Small Town Girl by Ann Gabhart

July 9, 2013 10 Comments

Small Town Girl by Ann Gabhart

July 9, 2013 10 Comments
About the Book:
Author: Ann Gabhart
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: 2013
Genre: Fiction; Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5

Living up to its name in the best possible way, who’d have thought that a reader
could be so charmed by a story that took place on the eve of a historical catastrophe, World War II? This
book invests its readers, inviting us into a small-town Kentucky and leading its reader into a deep understanding and pull to care about what goes on in the lives of Kate Merritt and her family along
with newcomer Jay Tanner – who, I don’t mind saying, completely won me over as
an all-American “good guy” hero. Telling the “grown-up” story of Kate who I
understand played an important role in Ann’s prior novel, Angel Sister, this book may not be branded a “sequel,” but it is a
kind of follow-up. While I didn’t become wrapped up in this story immediately
(more later on for the reason why), there was something in the writing that
beckons us to look beyond the surface, to continue with its rich story
and discover the story of Kate’s life – and subsequently what would come
between her and Jay.  Ann Gabhart crafted
a unique, sweet romance between the small-town girl and the would-be bad boy.
There are several “cute” flirtatious moments between them and those moments were too few – whether Jay was learning what it meant to be a part of a
family or the comical “tease” between he and Kate over the suggestion they’d elope, the book
sparkled with personality even set against a turbulent time of war and
oppressive sorrow. 

Before the last page is closed, readers
come to appreciate this novel as so much more than a “romance.” It has a deep
heart. Emotional issues like alcoholism are confronted or rather the aftermath
of that is more prominent – it’s purpose being to demonstrate the sacrifice
certain characters made when loving someone so deeply, and also the consuming
freedom forgiveness can set free inside a person. Ann does a beautiful job of
representing “real” issues families can face and the path (choices) they make
to overcome them in a productive way with God at the center of those familial
relationships. Kate and her father share rare time alone but I found their one
prominent scene together affecting and very indicative of their past – even to
a reader who had not “known” them back then.              

The opening of the novel seemed to
drag on too long to compel a reader to keep going. What could have been
capsulated in a shorter space seemed to clog up the story. It was accepted
because what those first 75 plus pages do (which is incidentally the length of
the first eight chapters and also the same event being chronicled) is cement
the beginning of Jay and Kate’s relationship while also providing us with
background on Kate’s once upon a time infatuation with Mike.

There are some cliché moments that lead
to awkward misunderstandings, which I know some potential readers will be
bothered by. However, I did feel as if most of these were warranted and
“acceptable” in their presentation. 

In its simplest form, this book is darling, and being dubbed as such is a compliment of the highest regard. Small Town Girl is a lovely
story of family, faith and forgiveness. Since reviews are merely a reflection
of the reader, I will also briefly share that anyone who doesn’t enjoy
courtships that seem “rushed” or underdeveloped between couples may not find this relationship “genuine.” I didn’t and appreciated
also the circumstances involved in their romance. The narrative opens up old
wounds, and bonds new relationships. The ending is unusually bittersweet but
any other wouldn’t have had the same emotional punch – nor been nearly as

There’s a touch of fairytale to the story as is and it yields some
nice, albeit emotional results that all cumulated in a beautiful piece of
historical fiction – history that is expertly woven into each thread. It was one novel I almost passed up, but am delighted to
have uncovered as page after page, I was continually impressed and enjoyed Kate
and Jay as people – both as individuals and as a couple.

In the autumn of 1941,
rumors of war whisper through Rosey Corner. The town practically vibrates in
anticipation, as if it is holding its breath. But for Kate Merritt, it seems
life is letting out a prolonged sigh. As Kate watches her sister marry the man
Kate has loved since she was fifteen, her heart is silently breaking. And even
the attentions of Jay Tanner, the handsome best man, can’t draw her interest.

Then suddenly, Pearl Harbor changes everything. Kate’s friends are rushing to
get married before the boys go off to war. The newspapers talk of women making
airplanes and bombs. Everyone in town begins rolling bandages, planting victory
gardens, collecting scrap metal. Kate finds herself drawn to Jay in surprising
ways, and when he enlists she can hardly breathe worrying about him getting
killed. Could she truly be in love with him? And if she is, will she ever see
him again? – Goodreads

With thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary
copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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  • Kara July 9, 2013 at 5:17 am

    You've done nothing but convince me I'd still really like to read this one! :) Sounds like a pretty sweet story. And thank you for the warning about the slow beginning. I'll keep that in mind, in case I don't want to keep going when I finally get my chance to read it. :)

    • Rissi July 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Like we've talked about time and again, Kara fellow readers may not think the start slow, but I felt it could have been shortened a bit; that first section (8 chapters in) is entirely all about the same event and it was time to move on.

      Otherwise… it was a VERY sweet story. It was a surprise how much I enjoyed the story and that was nice. Let me know if/when you read it! As usual, I'd like to get your take on it. :)

  • Evelyn July 9, 2013 at 5:18 am

    It actually sounds like a really sweet book! Though i try to avoid romance, I like the sounds of this one. =) Especially the sentence: '…come to appreciate this novel as so much more than a “romance.”' If I read a romance, I want it to be much more than a romance. =) So maybe someday I'll give this one a try.

    • Rissi July 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      It was, Evelyn! The nicest thing about it was that there were some great familial moments woven into the "fabric" of the book so that, while Jay and Kate's relationship was probably the "main" focus, there are other equally important themes.

      If you ever read it, I wish you happy reading! :)

  • Juju at Tales of July 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Great review. I read another review that mentioned that slow beginning as well.

    • Rissi July 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Nice to hear I wasn't the only reader who thought that, Juju – sometimes I wonder at the elements I think are there. ;)

      Thanks for reading!

  • Gwendolyn Gage July 9, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I love that this is staged in small-town Kentucky! A great review, as always. I'm a little hesitant toward a bittersweet ending, but I'm intrigued that had it ended any other way, it wouldn't have made such an impact. Hmmm, I may have to read this one! :-)

    • Rissi July 10, 2013 at 4:04 am

      Any book that takes place in a good setting is more interesting – glad this staging intrigues you, Gwendolyn. :)

      As an ending, this one is good. I liked how it was handled since normally they are wrapped in happiness. Small Town Girl is also BUT there is a minor "darker" implication to it also because of its historical background. That being said, any other conclusion would have been way too "coincidental" and unrealistic. Glad Ann ended how and when she did. :)

      Let me know what you think if/when you read it.

  • Rosie Wilson July 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Great review!

    I agree, the book had a more "follow" up feel to it rather than a sequel. And, while I haven't read Angel Sister, that didn't detract from the story at all. :) I can't get enough of the small town setting. :D

    • Rissi July 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      I've not read Angel Sister either, Rosie, however given the background Ann gave of that story while re-capping its past in Small Town Girl, I felt like this could be a "stand alone" or "catch up" title more than a sequel, proper. It was a beautiful story, that is FOR SURE. :)

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