"Where Courage Calls"

Her courage and her heart will be tested in ways she never expected...

A companion to Hallmark's When Calls the Heart series, "Where Courage Calls" is a newly published historical fiction novel by bestselling author Janette Oke and her daughter Laurel Oke Logan. {Sneak peak: read an excerpt.}

From the back cover:

Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outings her father's wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. [...T]he conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she'd feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don't even speak English. There isn't even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth's heart is torn between two young men—both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once.

"Where Courage Calls" is a sweet story. I appreciate the central message of hope, because of Christ, shared through dialogue and the actions and rallying together of various characters. It was also personally challenging to read of individuals loving their neighbors in practical ways and really putting their faith into action. For instance, the heroine, Beth Thatcher, is not only committed to helping her students to succeed in school, but also quite the visionary for the spiritual and physical well-being of the various people in her new location; she unhesitatingly responds to the needs that arise, even when it jeopardizes her free time and health. More generally, albeit the writing is just average, the authors have done an adequate job describing the historical time period and, more specifically, the lifestyle and conditions of Coal Valley.

However, "Where Courage Calls" is disappointing in several respects. The biggest frustration is how perfect Beth is, whether immediately "rebuking" herself for mean thoughts or being unrealistically selfless, and how perfect everything else seems, as well, from the twenty-plus students unresistingly submitting to their new teacher from the first day of school to the success of every one of Beth's undertakings. Granted, Beth struggles throughout the story with understanding and relating to her overprotective mother, but to me, this was unconvincing. This leads to the "flat", dull plot virtually without any conflict; though there are sporadic hints at a "mystery", this is vague at best and therefore does not create much interest, even in the last few chapters when the unknowns are finally clarified. On another note, there is really not much interaction between Beth and either of the "two young men" who supposedly both interest her, and lack of story development in this regard not only makes the overall story, and characters, less interesting and somewhat bland, but also creates confusion when, again in the last few chapters, the true feelings are suddenly and almost surprisingly explained.

"Where Courage Calls" is admittedly an enjoyable, easy read. I think it provides good reminders for Christians especially to remember our sure hope and be mindful of how we can help and serve those around us. The book is certainly representative of Janette Oke's idealistic and therefore "heart-warming" inspirational fiction, and that is also where this story falls short, because idealistic characters are difficult to relate to, at best, and comically and frustratingly unrealistic, at worst; on top of that, this story particularly lacks much of a plot to distract from the perfect characters.

Disclaimer: This book was received for free from Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.

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