Sometimes, it is really hard for me to look in the mirror and feel beautiful. I look and see the wrong weight, the puffy eyes or the blemishes or whatever else it is that detracts from my definition of attractive. Strangely, though, these are not things that I look for in others. Just myself.
What do you value in your friends? Do you choose who you spend time with by their ability to apply makeup well or their great taste in clothing?
Our culture has taught us that beauty is all about appearance, that the way we look is important. And there are those for whom it really is. Yet in God’s economy, it is our heart that really matters.
Instead of spending your time and your focus on things that fade, adorn yourself with the beauty that comes from a life dedicated to serving God and others.
The Hope of Azure Springs
by Rachel Fordham
Published by Revell
Publication Date July 3, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Clean Romance, Christian Fiction
Setting: Iowa Gilded Age – US – 1875 – 1900
Main Character Ages: 18-24
Written for: Adults
Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won't be able to do it alone.
For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He's determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn't expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
I would like to thank Netgalley, Revell for giving me this copy of the book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
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Even Em’s name was plain. She knew that she was not a beauty and that no one would ever look at her that way. Despite her looks, Em had a heart of gold. She was kind and willing to work hard. Her outlook was quite positive and she didn’t expect anyone to do anything for her. I loved the way she constantly told stories to the seven-year-old twins Mae and Milly to entertain them. She was able to help those around her who grieved, which was very sweet.
One of the themes of this lovely story is how beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It wasn’t Em who needed to learn this lesson, however, but Caleb. He had his eye on the town beauty and only spent time with Em because of her case. At first. Then he started enjoying spending time with her and was able to open up and have fun in a way he hadn’t been able to for years. I love the lessons he learned through the story.
There were a number of people in the story dealing with grief, each in a different way. Author Rachel Fordham handled this in a very compassionate and tactful way and kindly helped her characters to grow and heal.
The story showed a different side of the Orphan Trains than the more romanticized view often seen in fiction. Unfortunately, not all the placements were made with care or the right motives, and not all the orphans were treated well.
I appreciate that the author didn’t choose the easy solutions. While Em’s appearance improved after she began to eat properly, she would never be considered the town beauty. There were a couple of other situations that were resolved appropriately, but not necessarily “happily”.
Some things detracted from the story, in my opinion, causing me to not give it 5 stars. While overall the writing was good (as you can see by the quotes I’ve included) and the plot was interesting, the dialog was a little awkward and some of the phrasing could have been reworked to be better.
I felt that Em’s character was too perfect. Not in outward appearance, but just about everything else. When faced with a new situation, I knew she was going to always do the right thing, and it annoyed me a little. Not that I love mean characters – Em was just a little unrelatable and unrealistic. In the part where she wrote a letter, I would have liked to have seen things spelled as she would have spelled them and the speech to sound a little more countrified instead of almost everyone having perfect grammar.
That said, if you enjoy historical novels with a hint of mystery and danger, you will probably enjoy this one. Give it a try.