Laurie Alice Eakes' "Moonlight Promise" begins with an invitation - for the destitute Camilla of England to join an American friend on a journey through the newly completed Erie Canal. Unfortunately, Camilla has to make a certain deadline, and the debt collector on her trail is not helping matters, nor the rivalry between Nathaniel, her handsome steamboat caption, and his partner. The theme for Camilla and Nathaniel - where both feel like God is denying them everything they ask for at every turn, and that nothing in their lives ever goes right - is easy to relate to. Trusting God in spite of that and continuing to rely on Him whatever the circumstances is the hard part.
In Anne Shorey's novella, "Lessons in Love," a formal request arrives for "Mr. M. M. Bentley" to appear in person to discuss his articles written for publication - which would be fine, except that Mr. Bentley is really a Miss. Wanting to pursue her dream of writing, Merrie convinces her piano teacher, the young and handsome Colin, to pretend to be Mr. Bentley for the day, but soon the charade gets out of control. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Merrie is not the stereotypical bold and brash female pursuing an uncommon career; rather, she is more the retiring and nearly reclusive sort, who gets into her situation from lack of boldness more so than over-boldness. It is a sweet and light-hearted tale.
A petition from her long missing brother in Amanda Cabot's "One Little Word" convinces Lorraine to hop a train and meet him at a quaint resort. Lorraine hopes to find a solution to saving her inheritance from an unscrupulous cousin, but instead she ends up being challenged by a carousel carver to find her place in life instead. While I do not have carousel fever like the author, I did enjoy learning the carousel lore that the author included. Of the four, this story contains the least (in truth, pretty much no) references to God and faith.
In "A Saving Grace" by Jane Kirkpatrick, Grace receives a plea from her goddaughter, along with a formal letter from a lawyer, begging that she come take care of the child and help her friend who is wasting away in a remote sanitarium. Unsure whether to trust Claude, a doctor who is helping out at "Starvation Heights," Grace decides to go undercover as a patient and rescue her friend. Shockingly, this story is based on a real clinic that touted extreme fasting as a cure of all ills, where many patients died of starvation under the care of the unlicensed Dr. Linda Hazzard. Though perhaps the least romantic of the four, I found it the most compelling for its suspense and the historical atrocity it describes.
As I have typically found with novellas, most of these stories I would prefer to be full-length novels. The first and last I would especially have liked to be longer, since their historical settings were both clever and fascinating. Of the four, "Lessons in Love" best fits the length. While the novellas have nothing in common other than romance and that they begin with the receipt of a letter, I found the premise to be more creative than I had been expecting - the letters each have a different purpose, and as such each story spins off in its own radical direction. They form a nice historical collection, though, printed in order time period (1825-1911). 4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you Revell for providing a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
Jane Kirkpatrick (author of "A Saving Grace") has book extras and is sharing some giveaways of the novella collection on her blog:
Visit and take part!