These Healing Hills – Ann H. Gabhart – Revell – Published 5 September 2017
Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII’s end writes to tell her he’s in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.
Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.
When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.
These Healing Hills is a delightful historical romance novel. The descriptive writing firmly places the reader in the gorgeous scenery and amongst the friendly people of the Appalachian Mountains. It was wonderful to sink into this story and journey with Fran and Ben as they overcome the obstacles before them, each find a place to call home, and find peace.
Francine Howard didn’t start her life looking for adventure, but when her fiancé writes home from the war to tell her he has found someone else, she knows home in Cincinnati is no longer where she wants to stay. Instead, she takes up the offer to travel to the Appalachian Mountains and put her training as a nurse to use as one of the Frontier Nurses. It is a vast change in culture, but Fran soon feels at home there. Ben Locke has spent many years away at war and wants nothing more than to return to his home in the mountains. He isn’t sure what his future holds, but the kind nurse with the amazing smile draws him like no one has before.
This book is set just as World War Two is coming to an end. However, at times it feels like it could be set in an earlier era, as the people in the mountain eek out an honest and simple living and the women of the Frontier Nursing Service ride horses across the rugged lands to offer what medical help they can. So the mentions of buses and cars, and women wearing pants sometimes came as a bit of a shock and reminder of the true setting of this story.
The setting was almost a third main character in this book. The mountains truly came to life on the pages. These Healing Hills is beautifully written. It was a long story. While there is no shortage of exciting happenings, from snow storms, babies needing catching and shootings, this book had a beautiful, slow cadence to it that made sinking into its pages a delight. I took the time to savour every moment. However, the ending was way too sudden for me. I was left desperately flicking for pages I might have missed, another chapter, a long epilogue, anything! I thought there was more to learn, endings to be neatly tied in a bow, but maybe that’s because I wanted the book to go on forever. I would be content, however, with a sequel or a companion novel… Here’s hoping.
The slow sweet burn of the romance in this novel was oh so delightful. Little moments, shared laughter, simple things that brought Ben and Fran together, while they doubt and wrestle with their feelings. It made the ending all the better (if still too short!).
I was totally surprised by just how much I enjoyed this wonderful book. I eagerly look forward to discovering what else this talented author will produce. These Healing Hills is highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical novels with strong characters, detailed and descriptive writing that flows beautifully, a touch of adventure and heartwarming romance.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Christian Historical.
Themes: Family, war, World War Two, Appalachian Mountains, nursing, midwifery, romance.
Published: 5 September 2017 by Revell.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 368 pages.
ISBN: 9780800723637, 0800723635