Can concealed love be revealed in 9 historical novellas?
Authors: Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitman, Kathleen Y’ Barbo, Penny Zeller
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 447 pages
Shy Expressions of Love Lead to Nine Historical Romances
Declaring one’s love can be hard—even risky—especially when faced with some of life’s greatest challenges. Separated by class, time, distance, and more, some loves must remain secret until the time is right. Instead, notes of affection, acts of kindness, gifts of admiration, and lots of prayer are circulated. From New England mansions to homestead hovels, love is quietly being nourished and waiting for the right time to be revealed. But when love can finally be boldly expressed, will it be received by love in return?
Reviewer’s Note: Due to this being a collection, I will provide individual ratings and thoughts on each novella before resuming my typical review format.
The Cost of a Heart by Amanda Barratt – Newport, Rhode Island, 1897
Nathaniel Evans has stood by Lily Montgomery through a broken marriage and the death of her husband. On the eve of her return into social life, he battles his attraction to her. But he is a servant, she a socialite.
Rating: 4 Stars
Thoughts: This is a sweet, faith-filled story with a good message about how only God’s approval matters – not society’s approval or disapproval regarding how our appearance aligns with its demands. I appreciated that Lily didn’t have the typical heroine build of slim and perfectly-proportioned. It was refreshing.
The Advocate by Lorraine Beatty – East Texas, 1881
Hannah Davis tries to get Mitch Kincaid, the man she secretly admires, elected sheriff by printing anonymous articles about his qualifications and sterling character. But will the truth win his heart or break hers?
Rating: 4 Stars
Thoughts: The Advocate discusses vote purchasing, which was when a politician bribed folks to vote for him by purchasing their vote. I found this interesting. The characters are well-developed and the plot fun. I did think Hannah a bit immature in the beginning, but she quickly grew on me. I enjoyed her tenacity and Mitch’s aloof grumpiness. I’ll definitely be investigating more books by Lorraine Beatty.
Too Many Secrets by Molly Noble Bull – Frio-Corners, Texas, 1882
Abigail Willoughby hides her feelings for Luke Conquest, the handsome cowboy who introduced her to her mail-order husband. How could she have guessed that her future husband was ninety-years-old?
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Thoughts: This has an interesting premise of a mail-order bride whose future husband has hidden his age from her. But it just wasn’t delivered well. While this certainly had potential, the writing felt stilted and the characters awkward in their interactions with each other. The conversations also felt dry. I just couldn’t get into it.
Love in Store by Anita Mae Draper – Miles City, Montana, 1890
Hidden love notes hint at what’s in store for a reserved shopkeeper when a straight-talking spinster sneaks anonymous declarations of her affections among the shelves of his store.
Rating: 5 Stars
Thoughts: What happens when a reticent shopkeeper meets a straight-shooting young lady intent on making her affections know? Confusion, chaos, and humor. Despite the word count limit, the author did exceptionally well in developing character arcs, not only for the main characters, but secondary ones as well. Adam’s descriptions (e.g. “gaggle of women”, “catering to little vixens”) are hilarious and Janet’s straightforward ways are endearing. Touching moments, endeavors to build a list of eligible bachelors, and a beautiful faith message also earn this novella its five-star rating. Anita Mae Draper is another author whose books I’ll be looking into.
The Last Letter by CJ Dunham – Kansas,1865
The Civil War has taken everyone Emilia Davis loves. When she receives her dead fiancé’s last letter, she embarks on a journey into the Kansas frontier to fulfill his last wish. So who is sending her anonymous gifts?
Thoughts: This was excellent. Emilia’s journey kept me eager to continue reading. Her faith, the hero’s sacrifice, and the plot were executed so well. What most endeared me to this novella was the strong adoption theme. Emilia’s determination and love for little Josiah is touching and elicits a lot of feels. I also liked how the importance of the heart over physical attraction was embedded in the story. This is another author whose books I’ll be looking into.
The Outcast’s Redemption by Jennifer Uhlarik – Blackwater, Texas, 1872
When a reformed rustler is framed for stealing cattle, his secret crush—the daughter of the disgraced lawman who arrested him—comes to his aid. But who really saves who?
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Thoughts: This novella is what hooked me on Jennifer Uhlarik’s writing. The plot is decidedly unique, the characters excellent, and the baddies chillingly evil. This was another novella where a lot happened in a short word count. This is packed with action, the struggle of forgiveness and redemption, and a sweet love story. The only complaint I have is Lucky’s use of whilst. For a man whose vernacular includes typical western speech, like ain’t, whole mess of, and sweetest gal, the use of whilst fit neither the story nor character.
Beside Still Waters by Becca Whitham – Lawton, Oklahoma, 1901
Sarah Maffey is receiving worrisome letters that make her feel vulnerable. Her handsome neighbor has vowed to keep her safe. . .or is he playing her for a fool?
Rating: 5 Stars
Thoughts: Besides Still Waters earns the reward for having the most humor. Sarah is a fun heroine, her feisty spirit, naivete about horses and plowing, and her hilarious commentary – both internal and aloud – had me laughing. This is a different spin on love letters from a secret admirer, and I liked the direction it was taken. I’ll definitely be adding more of this author’s books to my TBR.
The Princess of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo – Texas and Washington, DC, 1886
Scandal divided them. Two kidnappings and a wedding later, can a Texas cowboy turned Washington lawyer and the girl-next-door who secretly loved him since childhood save their marriage of inconvenience?
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Thoughts: This was another one I couldn’t bring myself to like. There are funny parts, and the shenanigans employed to steal Pearl from the train are amusing, but I just wasn’t impressed. Pearl is rather annoying, though her stubbornness makes her a more likable character than Deke, whom I found conniving, selfish, and overbearing. Other readers really liked this story, and you may as well, but I could barely finish it. It had potential, and I don’t know if it was just the execution of the story or the off-putting main characters, but Y’Barbo’s style and I don’t get along, it seems.
Love From Afar by Penny Zeller – Ellis Creek, Montana, 1880s
When secret love letters are written in a clandestine plot to bring two lonely hearts together, will love from a distance finally bloom into matrimonial bliss for Gabe and Meredith?
Rating: 5 Stars
Thoughts: No, the rating’s not because I’m biased. It’s because Love From Afar fully deserves five stars. Gabe and Meredith are endearing characters. Gabe is a reserved, tongue-tied mess around the extroverted Meredith who wishes he’d say more than two words to her. The clandestine plot and its instigators are the funniest, though. As an older sister, I could sympathize with Gabe and Meredith as they found themselves baffled and hesitant – at first – participants in a scheme cooked up by two mischievous best friends. Well-written, hilarious, and enjoyable.
God’s faithfulness is mentioned; characters, pray, mention Biblical characters, and discuss trusting God; the Bible is quoted; characters attend church; there are strong redemption and salvation messages.
A character dies from being thrown from a horse; the Civil War’s casualties are mentioned; a store is robbed; a character suffers PTSD flashbacks and nightmares; President Lincoln’s assassination is implied; a child is kidnapped; a character’s past is brought up; characters are shot; a character is injured by sabotage; characters are murdered.
Infidelity is implied and witnessed; characters kiss; a character once drank and smoked; a woman is called an adulteress and the Scarlet Letter is referenced; a character drinks themselves to death.
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