Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of a world at war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans and, much to Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of them.
August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents, but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he find Hot Springs and the intriguing, Jessica Ross, a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance, but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.
Will August’s tender pursuit show Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a ‘true’ enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?
“Cheated? I assure you, I did not cheat.”
“Yes, you did.” She rounded the net, a pointed finger punctuating each word. “With what you said.”
What he said? The previous conversation and her current rosy cheeks punctuated his clarity. He feigned innocence with a full shrug. “About winning?”
“No.” Her lips thinned against the words, hesitating before lowering her voice to a whisper. “About the kissing. I couldn’t concentrate.”
“Very flattering, my dear Miss Jesse.” He leaned in to match her volume. “But if it didn’t matter to you, it shouldn’t distract you.”
She stared back, wide-eyed, so he continued. “Besides, as long as you’re near, my thoughts will eventually turn to the topic without much difficulty.”
Her gaze dropped to his lips, sending a tingle shooting across them before they spun into a smile.
She blinked from the daze and stood straight, distancing herself with a step. “I’d say you need more work to do because clearly, your mind has too much free time.”
“No, no. My thought are properly ordered. Quite in order.”
“You, Mr. Reinhold, are insufferable.” She marched across the lawn toward the house.
He ran to catch up. “What does this mean? Insufferable?”
She stopped at the bottom of the porch steps, her head down. “It means you’re impossible. Nearly unbearable.” She enunciated each word as she turned to face him. “You should take this interest you have and lay it at the feet of some woman more interested in your persistent adoration.”
“I have a feeling you’ve succeeded in frightening away many suitors.” A sudden awareness drew him closer, in search of the truth. “You are afraid.”
“Of you?” She scoffed.
“Nein, of releasing your heart, I think.”
“Very clever, Mr. Reinhold, but the heart isn’t trustworthy.” She looked away under his scrutiny. “Better to use one’s head and experience.”
He covered her hand on the railing with his, snatching back her attention. “Ah, you know what you want? What is best for you?” He searched her face. “But He knows.” He tipped his head to the sky. “He knows what you truly need in your head and your heart, and you might be surprised by His choices.”
She tugged her hand free to cross it in front of her chest. Her expression laced with suspicion, a little humour . . . and maybe the tiniest bit of curiosity. “And I suppose you are what’s best for my head and my heart?”
“Alas, I am not strong enough to get through to your head.” He placed his racquet by the porch steps and shoved his hands in his pockets, the tug to take her in his arms almost overpowering. “But I think I might be getting through to your heart.”
She pinched her palms tighter in a hug and the sardonic smile slid from her lips, though she tried to keep the strength in her stance, the barrier. “Oh really?”
“Yes.” He shrugged, holding her gaze, memorizing her silhouette against the farmhouse with the backdrop of blue sky. “But just like a good kiss, I will wait. I’m very good at waiting.”
If you love historical romance and you haven’t discovered Pepper Basham’s Penned in Time series, you are really missing out. Pick any of the books in this series, open its pages, and you will become immersed in the world and lives of its characters, brought to life through writing brimming with imagery that will capture your senses and grip your emotions.
The series is set during the First World War, but unlike the previous two novels in the series, this one takes place entirely on American soil. Some of the background to Jessica’s story takes place in The Thorn Keeper, but if you haven’t read that I don’t think you will be lost here. That said, Thorn Keeper is probably my favourite of the series (but you need to understand that is a very tough call to make!) so I suggest you read it anyway. 🙂
At the opening of the novel, Jess’s state of mind can be summed up straight from the novel itself: “Even if she was damaged beyond the use of war or the makings of a wife, even if nightmares stole her sleep and fear ripped at her peace of mind, one place always promised a sense of belonging – the Blue Ridge Mountains.” More than losing her peace of mind, though, she is struggling to trust God and to look to Him for peace. She’s afraid to let go of her grief and bitterness, and her need for justice.
Much of her grievance is attributable to the war – and one German in particular – so she’s not impressed when she arrives home and discovers her grandparents have welcomed August Reinhold, one of the displaced Germans currently ‘imprisoned’ at the Mountain Park Hotel, into their lives and her grandfather’s medical practice. Jess’s daddy always said, “It’s hard to put out a spitfire.” But “life had offered August Reinhold many challenges to overcome, and this one provided the most appealing package.”
It is impossible not to fall in love with August. He is swoon-worthy in the best possible way: in his steady, honourable character and his love for Jess. He knows what his heart wants, and what it is up against, but he slowly chips away at Jess’s prejudices against him, proving himself by his actions, one day at a time. There is a particularly beautiful symbolism in the work he does restoring the family chapel and its stained-glass window. And he’s not a bad flirt in his own quiet way, either!
August isn’t the only person God brings into Jess’s life. There’s the young widow, Anna, her daughter, Sylvie, and two other very special children: Jude and Faith. Each of these characters added wonderful depth to the story, and it was lovely to catch up with Dr. David Ross and Catherine Ross from The Thorn Keeper during the story, too.
The beauty of Pepper Basham’s writing is that you really live the transformation with her characters. You feel their struggles, you share those moments when the light breaks through the cracks, and you experience the release when the truth finally breaks through and settles into their soul – even though there are still challenges to be overcome.
You simply cannot read this series without having its characters take up residence in your heart. Do yourself a favour and read the whole series!
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Release date: 6 December 2016
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Author’s website: https://pepperdbasham.com/