A while back my great-aunt passed away, and somehow my grandpa ended up with two boxes full of books. Almost all of them are ‘inspirational’ romances published by Harlequin as ‘Love Inspired’. At one point (not sure if you still can) you could subscribe and have a new book mailed to you every month. Aunt Darby did just that, and now I’m in possession of somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 or so of these ‘Love Inspired’ titles. Most of them are pretty cheesy but alright for a one-time fluff read. I’m sure that I’ll binge through some of them periodically. They’re perfect to grab out of the crate when I’m just looking for a quick, no-brainer book. However, most of them will probably end up exiting this house after that one-time read, because they just aren’t worth the shelf space to me. So if there’s one that sounds especially appealing to you… let me know, and I’ll be quite happy to mail you a gift! ;-)
Here we have the next five titles. I’ve been a bit more harsh about just not bothering with books if the premise doesn’t really appeal, so a better selection than some of the past rounds! Remember, these are basically all going into the give-away pile, so I am genuinely serious about letting me know if you would like some of these books to become your own – otherwise they are all getting posted on Paperback Swap!
The Heart’s Song by Winnie Griggs
I wasn’t completely sure how a premise was going to play out that included the phrase helping with “his new neighbor’s request that he lead the handbell choir,” but this ended up being a decent, if somewhat cheesy, little love story. Graham is a widower whose wife and unborn baby died and left him bitter and angry with God. He decides to move to a random little town in the south where no one knows his Tragic Backstory and he can move on with his life. His new neighbor, Reeny, is a widowed mother of two, and is an exuberantly friendly and outgoing person. She recently inherited some money earmarked for creating something in memory of her husband, who died several years ago. Reemy has decided to use the money to start a community handbell choir (right?). It all sounds extremely hokey and it is, but it also worked. I liked watching Graham and Reemy come together, and weirdly enjoyed the handbell choir part of the story. My only really beef with this story is that throughout Graham is angry with God, etc., and then suddenly in the end he does a completely 180… but we never really get to hear about why, or how he now feels about his Tragic Backstory. It would have been a lot more meaningful if more of Graham’s journey to peace had been explored. Still, 4/5.
The Road to Forgiveness by Leigh Bale
I really liked the setting for this story, which was a wholesale greenhouse. I liked the characters and enjoyed the Hispanic flavor of the whole story. While I was cool with Joel and did ship him with Mari, I still felt like he was pushy at times about her needed to “follow her dreams” – like encouraging someone is one thing, but going behind their back and basically forcing them into it no longer sounds supportive as much as it does manipulative.
There’s also this whole big long thing where Joel is so helpful, like part of the family, promises to never leave, etc. He confesses his love to Mari, but she doesn’t have time to respond before a Great Tragedy strikes. But somehow Joel interprets that as she doesn’t love me and never will – and tries to skip town, even while someone is still in the hospital?? It didn’t fit his character, or the flow of the story, at all, so it felt like a 100% contrived way to create a dramatic reunion at the end and really annoyed me.
3.5/5 for a decent little story that at least involved a lot of plants.
Mistletoe Reunion by Anna Schmidt
DNF on this one. Norah was driving me absolutely crazy.
A Daughter’s Legacy by Virginia Smith
So in this story we start by meet Kelli at her mother’s funeral. Come to find out that Kelli and her mom have been estranged for eons, and in fact Kelli didn’t even know her mom was sick, because her mom never bothered to let her know that she had cancer and was dying. Kelli’s mom leaves this stupid will that means Kelli has to “face her fears” by accepting a zookeeper position for six months (Kelli’s mom was a head zookeeper). I kept waiting for there to be this moment that explained Kelli’s mom, but the more I learned about her, the more of a jerk it turns out she was. (All spoilers from here on out, fyi.) Kelli’s dad is killed in front of Kelli’s face by a lion (her dad was a zookeeper, too). Instead of like being a mom, Kelli’s mom switches so that she is now a zookeeper for the lions as well, despite the fact that Kelli is super scarred by this whole situation and terrified that her mom is going to be killed, too. In the end, Kelli’s mom ships her off to Kelli’s grandma, because Kelli isn’t really able to emotionally recover from this trauma. So instead of actually taking care of her own child, she just sends her off so she (the mom) can continue pursuing her zookeeping dreams and “deal with her grief” in her own way. And to compound it all – that’s it! She never reaches out to Kelli, not even when she knows she’s dying. Instead of giving her daughter an opportunity to reconcile, she manipulates her from beyond the grave.
While I liked Kelli and enjoyed the romance part of the story, the whole thing with Kelli’s mom made me so angry that I couldn’t really like this book. 1/5.
Child of Grace by Irene Hannon
Usually these Love Inspired titles don’t really have a lot of grit to them, but this one did, and I liked it. Kelsey is single and pregnant, and it isn’t really a surprise to find out that her pregnancy is a result of being raped. This whole situation was handled so gently. I loved the way that different aspects of Kelsey’s decision to not have an abortion were explored – like that decision wasn’t the only one she had to make, and making that decision didn’t automatically mean that everything else was going to work out. It wasn’t preachy, but it was still such a positive prolife message, and a strong reminder that killing a child doesn’t fix anyone’s problems.
I liked the romance as well, and the way that Luke wasn’t automatically all happy about Kelsey’s baby. He had to work through some emotions as well, and that felt really realistic. All in all, a really decent read. 4/5.