Saturday, April 30, 2016

Exciting Backdrop, Realistically-Flawed Characters Make LDS Historical Novel a Compelling, Convincing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

At 14, Ethan Pace doesn't need a governess.  And yet, he's not complaining about Leah Donaldson, the pretty young orphan who has come to Lawrence, Kansas, to look after him and his younger sister.  Four-year-old Addie is immediately smitten with her new minder, as is Ethan.  Not only is 18-year-old Leah beautiful, but she's also playful, smart, and kind.  Some people shun her because of her strange religion; Ethan couldn't care less if she's a Mormon.  He and his best buddies, Bobbie and Toe-Jam, adore her all the same.  Ethan knows Leah intends to stay only until she can afford to make her way to Salt Lake City—her Zion—but he's determined not to let her go.  His tender heart couldn't take it if she did.  

Although Lawrence has remained relatively safe from the Civil War violence raging in other parts of the country, there have been threats from bloodthirsty vigilantes.  On August 21, the town is ransacked in a deadly raid which leaves over 150 people dead.  In her effort to protect the children, Leah has to make a terrible choice.  

Haunted by the loss of his beloved childhood governess, an older Ethan vows to get revenge.  All he's ever wanted is to make Leah happy; now that he's a man, he has the means to do it.  If only he can find her, punish those who've hurt her, and convince her to trust—and love—him, they'll finally have the happily ever after they both deserve.  

If only it were that easy ...

You all know by now that I'm not a huge fan of LDS fiction.  Too often it's cheesy, poorly written, and unrealistic.  Overall quality in the genre is improving, though, and Loving Leah, a historical romance by Lynne Larson, is an excellent case in point.  Using a lesser-known event from the Civil War as a backdrop, the author creates a tense, exciting setting that brings a time and place I knew little about to vivid life.  The characters are intriguing, mostly because they're realistically flawed.  Even the lovely and virtuous Leah makes mistakes.  Because these story people feel so human, it's easy to empathize with their plight.  I cared about what happened to them.  Although the book talks a lot about the Gospel, it never gets too preachy.  All of these elements combine to make Loving Leah a compelling, convincing read.  Its ending broke my heart a little, but overall, I enjoyed this one very much.  I'll definitely be watching eagerly to see what this author does next.

(Readalikes:  Style-wise, Loving Leah reminds me of Carla Kelly's Western romance novels.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, blood/gore, and brief, non-graphic references to sex

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Loving Leah from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!

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If you'd like to read more reviews of Loving Leah, check out the following links from its blog tour.  Unfortunately, the giveaway referred to in the banner is no longer accepting entries.  No worries, though.  You can buy yourself a copy of Loving Leah at Amazon, Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, etc.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. A good LDS fiction? I'm intrigued.

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