Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond was sent to me as an advanced review copy by Thomas Nelson Publishers and LitFuse Publicity.
From the Publisher:
Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.
When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.
Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.
When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.
She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.
I was really excited to read this book, because the setting is one of my favorites—Dakota Territory in the 1870’s—right out of Little House on the Prairie, one of my all-time favorite series. (This book takes place even earlier in the history of the Dakota Territory than when Laura Ingalls Wilder was there, and farther north, but the stories of the first homesteaders are still told.)
I will start with the things that I liked about this book. I enjoyed the progression of Susannah and Jesse coming to love each other during their marriage. I loved how Jesse used his humor and his love of music to draw Susannah out of her shell. I appreciated how Susannah was able to come to a realization that how she was raised (in strict Victorian fashion) might not necessarily be based on truth and that, with faith and confidence in God, she can be more than she ever thought she could be.
However, this book did not have the same thrill for me as other homesteading tales or other plots involving mail-order brides. It seemed that the main plot of the story ended about three quarters of the way through the book. From there, the story took a strange turn that just seemed to spin out of control and also seemed disjointed from the tone and the flow of the rest of the book. I won’t go into details about the plot so that I do not ruin the story, but the characters seemed to undergo a personality transplant over the course of just a few pages. New characters that were integral to the story were also introduced too close to the end, which seemed to me to be a ‘deus ex machina’ (See the end of my blog post for a description of this)--characters that were only introduced in order to add unnecessary plot lines to the story. The novel to me was muddled overall as well. The story is told in third person and is told from the perspective of Susannah at times and from the perspective of Jesse at times. But, it was not balanced (it was told from Susannah’s perspective more) and so it felt odd and forced when the story was told through Jesse.
I will also say that I would rate this book PG-13 (Or maybe even ‘PG-married’). The intimacies portrayed are within the boundaries of marriage, but the descriptions go farther than I prefer in the novels that I read. Because this book will be read by unmarried individuals, I feel the author should have taken better precautions at helping those who are single to keep their thoughts pure.
While the historical setting for this novel was right up my alley, I felt there were too many things that missed the mark.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
***Explanation of 'Deus Ex Machina' (from Wikipedia)A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.The deus ex machina is often considered to be a poor storytelling technique by critics because it undermines the story's internal logic, although it is sometimes employed deliberately for this reason.