This RITA® Reader Challenge review was written by Courtney, and this story finaled in the Best Novella category.
Plot Summary: Teacher Olivia Rose knows what it’s like to grow up alone and unwanted. But convincing reserved rancher Jules Parrish he can give his orphaned niece a real home won’t be easy—unless Olivia seizes the chance of love and motherhood she never expected….
And here is Courtney’s review:
The backcover copy for a novella does a crap job of explaining what’s going on, so here’s a slightly better summary:
Olivia was abandoned at birth to a school. Her bills were paid monthly by unknown benefactor. She stays there and becomes a teacher. But then the school is disbanded and she realizes that another little girl, Emily, has been similarly abandoned. Emily has one next of kin listed: an uncle 1700 miles away in Montana. Naturally, Olivia must cart Emily across all those miles and convince said uncle to give the girl a home.
Sparks fly when she meets the uncle. But not too many of them, because this is an inspirational.
So often in novellas, one of the following gets sacrificed to meet word count: character, romance, or a compelling story line. It’s kind of unfortunate when all three are abandoned in favor of descriptions of cooking and hair pins.
The heroine, Olivia Rose, is composed of two character traits: self-sacrifice and cooking. She faints when she first meets the hero because she’s been giving Emily all her food for the last two days. The hero has been eating squirrel stew. Not because he’s poor; no, it’s because the guy cooking for them “needed variety to keep the job and the food interesting.” Or, more like, because the author needed Olivia to prove that she was a master of the Feminine Arts. She proceeds to bake bread, apple pie, chicken with noodles….
Everyone agrees that she would make someone an awesome wife. Eventually, the hero agrees. This is realistic—a good-looking woman who can keep a household would have her choice out in the old West. But “you’re the only one for me because you’re the only one around” is not romantic.
This isn’t even a strong inspirational; the characters pray, but their relationship with God is essentially unevolving.
This is a mother’s day anthology, and it does make me appreciate my mother. I really appreciate that my mother not only took care of me, but had her own life and ambitions and taught me to respect that.
The details of Montana life are interesting; I’ll give it a C- because I kept hoping the wolves would eat them.