Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"To Win Her Heart" Review

When Levi Grant arrives in Spencer, Texas, he’s looking for more than just a blacksmith job – he wants the chance at a new life. Even though he served his time for the unintentional crime that he committed, he prefers to start over in a place where no one knows about his past.

Almost immediately after arriving in Spencer, Levi meets Eden, the daughter of the town’s founder. A self-appointed librarian spinster, Eden is stunned when the hulking Levi walks through her door to borrow a book. And she is even more stunned when she realizes how much she is attracted to him.

As the two form an unlikely friendship, Levi realizes he won’t be able to hide his past forever. But will Eden be able to look at him the same way when she discovers his violent history?

I have only read one other book by Karen Witemeyer (A Tailor-Made Bride), but I really enjoyed it. I actually enjoyed that one so much that this book, To Win Her Heart, had a lot to live up to.

And did it ever.

This novel has everything that I love about Christian historical fiction. The writing has an easy flow that lets you experience the novel rather than just read it. The characters are likeable and relatable but not perfect. When they have problems or issues in their lives, they turn to the Bible for the answers and for comfort and peace. They actually talk to God as if they have a relationship with Him (not just superficial), and they experience significant spiritual growth over the course of the novel. I also appreciate when a Christian novel has an overall feeling of hope and joy, even when things are rough, and in this book, that came through loud and clear.

After a little bit of a slow start, the story took off and even went in directions I wasn’t expecting. It’s always a difficult balance between whether or not a book is starting off too slowly or if it is just giving you the time to get to know the characters well. I like to have a lot of background on the main characters and to really be able to settle in to the setting and the initial plot. But, sometimes this also seems to slow down the first quarter or so of a book. That being said, I do think the author is very talented in the way that she tells the main story along with all of these little stories around it that end up coming together. This makes for an overall narrative that just sweeps you along and helps you to really experience the characters and their situations.

As I said earlier, spiritually, this novel really delivered. The main characters are already Christians at the start of the novel, but they both have things that God is working on in their lives. The faith portion of the novel is seamlessly woven into the story, which is so refreshing. The characters’ faith is real, and the themes of granting forgiveness and extending grace are shown with marvelous clarity. They want to live their lives for Christ no matter the cost. This is very much displayed at several points toward the end of the novel, but I really don’t want to mention them here – it would take too much away from others’ enjoyment of the book.

If I had to be nit-picky about this novel, I would say that the only thing that was not to my liking was some of the physical descriptions of the characters and their attraction to each other. While this is, of course, based in reality – there is always something about your spouse that attracted you to him/her in the first place – I sometimes got weary of reading about Levi’s broad chest and the way some of the passionate kisses were described. Levi and Eden also seemed to fantasize about each other a lot. Not necessarily in a sexual way, but in a ‘dreaming about what it would be like to be married to each other’ way, which sometimes led to physical thoughts of each other. A good thing about the characters, though, is that they always seemed to rein in their thoughts and actions before they led too far, which is, of course, an excellent message of trying to keep one’s thoughts and actions pure.

Another thing about the romance part of this book was that even though their courtship seemed short, I still felt as if Levi and Eden got to know each other well since they spent so much time writing letters to each other towards the beginning of the novel. This part of the plot was so sweet, and it really put the point across that they were interested in each other for more than just their physical attraction.

I know that I have really enjoyed a novel when I almost miss the characters after I have finished it. That is the case with To Win Her Heart. I was a bit disappointed to not be able to go on a little farther in the lives of Levi and Eden and the other people in Spencer, Texas. This is not a series, but it could have easily become one, especially with the other characters such as Chloe and Duncan.

This book was published last year, and I’ve been waiting a while to get it into my schedule. Next time I definitely won’t wait so long to read a Karen Witemeyer book!

I will give To Win Her Heart ... 4 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. 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."

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