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Monday, September 13, 2021

Wholesome Historical Romance a Warm, Uplifting Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her father away from home to find work, 20-year-old Tansy Calhoun must pitch in even more than usual to help her family.  Not only does she help her mother take care of the home and care for her younger siblings, but Tansy also works as a packhorse librarian.  Delivering books to the folks nestled high in the Appalachian Mountains is the highlight of her long days.  She loves the freedom, the land, and the people.  While there's satisfaction in the simplicity of her life, Tansy can't help but long for the kinds of magical romances she reads about in books.  Is it too much to hope for a Prince Charming of her own?

After working out of state with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), 26-year-old Caleb Barton has returned to Kentucky to help his mother after the death of his brother.  He's surprised to learn that Tansy—the girl he's been in love with since childhood—remains unmarried.  When a smooth-talking writer comes into town looking for stories for the Federal Writers' Project, his sights land on the pretty librarian as well.  Can Caleb wrestle up the courage to finally confess his feelings for Tansy before it's too late?

Crochety spinster Perdita Sweet may still be embittered over her own lost love, but she's not about to let Tansy make a poor choice.  Can her meddling persuade her starry-eyed cousin to stop looking for love inside the pages of a novel and see that the perfect man is right in front of her?  Or will Tansy break all their hearts by falling for the fancy city slicker?

I love historical fiction, but I usually prefer a tale that is about more than just romance.  A love story is fine; I just like it as a subplot rather than the main one.  So, I hesitated a little to pick up Along a Storied Trail, the newest historical romance by Ann H. Gabhart, since it seemed to be all romance.  I worried I'd get bored with it.  Was I right?  Yes and no.  The novel definitely lacks in action and conflict, which makes it drag at times.  Tansy also lacks a tangible story goal, something that gives her a reason to take risks and give her all to a cause she's passionate about in spite of whatever might get in her way.  She has her book deliveries, sure, but they're not something she really has to fight for, you know?  Likewise, she doesn't have to battle to win Caleb's love.  She's already got it.  All of this means that while I liked Tansy, I didn't become super invested in her story.  I wanted good things for her, yes, but I also never doubted she would get them.  What I would have liked to see is a little more conflict, struggle, and growth from Tansy.  This would have made her story more gripping and unputdownable for me.

That being said, Along a Storied Trail really is a warm, uplifting story.  The characters aren't overly original or memorable, but they're good, kind-hearted people.  It's impossible not to like them.  The Appalachian setting is vivid and colorful, a backdrop that feels authentic.  As I mentioned, the novel doesn't have a lot of plot, so it does get a little dull here and there.  There was enough going on in the tale to keep me reading, but it did take me a few days to get through this one (whereas I can speed through an engrossing thriller in a matter of hours).  I don't always love Christian novels because they can get preachy and heavy-handed, but Gabhart handles the religious elements in Along a Storied Trail well.  She makes faith feel natural, as if it's just a normal, daily thing for the story's hill people.  I love that!  All these things considered, then, I ended up enjoying this novel.  It's the first I've read by Gabhart, but it won't be the last.  When I'm looking for another clean, uplifting historical novel, I'll definitely look for other titles by her.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for scenes of peril and scary situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Along a Storied Trail from the generous folks at Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
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