[Note: Not only am I an author, I am also an avid reader. It is my hope to offer periodic book reviews to give you a glimpse at my bookshelf, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a good book. Most of what I read is from a Christian worldview, although I do read some secular books from time to time.]
Courting Miss Amsel
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Published 2011 by Bethany House Publishers
Courting Miss Amsel is another of my Ollie’s bargain books. I didn’t know until I had finished the book and was preparing to write my review that it is Book 6 in the Heart of the Prairie series. Obviously it makes no difference, this is a stand-alone story and I had no idea the book itself was part of a series until I looked it up on Amazon.
Courting Miss Amsel is set in rural Nebraska in the early 1880’s. It is the story of Edythe Amsel, a school teacher who has been hired to teach in the tiny town of Walnut Hill. Edythe’s mother had died when Edythe was fairly young and her father suffered from “melancholy” – leaving Edythe to care for and raise her younger siblings. At 28 years old, Edythe has had enough of being responsible for her family and, disobeying her father’s orders, she leaves her younger sister Missy behind and strikes out on her own. She is looking forward to finally being free and independent.
On her first day of teaching, Edythe meets Johnny and Robert Townsend, two adorable little boys who’s parents were killed and are now being raised by their Uncle Joel. Edythe is soon smitten by the boys, and quickly finds herself attracted to their guardian, as well. Struggling to run a farm and raise two young boys on his own, Joel Townsend needs a wife – and a mother for the boys. He thinks Miss Amsel will do perfectly. But when he declares his intentions, Joel is shocked by Edythe’s response.
After so many years of being responsible for her siblings, Edythe has no intention of raising someone else’s children. As much as she cares about Johnny and Robert, she does not want to marry and become their mother. This leaves Joel looking elsewhere and soon he is courting someone else in town, someone he has no feelings for at all.
During this time, Missy shows up, having walked all the way from Omaha. At first, Missy is a real brat and not a character I cared for at all, but eventually the author redeems the girl in the eyes of the reader.
Overall, I enjoyed Courting Miss Amsel. It was an “easy read” – a light prairie romance. If I had one complaint it is that the book is very light on the romance. There really isn’t much at all. The interaction between Edythe and Joel is pretty scant throughout the story, leaving me to wonder just how they fell so deeply in love. It seemed it was mostly physical attraction, as they had very little personal interaction with one another and never did “court”.
Some of the plot was typical. A troublemaking student who’s parents refuse to be involved, expecting the teacher to handle school situations. Townspeople who don’t approve of the new schoolmarm’s outlandish teaching methods, even though the students are flourishing. Some of the situations were very similar to other prairie schoolmarm stories I’ve read in the past. But I did admire Edythe as a teacher and she comes across as a very genuine character.
This is a faith-based novel and the story line includes Edythe’s struggle to find faith and to learn to rely on God instead of herself. Edythe’s lack of true faith at the beginning is also one reason Joel could not court her. During the climax of the story, Edythe finally learns to trust the Lord instead of her own strength.
I could relate to Edythe at the end of the book, when she finally loses her temper and makes a choice that seemed right at the time but one which sets off a series of unexpected and unfortunate events, leaving her regretting her rash words. (Oh yes, I definitely related to that!!) And also to Joel, who realizes that he ignored God’s warning to “wait” when he went searching for a wife and began courting a woman not meant for him. He realizes he “got ahead” of the Lord, and that is another thing I could really relate to.
I have read other books by Kim Vogel Sawyer and her writing style is quite pleasant. She describes things in a way that the reader is truly transplanted to the place they are reading about. Courting Miss Amsel is an enjoyable, light read. If you are looking for a take-to-the-beach, easy prairie romance, this book could be for you. (It is currently only $3.99 on Kindle.)