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REVIEW:  Hearts Rekindled by Patty Smith Hall

REVIEW: Hearts Rekindled by Patty Smith Hall

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“I’m Here to See My Daughter.”

She never thought she’d see John Davenport again. Merrilee Daniels Davenport’s former husband has returned to their small Georgia town after fighting in the Pacific. And now the soldier is bearing a letter from the little girl he didn’t know he had. Merrilee wishes that she and her daughter could lean on John’s able shoulders, but her new assignment as a homeland informant won’t allow it.

Twelve years have only made Merrilee more beautiful in John’s eyes. Back then, he was the proud fool who walked away. Now all he wants is to prove he can be the husband she deserves, and the daddy his daughter needs.

Dear Ms. Smith Hall,

I wanted to read this book for two reasons. One is that I’d read and enjoyed “Hearts in Flight,”the first book in the series about the female aviator. The other is more personal. Back in the height of the depression, I had a relative who was left with two children when her husband up and walked out on them. When I saw that this was the set up of this novel, I wanted to see how the story would play out.

Considering how much I usually dislike the trope, I was surprised to find myself reading along with what is basically one huge Big Mis. Merrilee loves John and he loves her but her daddy stands in the way. When daddy couldn’t get their youthful marriage annulled, he did all he could to grind sand in the Vaseline of their happy life. In the end he succeeded. What struck me as odd is that Merrilee and John took so long to figure out the final result of 2 + 2.

But, still I kept reading because it was nice to see two people at such odds who finally take the time to reason out what might have caused their marriage to end. There are sparks, there is still resentment there but instead of digging in deeper like a Georgia mule, instead the two listen and watch and begin to see that the other might have had reasons for the way things turned out. On their own – well, maybe with the tiniest of pushes from others – they see the good in and begin to forgive the other.

I did like the little touches which add to the feel and realism of the setting and era. Merrilee signals her truck turns not with a blinker but her arm out the window. The heat is not just mentioned but we see John mopping his forehead with a handkerchief even in the early morning. Miss Aurora’s house still has a hand water pump in the kitchen and is lit by lanterns. Black out curtains and making do are the order of the day. Shoe leather is worn out and one of Claire’s dresses is short due to her growth spurt with few options, due to wartime rationing, to replace it.

But I was puzzled about a few things such as …why is there no mention of President Roosevelt’s death, especially since they’re in Georgia and the book continues past when the war ends in Germany. Merrilee and John want to take Claire to Warm Springs so shouldn’t this event – which rocked the rest of the nation – have garnered a mention here? And so much attention was paid to mentioning ration books, short supplies, black marketeering that I wondered how did Marilee get her (second) wedding dress which has a long train? No mention made of how she got it or got fabric since rationing was still on or was it over so quickly after the war which had barely done in Japan by the time of the epilogue?

As well, the whole black marketeering angle of the book got lost and then swept aside with no resolution. Who was it? Or will that be resolved in another book? What about getting Claire the therapy her mother wants her to have? Or teaching her to swim to strengthen her leg muscles? Merrilee seems remarkably unconcerned about whether or not her home, on the verge of being foreclosed on by the bank, actually will be. Again, these things were mentioned and then left dangling in the end.

The book is saturated with references to the characters’ faith and how it sustains them, guides them and lifts them over troubles. I didn’t feel that I was being preached at but do feel that anyone who is not ready for a huge, heaping helping of Protestant religion should think twice before reading it.

One of the subplots is about John’s foster mother, Miss Aurora who has taken in unwanted children for years. Many of these children have what is now called Down’s Syndrome. Though John and Merrilee are both loving and accepting of the children and John actually had a brother with Down’s Syndrome, many in the town (all of whom are negatively portrayed) are not and some words they call the children and attitudes towards them might be triggers for readers.

So my feelings about the book are rather mixed. I enjoyed seeing two basically kind people find their way back to the person they never stopped loving. The period feel was fairly good with a few exceptions that left me with questions. However some plot threads seemed to dangle with no resolution. With all this to consider, I’ll have to give the book an overall C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

REVIEW: Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

 

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K.

It was on a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had all been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could.

I thought then that I had landed in my own worst dream, not a love story… And yet, seventeen seconds later, before I so much as knew his name, I’d fallen dizzy-down in love with him.

I’ve never had an angel on my right shoulder; I was born with a pointy-tailed devil who crept back and forth across my neck to get his whispers into both my ears. I didn’t get a fairy godmother or even a discount talking cricket-bug to be my conscience. But someone should have told me. That afternoon in the Circle K, I deserved to know, right off, that I had landed bang in the middle of a love story. Especially since it wasn’t— it isn’t— it could never be, my own.

Dear Ms. Jackson,

I’ve read your blog a bit and always enjoyed your humor but had never tried one of your books. When Jane sent me our paper arc of “Someone Else’s Love Story” it was fate. Well here I finally am, writing up a review and I can say it’s what I expected and not at all what I expected – in a good way.

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Recommended by Jayne ( A | BN | K | S | G) * Women’s Fiction

Set in Georgia, I love that the characters aren’t stereotypical “Southerners.” They just are Southerners. There are no double first names, no one is mentioned as driving a pick-up truck, wearing a cowboy hat or boots. It starts out in a rural town but quickly moves to Atlanta. There’s no attempt at writing “Southern” dialog and no one sounds like a hillbilly. For all this, I thank you.

Shandi and William are layered, complex people without being written as prostrate with angst though honestly they are entitled to be. Both have issues from their past which must be examined, worked through and dealt with before they can move on. And these issues aren’t shallow, or turned cutesy, or easily taken care of. There are major and heartbreaking events each has endured and which must be gone through in order to get to the other side and move into their futures.

William views the world differently due to his high functioning autism. His scientific gene specialty research puts Shandi on the road to resolving her past issue. Meanwhile, Shandi helps wake William up and bring him back into daily living and away from the numb shell he’d lived in for the past year.

As the story progressed, thinks weren’t quite adding up as I’m used to seeing happen in a romance. I began to wonder – was the book instead women’s fiction? Or – worse still – just fiction with no guarantee of a happy ending? Since the book had “love story” in the title I was holding out for someone getting a HEA. Yet I was still confused as there were elements of romance and fiction but the book wasn’t fitting completely into either.

There are twists at the end I wasn’t expecting. They are not exactly hidden or out-of-the-blue but one did surprise me very much. It also reminded me that there were only 30 pages left to go to sort every thing out. At this point, I truly had no idea where you were going to go with both Shandi and William. When I discovered, all I could think was “thank God I didn’t peek at the end the way I sometimes do” because the impact of half the book would have been lost on me.

For those who wish to know, yes people find their HEA at the end of the book. But most of the book will not seem like what romance readers are used to. The bulk of the story is William and Shandi coming to terms with past events in their lives, often with each other’s help, with a romantic thread woven into this. It’s not exactly what I was expecting but it’s satisfying all the same. B

~Jayne

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