Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Song of Springhill by Cheryl McKay Price

Song of Springhill

I loved Rene Gutteridge's and Cheryl McKay Price's Never the Bride novel, so I was grateful for the chance to read this title for review.

Let's begin with the summary:

Could you fall in love despite the great risk of losing the one you cherish most?

Hoping for a fresh start, Hannah Wright moves to Springhill, the hometown of the father she never knew because he died in their volatile coal mines before she was born. She tracks down her aunt, Abigail Percy, and is immediately welcomed to move in with the whole Percy clan. This includes her Uncle Ray, a coal miner, and their four lively children. Suddenly, she's surrounded by more family than she's ever had in her life.

The day after she arrives, the mine explodes, trapping many underground, including Uncle Ray. Little did Hannah know when she set off on this new adventure how much her family was going to need her. When the Percys face a sudden lack of provision, Hannah knows she must get a job to help them. But the only industry in town that pays enough is coal mining--and the mine company doesn't hire women.

Hannah secretly masquerades as a man and gets hired as Mel, a distant cousin of her father's. Keeping up her charade is challenging in this tight-knit, 1950s town, where everybody knows one another.

Hannah is placed on the team of Josh Winslow, a handsome bachelor who noticed her the moment she stepped into town. It doesn't take long for Josh to see through Hannah's disguise as Mel, but she convinces him there's no other way for her to help take care of her family. Understanding the pressure she's under, he agrees to not blow Hannah's cover--for now.

Though Hannah seems to keep Josh at arm's length, he's determined to chip away at her defenses and win her heart. She resists, afraid to love someone who could die at any moment in an accident underground.

Long-time miners start to sense that "the big one" is coming. Calling it a "Bump" does little to calm Hannah's fear of the impending underground earthquake, a disaster that could come any day.

Will Josh and Hannah be among the next miners caught in a catastrophic disaster? Does Hannah stand to lose everything she's worked so hard to rebuild?

And now, my review:

First, let me say I respect this author very much and have appreciated her work as a screenwriter. The cover of this book immediately grabbed my attention, given the subjects in the upper picture.

As an editor, I had mixed feelings as I read this novel. There were many editing issues that jarred me from the story—like collective POV, typos, use of clich├ęs, overused words, confusing passages, redundancy. As a reader, I was overwhelmed with the number of characters in the beginning of the story. This made getting into the novel difficult. About one-quarter of the way into the file (I read it as an e-book), the pace picked up and I was finally hooked. There were times when the author employed deep POV with a sympathetic character and good pacing. Those instances made the story engaging. 

One thing was clear as I moved deeper into the novel—I could see the story as a movie. The action of the mines, the activity later in the story—those scenes played out vividly in my imagination.

This story didn’t follow the norms or expectations of CBA genre fiction in several instances, though of course the content was wholesome. I felt there needed to be deeper layers and perhaps a later beginning to the story, without so many characters. The story's subject didn't seem clear as we split our time between the young girl and the woman and man’s developing relationship. Perhaps that was part of the issue for me—based on the upper cover image and the label of "love story," I expected a romance and though this story has a romantic thread, the other genre elements were missing. (Though of course the genres of "love story" and "romance" are separate.)

All that said, readers (who aren’t editors) may not mind the elements I mention above. I think they’ll find plenty to enjoy here. And I look forward to seeing this possibly developed into a movie. I wish this talented writer all the best.

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