounts of life in the dust made me appreciate the life we live now.  No one knows how hard life and living was in the ‘30s.  Fortunes made were fast dispensed as the laws of nature dealt a harsh blow to the midland.

“High as the Heavens” by Kate Breslin

“High as the Heavens” by Kate Breslin is another wonderful book set during WWI.  Evelyn Marche lives in Brussels in 1917, during the German occupation.  Evelyn works as Sister Nurse Marche of the Belgian Red Cross in the German hospital in Brussels, and in her uncle’s café.  What most people do not know is that Evelyn is also a member of La Dame Blanche, a resistance organization.  She lives with her aunt, uncle, mother and two German soldiers who are billeted in their home.  Her life is fraught with danger and intrigue.  Just keeping her clandestine activities secret from the Germans which whom she must work takes lots of stealth.  One evening she sees a plane crash outside the city, and rushes to help.  One man is dead and the other badly hurt.  When she really looks at his face, she is astonished to find that it is her “dead” husband, a British Officer who perished in the first weeks of the war.  She takes him to the German hospital for help and then spirits him away for safety from the Germans.  Simon and Evelyn have each lived through unspeakable horrors and need to find their way back to each other and get out of the mess they are in.

Again, Ms. Breslin has written a compelling and undeniably exciting war novel.  I loved this book and look forward to reading many more thrilling works by this author.