Monday, February 3, 2014

Review of Smitten Book Club

Smitten Book Club
Ahh... a chance to revisit Smitten, Vermont. And this time, we get to focus on books. Yes!

Let's begin with the summary:

"Consider that your beau is like a coveted novel whose compelling first lines you've just begun to read." —A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship

At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. 

When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie.

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love--often in spite of the historic book's advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.

And now, my review:

I’ve enjoyed this series from the first book. The fictional setting of Smitten, Vermont is a fun place, peopled with relatable characters. I was glad to read this collection for review as this is the last book including author Diann Hunt, who went to heaven last November. She is missed.

Let me begin with the first story, Love by the Book by Colleen Coble.  This novella, as the first in the compilation, had to set up the collection’s characters (somewhat) and overall threads. I liked that we learned about Molly and her financial needs and how the friends were all determined to help her search for the lost gold. But all the character intros and names took away from the focus on romance, and I found the story hard to follow. She ties in the guidebook, which I enjoyed reading excerpts from throughout. It was a quaint thread.

The second story, Shelved Under Romance by Kristin Billerbeck was a favorite, both of this compilation and of books I’ve read recently. I loved this story! The chemistry and characters. The librarian hiding behind dowdy clothes. The hang-gliding scene was delicious. Loved. It. I could especially sense the genuine friendship these authors shared in real life coming through in these four characters. Very enjoyable.

The third story was A New Chapter, by Diann Hunt. I read this one with a heavy heart, grieving with the rest of the writing community the loss of a tender-hearted, God-glorifying woman who left us such a legacy of how to face trials in this life. I know this is a bittersweet project for the dear group of authors who were Diann’s closest friends. My favorite aspect was seeing her heroine’s name: Elliana. Such a beautiful name meaning “God has answered my prayers.”

The fourth story in this book-themed compilation was appropriately titled Happily Ever After and was written by Denise Hunter. I’m a long-time fan of Denise’s fiction. I’ve read most of her books, and this heroine’s voice was so different—quirky. Loved that! Denise did something else fun here. She referenced the movie You’ve Got Mail a lot. Phrases like: “Why had he stopped by? She couldn’t remember.” And how Molly Moore is an alliteration, like Kathleen Kelly. Or “he would never.” The one where I laughed aloud was “my shop’s just around the corner.” Like an inside joke for readers, these phrases endear us to her.

It was such a pleasure revisiting Smitten, Vermont with these authors. So glad we could do it one more time. 

Highly recommended. 

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