Monday, January 22, 2018

Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden book review


Ashes on the Moor

Ashes on the Moor

by
 
When Evangeline is sent to live in a small mill town in Northern England as a schoolteacher in 1871, she finds herself struggling to fit in with an unfamiliar culture. Raised with the high-class Victorian values and ideals of a sophisticated upbringing, she is unprepared for the poverty she finds in the gritty factory town of Smeatley, where the locals speak with a hard-to-understand Yorkshire accent and struggle to thrive with few resources or opportunities.

Though she has no training as a teacher, she must prove herself successful before her grandfather will release her substantial inheritance to her and allow her to be reunited with her younger sister, the last remaining member of her family after a fever claimed the lives of her parents and brothers.

Evangeline's sudden change in circumstances is complicated when her aunt—a woman who values class distinctions more than her family relationships—forbids her from acknowledging any connection to her or to her grandfather, Mr. Farr—the man who owns nearly the entire town. For the first time in her life, Evangeline is truly alone.

Heartbroken, she turns to the one person in town who has shown her kindness—an Irish brick mason, Dermot, and his son, Ronan. Despite the difference in their classes and backgrounds, Evangeline and Dermot become friends, due in part to her ability to connect with Ronan, whose behavior requires special attention. The boy is uncomfortable around strangers and rarely even speaks to the other children in town. He often fixates on details other people ignore, and he adheres to specific, self-made rules that give his life order and structure; for example, Dermot's coat must be hung on a specific peg next to the door.

Evangeline attempts to prove herself a worthy teacher and earn the respect of her hard-to-understand students. Determined to find a way to introduce them to "proper English" while still honoring their unique language and culture, she enlists the help of a local family to write down familiar stories in the Yorkshire vernacular. Because of her efforts, the students and their families warm to Evangeline and she continues to look for ways to give the children a chance to become more than factory workers in the local cotton mill.

When the town learns of her upper-class status, Evangeline must work twice as hard to win back their trust--especially Dermot's. In the end, Evangeline and Dermot discover that, even though they come from different social spheres, together they can overcome social prejudices, make a positive difference in the lives of even the humblest people, and enjoy the strength that comes when two hearts find each other.

Ashes on the Moor is the inspiring love story of one Victorian woman's courage to fight against all odds, and the man whose quiet strength gives her the confidence to keep trying.





My Review: 9/10
 
This was such an enjoyable read. Definitely one of Ms. Eden's best books.

The beginning started a little slow and I had trouble believing anyone could be so heartless in the immediate wake of so much devastation. And Evangeline's meek responses to her aunt's cruelty was hard for me to understand. Over time, Evangeline grows a backbone and becomes fierce, almost to a fault.

I didn't always agree with her convictions or choices (SPOILER* I agreed with the school inspector that her attitude was a bit of a problem at that point. She could have pled her case privately so that she wasn't directly challenging the way things were run. And I certainly thought there was value in teaching the children how to speak "properly." If they ever wanted to get a job outside of their mill in that small town, they would probably need to be able to communicate with others. She could have taught them primarily in Yorkshire dialect, especially as they were young but also taught language classes so that they would be respected and valuable outside of their little town. She could have compromised). But I did like her character development over the course of the novel.

I liked that there weren't always easy answers and that some characters were not so black and white (the vicar for example). I liked the restoration in some relationships and the lack in others; I found it realistic and relatable. No matter how much you try, some things are just out of our control.

I loved Dermot's character and Ronan as well. (*SPOILER* I assumed Ronan was Autistic. It was an interesting portrayal in that time period). Despite heavy subject matter, there was a lot of humor  shared between the characters throughout the story, which I appreciated.

Though I love stand alone novels and wish that not every story became a trilogy, I'm invested in these characters now and I can't help hoping for a follow up (maybe Susannah? Or Lucy? Or you know what would be really awesome- Berta. I would love to see her get some healing).  I'd highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 5, 2018

All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Historical Proper Romance) by Josi S. Kilpack book review


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All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Historical Proper Romance)

by
 
When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled romance, eventually a family, and continued opportunities to develop as a writer. Her husband Calvin is completely supportive and said she must be a literary woman. Harriet's sister, Catharine, worries she will lose her identity in marriage, but she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. Deeply religious, she strongly believes God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer and will help her accomplish everything she was born to do.

Two months after her wedding Harriet discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Harriet is overwhelmed-being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman's life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Harriet begins to question her place in her husband's heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned.

Struggling to balance the demands of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Harriet works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations.

Can their love endure, especially after "I do"? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?



My Review:  9/10

Like most Americans, I've grown up hearing Harriet Beecher Stowe's name in school. I never read Uncle Tom's Cabin and didn't really know much more than that she wrote it and was therefore a famous female author. So I came into this story with no preconceived notions.

That said, it took a little while for the story to really pull me in. Ms. Kilpack's characters are as relatable as ever. When Hattie and Calvin argued, I could understand the frustration on both sides. I loved that the relationships (marital and familial) were not perfect and had their challenges and sore spots. Loss is a thread sensitively woven throughout the novel.

I really felt like I got an interesting look at life back then, within the home as women's roles were beginning to change: the position of a woman in the family, her role a wife and mother, what was expected of her, etc. Hattie's situation was especially interesting as she had been brought up with money (and servants) and taught to pursue education, and struggled when her marriage was not a lateral move. Hattie was definitely ahead of her time. I found the way she tried to balance the expectations for a wife and her spirit absolutely fascinating.

I loved the role family played all throughout this novel. Remarriages, squabbles over money and promises, providing advice, direction and protection. I loved the way Calvin and Hattie both turned to their parents for support, but ultimately had to find their own way. And despite their imperfect history, in the end, Catharine fiercely protected Hattie.

The themes of prayer, hope and forgiveness were perfect and convicted me personally. My favorite part was a candid conversation between father and daughter, not because it was a perfect response or solution, but I loved that he redirected Hattie back to her husband. A loving parent is perhaps the one person we might expect to be in our corner no matter what. But being in our corner sometimes means speaking truth into our lives rather than platitudes. It ended up being a catalyst that eventually led to reunion and healing.

I should also say that I always appreciate when an author includes notes on fact vs. fiction when they base a novel off of a real person. Ms. Kilpack goes above and beyond here.

I highly recommend this book. There is so much to love here: interesting family dynamics, a realistic love story, relatable characters with strong personalities, humor, personal growth, and a dose of history. Can't wait for more from this author!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Artemis by Andy Weir book review


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Artemis

by
 
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.



My Review: 6/10

Andy weir does an amazing job of bringing these places to life with attention to detail- noting things like the way coffee would taste on the moon due to a lower boiling temperature. I love that about his writing.

And I liked the conversation flashbacks between young Jazz and her pen pal on Earth.

And maybe it’s not fair to compare this book to The Martian (which was phenomenal by the way). But I can’t help it. This book felt lackluster to me in general and even worse by comparison.

I never really connected with Jazz and spent the first half of the book being distracted by her characterization; she -sounded- like she was written by a man. I couldn’t help feeling frustrated that now that the narration was from a woman’s perspective (as opposed to Mark Watney in The Martian), there is regular mention of sex (like asking Jazz to test out a non-disposable condom as “payment.” Not kidding). The contrast of narratives was stark to put it mildly.


**SPOILER ALERT** Then the action picked up... but the plot didn’t sit solidly with me. A million slugs is only about $166,000. Which is still a lot of money but certainly not enough to make her set for life or risk getting sent back to Earth. There seemed like quite a few plot holes and the other characters/relationships felt one dimensional.
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1) by Regina Jennings book review


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Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1)

by
 
When dance hall singer Louisa Bell visits Fort Reno to see her brother, she is mistaken for the governess that the harried Major Daniel Adams is waiting for. Between his rowdy troops and his two daughters, he has more responsibility than he can handle alone. Eager for the opportunity, Louisa sets out to show the widower that she is a perfect fit.
  


My Review: 8/10
No one can make me laugh out loud like Regina Jennings. I particularly can't wait to read Bradley story because he's hilarious and charming and so real.

But I digress. This was a light, fun read with very unique characters, as always. I think I would've loved it even more if there were deeper character flaws. Maybe something like Hosea's story? I liked that Louisa had her standards and wasn't willing to sacrifice them. But I found myself thinking that I also would have liked to read a story about one who didn't. One who didn't make it out unscathed, made mistakes, had regrets and took the first lifeline that was tossed to her. How that would have changed the story. If anyone could blend humor with the sometimes painfully-honest it would be Ms. Jennings (years later, Love in the Balance is still having an effect on me).

This book is easy to love and I look forward to the others in the series.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2) by Julie Klassen book review


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The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill #2)

by

Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel's friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls' school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what--or who--has captured each man's attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return--but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?



 
My Review: 6.5/10
I didn't think this book was as strong as the previous one. Right off the bat, several love interests are struck out, which I had thought was a strong point of the first book- that no characters were obvious choices- life doesn't usually work that way; while hindsight may make things seem obvious, in the moment... not so much. Some of the "twists" were not surprising, but rather the character seemed to be blind and/or exceptionally unobservant.

Rachel's tale was the focus and I did like her story in general. The focus on friendship is still there and I liked the way that the women support each other. I thought her struggle with accepting help was well done.

The biggest issue for me was all of the references to Jane Austen. I'm a huge fan as well but it was just too much. There were many lines taken directly out of her novels. Several scenes bore a very strong resemblance to those in her works and some of the characters (Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins,  Elizabeth, and Mr. Darcy etc) seem to make an appearance via some established characters. It was  jarring and took me out of the flow of the story every. single. time. And it wasn't necessary. The best parts of the story were those that felt 100% original (read: not influenced or inspired by Jane Austen's work) and I think the novel would have been a lot stronger on its own.

The storyline that I found most intriguing was Mercy's and that one was not resolved, so I will have to read the last installment and hope that this book was touched by middle book syndrome.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House #4) by Kristi Ann Hunter book review

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An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House #4)

by
 
The Duke of Riverton has chosen his future wife with the same logic he uses to make every decision. However, his perfect bride eludes his suit, while the beautiful Isabella Berkeley seems to be everywhere. When the time comes, will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and initial notions to embrace their very own happily-ever-after?
 
 
 
 

My Review: 8/10

I enjoyed this book. It was not my favorite in the series, but I still found myself frequently chuckling or smiling stupidly as I read. I don't think fans of of this series will be disappointed with the conclusion.

*SPOILERS*

For me, the most important aspect is characters. And there was a lot to love. I liked that the Uncle was not a one dimensional character. He had real problems that caused him to harden and obsess. I liked that Isabella owned up to her responsibility for the mess. I liked the sister-like relationship that she and Freddie shared. I liked the frequent return of characters from the other novels. I loved the way the family worked, like a small, protective army. The idea of those sisters (and sisters-in-law) meeting weekly with their mother for tea and quality time together... it's a small thing, but it points to something larger and something that has always been noticably missing from my life and desperately wanted. Those scenes touched me in a bittersweet way. And I loved the way the family converged in a crisis.

The only thing I didn't really like was the drunken scene between Isabella and Griffith. For some reason, I just didn't buy him being on the roof thatching to begin with (wouldn't he just hire someone?) nor Isabella leaving her cousin unchaperoned in the woods (uh what? People have let their feelings run away with them for a whole lot less. And the last thing her cousin needed was to find herself pregnant with the father killed in battle. She could have chaperoned them discreetly from a significant distant. Poor judgment here). But the drunkenness I just couldn't relate to. I have been drunk before and while I know my experience is not universal, it just seemed overdone. A lack of inhibition, yes. Loose lips, yes. But it just seemed immediate and way too much.

Though I thought the way Griffith kept speaking his thoughts was very funny and well done.

On a similar vein, alcohol has never made me do something I didn't already want to do, nor made me not be able to recognize someone, so I just had a little trouble really buying the opening scene with the boys and the bat guano.


I'm sad that a series whose characters I was so invested in has come to an end. But with each ending comes a new beginning and I am excited for whatever comes next from this author.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer book review

The Chemist

The Chemist

 
In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn't even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They've killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it's her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.



 My Review: 6/10

This was a page turner from beginning to end. Sometimes because the story was SO good. And other times because the romance was so nauseating you just wanted to get past it as soon as possible.

I love a good love story. And I find it trite and unbelievable when the attraction is constantly denied in order to move the story along until the end when they ultimately come together. So you'd think I'd appreciate that the romance was there right away and as consistently present as the rest of the plot. However, this was unbelieveable in different ways: love at first sight, despite every natural human survival instinct that would urge a person to run, if not be filled with a healthy dose of fear, suspicion, and mistrust.

Nope.

The story itself was good. It seemed solid, well-researched and intelligent. But Stephenie Meyer clearly has a "type." An intelligent, apologetically dangerous person who is really good (Edward, Ian, "Alex") paired with a pure, innocent person who is in mortal peril by direct association, frequently at the hands of the former themselves (Bella, Wanderer, Daniel). The characters are always perched precariously on the precipice of an extreme life/death scenerio. And there is usually a cobbled-together, makeshift family of unique talents (did anyone else see a strong similarity between Emmett vs. Kevin and Valentine vs. Rosalie? How could you not). This book even had a "pack," some of whose members were featured prominently as main characters.

This story would have been outstanding if a few things were different. If the romantic depth wasn't limited to a gradeschool interaction of making out and giggling. Actually, if there was just less romance in general. And if there was any story where it would have made sense for the characters to have to overcome some serious issues that would, understandably, take the entire length of the novel and not be resolved until the end, this would be the one. The insta-love never made less sense; at least Edward was supernatural and gifted with an ability to literally draw prey in. And if the characters/relationships didn't seem to similar to those in her previous novels. Still good, interesting, but felt recycled.

Oh and the opposite twin thing. It was a dead giveaway to what was going to happen as soon as it was mentioned.

I wonder what it would be like if Ms. Meyer wrote a novel with zero romance. I think she has great potential.



View all my reviews

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3) by Connilyn Cossette book review

Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)

 Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)

by
 
Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?





My Review: 7.5/10

 I really enjoyed this book.

The character's and their unfamiliar names were a little difficult to keep track of, and their seemed to be some existing stories that, being new to this series, I couldn't fully appreciate. But this novel stood alone well enough.

Exodus really came to life for me in the pages of this novel. I appreciated how difficult subjects were dealt with (like God's seemingly harsh rebukes, and why the Canaanites were marked for destruction, etc).

The only thing I didn't really like was the connection to Rahab. While the connection was not impossible, I love that piece of the Bible as it is. I love the way Rahab seemed like one grain of sand lost in an ocean of people, who did not know God, whose life would not recommend her as worthy or set apart. But God always knew her and loved her and sent a rescue mission in to save her. It also always gave me a tiny bit of hope in a situation that's hard to understand: the concept that an entire city full of people would be so far gone that they were condemned to destruction, that there would be nothing worth saving in them. That's hard to swallow. But plucking Rahab out in the midst of complete devastation sent a message to me that if anything, if anyone, was salvagable, they would not be overlooked or forgotten. God would deliver them no matter what. I liked that there was no other reason or connection that we know of, that Rahab had no other motivation than faith.

And I think that this story would have been stronger without that tie.

I look forward to reading the previous books in this series, as well as future books by this author.

Monday, June 5, 2017

With You Always (Orphan Train #1) by Jody Hedlund book review


With You Always (Orphan Train, #1)

With You Always (Orphan Train #1)

by
 
A Riveting Look at the Orphan Train from Historical Novelist Jody Hedlund

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.



My Review: 6/10

It's been awhile since my feelings have been so mixed over a story.

Elise was annoying with her superior self-righteous attitude... and yet I liked that. I liked that she wasn't presented as perfect or right.

I liked that Fanny, who was immediately set up as Archnemsis, was not one dimensional and that there was resolution with her. Honestly, I would have been more interested in and moved by her story.

I liked the way faith was woven into the story.

I loved the advice to work among the people and how that changed and improved the plans.

And though I felt like some major threads were left loose and hanging, I felt like it added strength to the story and message of relying on God. And on futher thought, those are probably wrapped up in books 2 and 3.

While there was a lot to interest and enjoy, it seemed like there were equal things to detract from the story.

*SPOILERS*

My biggest issue was with the train ride romance. Though little came of it, I thought Elise was beyond stupid to have dallied with a man at all. Her only remaining family was left in a very unstable situation in a dangerous area and facing starvation and violence. Elise's position with the Children's Aid Society was their only hope at this point, and she's going to risk her reputation (the only thing that got her this job) to wander off on multiple rendez-vous with a man she barely knows?! 99 to one, a strange man luring her off to hidden places would have attempted to seduce her at the very least, if not harm her or force himself upon her. I didn't find these instances charming or romantic, but dangerously naive fantasies.

I was annoyed by the way they both tried to deny their attraction and pass it off as friendship. In what world would anyone sincerely interpret things that way?

I didn't think Elise's sacrificial choice at the end was realistic or relatable. I think any normal woman would have done the opposite- would have desperately wanted to marry the super wealthy "land developer" which would provide immediate rescue to the people she loves most in the world. The sacrifice to potentially not get to work as a cook or live where she wanted would have seemed a better trade off for safety and provision for her family, not to mention being with the man she loved.

I wish Reinhold had been left out of the story entirely. I felt bad for him being used and thought his conceding defeat and wishing them the best was unnatural. I have never known anyone who, in the midst of rejection, loss, jealousy, hurt and broken plans, calmly states that they know the couple was right for each other, but just didn't want to face it, and then goes on to help them be together. That kind of acceptance usually happens after some time to process and move on.

Was I the only one who felt bad for Rosalind? This girl was all but engaged, planning their December wedding while her beau is playing with fire, constantly putting himself in the path of temptation, pursuing, flirting, and kissing another woman. She was betrayed and publicly humiliated. The only good thing I can say about the situation was that thankfully this girl was not portrayed as having any major character defects, as if that would justify their actions.

While I am invested enough in the supporting character to want to read the following books and get the full resolution, I would be careful who I recommend this book to- adults who are not likely to mistake wreckless liasons and infedility as romance, but will appreciate other aspects of the story.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2) by Karen Witemeyer book review


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Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station #2)

by
 
Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can't let the villain she believes responsible for her father's death release his wrath in Harper's Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she's ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship--dare he believe, courtship?--has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.






My Review: 5/10

I found this to be a fairy enjoyable, light read, which was appreciated to break up some of the heavier stuff I was reading.

I liked that Amos' character was the not the typical hero in build or demeanor, that he was insecure about it and that Grace acknowledged these things and wasn't instantly set on him (though it did happen pretty quickly). Their method of communicating was unique and very sweet.

I liked Helen's side story and thought her match was fitting. However, I didn't find the insta-love/protection/physicality etc at all believable for a woman of her background.

The lower rating has more to do with the suspension of belief I had to employ to be able to get into the story.

*SPOILERS*

For me, it was simple. Grace had two options. Take the books directly to Whitmore or go into hiding.  I didn't really understand why she seemed to choose the latter option, since she would never be safe until the target (documents) was removed from her back. Who wants to live like that? But she fled, ending up in a females colony.

The story picks up with her a few months later where she has done absolutely nothing to hide her identity: she has altered her appearance in no way, has not changed her name or even her occupation. She made it incredibly easy to trace her. But if that weren't enough, she left her location with a friend before she left, giving explicit instructions to give up her whereabouts if anyone was threatened. What?! Your last remaining family member was gunned down in cold blood. You don't give anyone else information that would PUT them in danger. And why would you need to? It's not like you'll be keeping penpals while on the run. The whole premise made no sense to me.

Then she starts a friendship/romance with a man she's never seen over the telegram wire. Wreckless. Dangerous.

Then when the Pinkerton agent shows up in town, everyone accepts him and walks on eggshells around him. Amos' arrival was suspicious and required lockup until his story and intent could be verified and voted on. Dunbar shows up the next day or so and the reaction is completely different. Despite the fact that he could be a crooked agent. What? Lock him up until you can verify his identity AND intent, just like Amos! After a day or two, they could have definitely found cause for suspicion to keep him locked up. And Grace could have fled again. But then I guess we wouldn't have a story.

And why didn't Helen question Lee as soon as he was lucid? Full name (nicknames from friends don't count)? Occupation? Who sent you? Who shot you? We have a murderer on his way to town, stop flirting and get answers! 

For me, the tenor of the story that should have been present under the circumstances (deep loss and grief, fear, and danger) did not fit at all with the casual, lighthearted actions (cycling lessons, strolling about town with a beau, etc).