A couple of months ago I entered a GoodReads first reads giveaway and won a copy of Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan's new book Where Courage Calls. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on it.
Janette Oke, is a Canadian author whose work can be classified in many genres: Christian fiction, historical romance and western. She has written several books with strong Christian female leads. Her best known series is the Love Comes Softly series, which has been made into a movie series by Michael Landon Jr. The first movie is the most well known, starring Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff.
(extra trivia: Michael Landon Jr. is the son of Michael Landon, director, producer and actor [Charles Ingalls] in the Little House on the Prairie series of the 70s-80s).
In 1983, Oke wrote the first book in the Canadian West series–When Calls the Heart. The series then went on to have six sequels, the latest being Where Courage Calls, released this spring. The books cover the life of Elizabeth as she leaves her life of comfort as a daughter of wealthy parents on the Canadian East Coast to the western praries where she becomes a school teacher, and, of course, meets a dashing Royal Canadian Mounty Police (RCMP) officer.
The latest sequel, When Courage Calls, was coauthored with her daughter Laurel and follows the same basic plot. This time, however, the book follows Elizabeth's niece, Beth Thatcher. At first glance, the book seems to be a recycled version of When Calls the Heart. I like to recycle creative material, however, and appreciate how the authors were capable of transforming a very similar storyline into a very different story that can stand on its own.
Beth leaves the comfort of her East Coast upbringing with a one year posting as a teacher in Coal Valley, a small mining town nestled deep in the forest of Canada's western foothills. After a start sprinkled with mishaps including getting caught in a downpour, almost losing a train, an awkward meet up with a childhood nemesis, and stolen luggage, Beth arrives in Coal Valley and finds it in rather startling conditions.
Most of the miners were killed in a tragic accident at the mine, leaving their widows and children with little or nothing on which to survive. The mothers are adamant, however, that their children get a good education as this may be their only hope to escape working the mines for the rest of their lives. Beth is eager to teach them, even if her conditions are worse than expected.
Throughout the book there is an abundance of new characters, adventures and, to be honest, unexpected insight. What makes Oke so different from other authors who write similar books, is the way she winds wisdom in her stories, as well as advice. Quite a few times reading I was struck with the calm wisdom of surprising characters such as Julie, Beth's little sister. Oftentimes I found that things said between characters could be taken and applied into my reality–something I was not expecting from a book in this genre.
Historical Christian romances are my guilty pleasures, and usually they offer nothing but a satisfying story–girl meets boy and onward to a happily ever after. Where Courage Calls, however, has less than a chapter combined dedicated to Beth and her RCMP officer. In fact, the romance storyline is kept in the background very much secondary to Beth's work in the school house, as well as in her new community where she works to bring harmony between the town settlers and the new batch of foreign miners. Surprisingly, the story is still very satisfying. Perhaps the greatest factor to contribute to the book's success is that it portrays Beth as a strong woman without tediously stating the fact.
This past January, Hallmark released a new series based on Where Courage Calls. The series is, again, produced and directed by Michael Landon Jr., and bears the name of the first book in the Canadian West series–When Calls the Heart. While it, of course, differs in parts from the book, the series has been greeted with success. Fans, known as Hearties, are excited about this new family friendly show, which has just finished its first season this March, and has been picked up for a second season. While I usually don't approve of variation from the book, I honestly am glad Daniel Lissing was not made to grow a "closely trimmed horse-shoe mustache" like the one his book counterpart had.
I suppose my review may be summed up in the cliché which really does say it best, "I couldn't put this book down." Thankfully my summer vacation has arrived and I was content to read the whole book in one sitting. Thank you so much Goodreads and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this wonderful new work by Mrs. Oke. I am honored and grateful.
You can purchase a copy of Where Courage Calls or other Janette Oke books on Amazon.
Have you read any Janette Oke books? Do you have a favorite or recommendations of other books in the same genre?