FTC Disclosure: Revell Reads gave me a complimentary copy of this book. A positive review was not required. These are my honest thoughts.
Penny’s naïveté and passion for romantic love stories made me root for her right away. She was charming and delightful and easy to imagine. The love she had for her dog and for helping her fellow man were further proof that she was the perfect heroine for this tale.
Though the setup was completely different, the way the dog brought people together somehow reminded me of the opening to the animated 101 Dalmatians movie. This story’s usage of a hairy pet was completely unique, yet the tone of the dog’s antics held a little something that was very reminiscent of that fun and entertaining film that I enjoyed many times through my childhood (and adulthood, truth be known).
On the flipside, there were a few inconsistencies and inaccuracies that bothered me a bit. Probably just the editor in me noticing things. One example: A razor wouldn’t be slid “back and forth” on a man’s jaw, at least not to leave “smooth skin” behind. This was a little hard to imagine without flinching in pain at the nicks that apparently didn’t happen when he dragged the blade the wrong way over his skin.
The thing that really irked me was how pushy and aggressive the townspeople were toward both leads at various times throughout the book. One-on-one, they were nice and friendly and welcoming (mostly). But put them in clusters or groups, and they came on awfully strong in a forceful, controlling manner. I could never really tell for sure whether this was simply because of the townsfolk or because of the overall tone slipping into a preachy or dictatorial sort of mode. I can’t really put my finger on it, and it didn’t happen a ton throughout, but it was enough to rub me the wrong way.
This book is not being marketed as a sequel to The Hope of Azure Springs, but it really should be. I felt like I missed a lot and was lost a little in patches since I hadn’t read that other book, because there were a ton of references to Em and Eliza (and a couple of other characters I didn’t jot down names for), who apparently had much bigger roles in “book one” in this “series.” I felt like I should have already known these characters better before jumping into this book, but how was I supposed to know that without its being presented as a series? It does not read like a standalone novel to me because of the feeling that I’d missed several characters’ stories and was missing some key information because of that. It just seemed like so much would have been explained simply by there being a label on the book declaring it a book two. Then, I would at least know to back up and find book one to catch up with Em and Eliza and whoever else I’m forgetting at the moment.
A couple of friends and I were buddy reading our copies of this one, which was great fun! One of them said in our chat, “I kinda almost loved it.” I have to agree. Many aspects of this story—the plot, the lightness to the telling, the dead letter office, Penny and Thomas, the twists and turns—charmed me, and I often found myself smiling or releasing a happy sigh. Yet, other times, I was frustrated and put off by the abrasive pushiness that crept into it somehow. I feel like if that aggressiveness were toned back a lot, that I would have loved this story to pieces and been able to award more than three stars.
Overall, there’s potential here for a completely charming tale of hope and lost letters and redemption. While I haven’t found a new favorite author (that’s often tough for me to do, because my favorites have been claiming those spots for years now), I think Mrs. Fordham will find lots of devoted fans because of this book. I wish her the best in the next step in her writing journey.