Image from Amazon.com
Note: I received this book for free, specifically to review it.
I’ve read a lot of romantic historical fiction novels–and by a lot, I mean a lot. Some have certainly been better than others, and there’s one theme that has always been a reliable source of good books in my experience: the frontier. In frontier stories, women are often overcoming obstacles, coming into contact with people of different backgrounds, developing more appreciation for the environment, adjusting their Eastern ways, and–of course–falling in love. When I speak of frontier books, I’ve usually always meant the American Old West, which is why I was really excited to finally read a book about the Canadian West!
I know that you’re not supposed to ‘read a book by its cover’, but I totally did. The cover of Where Hope Prevails, by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan, is beautiful. It was also immediately apparent from looking at the heroine’s bundle of textbooks that she was in the academic world within the frontier–another dichotomy that I find fascinating. I was a little nervous when I learned that it was a sequel to a previous book, but that didn’t end up being a problem at all (especially with a lovely letter at the beginning of the story to cleverly ‘summarize’ the past book’s events for the reader)!
The book’s plot has a nice progression, although it was a much longer story than I expected, and there is plenty of interesting information to be learned about Canada for those of us who are fairly ignorant regarding its geography. For me, this book was particularly intriguing in that it focused on a time period when electricity, telephones, and automobiles were already in existence–I had only ever read frontier romances that involved the 1800’s, so reading about Oreos in this book was quite a surprise!
The ‘authentic’ dialogue of the book is the only historically accurate change that I really found disconcerting; it took me quite a while to adjust to reading the Coal Valley citizens’ dialogue, and even more time to adjust to reading Frank’s Italian version. However, the styles of speech were not illegible; instead, they were just a little inconvenient–and they help highlight the differences between Beth and the Coal Valley people, so I don’t regret their presence in the text.
The heroine of this novel is an admirable one in many ways–and, occasionally, a comical one too (Exhibit A: her struggles to fall asleep in her new home without company). Perhaps the most endearing quality about her is her flawed nature; Beth makes many mistakes in this novel, most of them involving her own self-centered tendencies and her irrational resentment of the other schoolteacher. These behaviors may not be admirable in and of themselves, but they do make her relatable. After all, even though we readers might not like to admit it, we’ve been a little self-centered on occasion–and many of us have indeed experienced that strangely immediate dislike of someone who has actually done nothing unkind to us. That kind of illogical and intrinsic dislike is very, very hard to get rid of, and I really appreciated how much that struggle was demonstrated in this story. Beth tries to overcome her anger, and fails–multiple times. Those failures, to me, made her one of the most normal and human heroines that I have ever come across.
Beth’s failures often cause her to turn to her Christian faith, which means that this book does discuss religion fairly often. However, although you should probably be aware of that focus before reading the novel, it is not necessary to be a religious–or, for that matter, Christian–reader to enjoy this book. The book’s general plot was not one that I had expected, which made for some enjoyable surprises, and it’s definitely a good book for a relaxing evening–maybe even an evening in the Canadian West!
The best part? Some of the beautiful descriptions that can be found in the novel. The way that the authors describe the wintry climate, the Canadian environment, and Beth’s emotions are all very unique and, at the same time, stunningly accurate; so, to Janette and Laurel, I say well done. 🙂