Saturday, March 13, 2010

Series Review: After the Storm The Founding Years

After the Storm: The Founding Years (Love Inspired Historical)

Book 1 – Jan 10 – High Plains Bride by Valerie Hansen

Book 2 – Feb 10 – Heartland Wedding by Renee Ryan

Book 3 – Mar 10 – Kansas Courtship by Victoria Bylin

This series is about a new town in High Plains, Kansas Territory which suffers a tornado strike. Each book has different characters and yet they’re interwoven into the High Plains community. Each book is a stand-alone (except for the missing children thread) and yet together they tell a beautiful story of the integrity and stamina of early Americans faced with destruction and having to rely on their own resources.

Book 1 - High Plains Bride by Valerie Hansen: Valerie Hansen pulled me into the story by her poignant portrayal of a young woman who feels the need to stay and protect her family rather than go find one of her own. And she’s written a hero whose generosity overwhelms everyone, including himself but that’s because he puts the needs of others ahead of his own.

Emmeline Carter is in a wagon west of the town when the tornado strikes. They were supposed to be part of a wagon train but when the rest of the wagons stopped to circle due to the approaching storm, Emmeline’s mean-spirited father pushed his family onward, alone. Caught on the open prairie without adequate shelter, the family suffers devastation and loss of life. With an ailing mother and sister, missing children and a deceased father, Emmeline needs to take charge and figure out what to do. Fast.

When the storm passes, town founder Will Logan walks among the destruction offering comfort to the shocked citizens. Knowing the tornado headed  west, his thoughts are on the pretty woman he met earlier in the mercantile before the wagons left. When he’s certain everything’s being done that needs it, he decides to put his mind at rest. The wagon train wreckage only heightens his worry, especially when he hears she’s not among them. Another problem crops up once he finds her trying to flip the wagon right-side-up… now that he’s found her, what’s he going to do with her?

Valerie brings these two strong characters together and challenges them emotionally and spiritually as they try to figure out why God would allow this to happen.

Book 2 – Heartland Wedding by Renee Ryan: I really liked it when this second book in the series also started on the day of the storm. Renee takes two different characters who live in the town and throws them together alone for the duration. Vivid attention to detail raised the hairs on my arms as I listened to the howling winds, urging it to pass.

Risking her own life, Rebecca Gunderson runs outside when the tornado hits with one thing on her mind—to find her brother, the only family she has left. Instead, she runs into the town blacksmith, Pete Benjamin who won’t let her go for fear she’ll blow away. They innocently ride out the storm alone in a cellar with nothing more than a comfort hug occurring between them. But when the town gossip hears about it, Rebecca’s reputation is in question and Pete feels compelled to offer the protection of marriage. She knows he’s still suffering the loss of his first wife and child, how can she live with him knowing he was forced to marry her?

Renee’s characters are fresh and familiar. I cried along with Rebecca as she tried to understand and obey God’s will. And a few times I wanted to smack the back of Pete’s head for being obtuse and not accepting the gift God had blessed him with. It was suspenseful right to the end.

Book 3 – Kansas Courtship by Victoria Bylin: This book was adorable. Victoria stayed true to form by writing a fallen hero struggling to stay strong, but the story had a light feeling attributed to a few scenes which had my family asking why I was chuckling as I read.

After the storm, people had died from lack of a skilled doctor yet no one suitable had applied. Zeb Garrison, who helped found the town, is certain the only thing that could be worse than the other applicants was if a woman applied—and no way was he letting one try. Let’s just say he’s a mite angry when the new applicant, who signed as Dr. N. Mitchell, turns out to be a Nora. Sparks flare and voices raise as propriety battles necessity. Throw in an instant attraction for each other and you have story that’s delightfully entertaining, profoundly emotional and satisfying in its conclusion.

Kudos to Valerie, Renee and Victoria for accepting the challenge and writing a heart-warming series which reminds us of God’s love in the face of destruction.

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