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Friday, January 3, 2014

Smitten Book Club by Colleen Coble, Kristen Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter


"Consider that your beau is like a coveted novel whose compelling first lines you’ve just begun to read.” —A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship
At a rummage sale, Heather, a member of the Fireside Book Club, discovers a turn-of-the-century romantic advice book written by a once-famous Smitten, Vermont, resident. When she shares the precious volume with her friends in the club, they find clues about a hidden treasure rumored to be buried in their tiny town.

As Heather, Abby, Lia, and Molly take turns reading the book, each projects onto it her own literary tastes. Heather sees it as a mystery. Abby discovers delicious dashes of Jane Austen. Lia sees in it the idealism of a bygone day. And Molly just wishes they'd made the book into a movie!

One by one, each of the women finds romantic love—often in spite of the historic book’s advice. And in searching for the legendary gold, the friends discover the best kind of treasure. The kind that brings hope and healing to each of their hearts.

Smitten Book Club is the third and final novella collection in the Smitten, Vermont series. For the four best friends who have written all three novella sets, this is the last novel that all four will write together as one of their number, Diann Hunt, passed away from cancer this past November. With this knowledge in mind, I was almost hesitant to begin Smitten Book Club because I did not want the romantic magic of Smitten to end. As I turned the first pages, I was immediately caught up again in the whimsy romance and mystery loving style of Colleen Coble as her character, Heather, found an old romantic advice book called A Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship and the lives of her and her three best friends began to change. Heather also found that her old flame, Paul, was in town to stay, and she began to learn to trust and love again despite his past character flaws and decisions.

The second novella was by Kristen Billerbeck and starred the shy, unadventurous Abby who dressed and lived as if she was an eighty year old librarian instead of a twenty-seven year old one. However, she was in for a rough ride as she discovered her father had left her a mission before she died- to have an adventure. And in the steady hands of Wyatt, Abby soon found that she might actually be more like the main character of Jane Austen's Persuasion than she thought.

The third novella in Smitten Book Club is by Diann Hunt, and this novella was made bittersweet for me as I realized that this was the last new book I would ever read of hers. Diann's main characters, Lia, was a sweet and patient kindergarten teacher who realized that she had a second chance at showing her best friend, Joey, how she really felt about him. However, her way seemed blocked by the senseless tragedy that claimed his wife and traumatized him and his young daughter. However, as Lia and Joey rekindle their old friendship, Joey sees the importance of forgiveness, moving on, and trusting God in the wake of sadness and anger.

The fourth novella is by Denise Hunter and brings to a close the storyline that underlies all four novellas- the mystery of the gold and where it is hidden. The main character in this novella, Molly, is still reeling from the death of her husband and his betrayal of her trust before his death. In addition, the outdoors business that her husband left behind is more than she can handle and is slowly heading towards ruin. When business competitor and next-door neighbor Gage offers to help her out, Molly is instantly suspicious and only grudgingly says yes. However, as they become closer, Molly realizes that she can learn to trust again and to follow her own dreams instead following in the footsteps of her late husband.

Overall, I really enjoyed all four novellas. They were cute, well written, and very sweet. The characters were fairly realistic for the length of the novellas, and I thought all four novellas were woven together very well. I love how the four authors are such dear friends that the reader can feel the true friendship of the characters rise up from the pages. I also loved how past characters from the last two sets of novellas are still present in these books, which makes me feel like I am catching up with old friends. I have enjoyed all three sets of Smitten novellas, and I will treasure this last one all the more because of its dear reminder of what lasting friendship is all about.

I received this novel from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

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