The engaging village of Candlewood in 1840s New York provides a glimpse into the past that will inspire and uplift today's readers. Fifty-one-year-old Emma Garrett runs Hill House, a boardinghouse on a hill at the edge of town. Emma ministers to her guests, both the transient and those who call Hill House home. Gifted with an uncanny ability to see the unique strengths of her guests, Emma serves and challenges them with homespun wisdom and absolute faith in God. When eighty-year-old Widow Leonard shows up at Hill House to escape a heated land dispute between her two sons, Emma welcomes her and tries to help her heal the family feud. But tragedy soon hits closer to home when Emma's very ownership of Hill House is called into question!
DELIA PARR is the author of nine historical novels and the winner of several awards, including the Laurel Wreath Award for Historical Romance and the Aspen Gold Award for Best Inspirational Book. The mother of three grown children, she is a full-time high school teacher who spends her summer vacations writing and kayaking. She lives in Collingswood, New Jersey.
A Hearth in Candlewood is a historical novel by Delia Parr. The elderly Widow Leonard suddenly arrives late one rainy night at Hill House because she cant stand her sons arguing any longer, leading Emma Garrett to become involved in the Leonard family squabble and adding to Emmas already full life.
There are many subplots started here, as this is the first book of an intended trilogy. Emma owns some land that is insistently sought by a developer. A great many people work or stay at Emmas boarding house, called Hill House. The towns continuing development and the future possibility of a railroad play a major role and, obviously, will continue to do so throughout the series. What appears to be the main plot of the trilogy as a whole is the ownership of Hill House. Emma had bought it against the advice of her lawyer, ignoring the fact that the title was not clear. There is also the promise of a developing romance between Emma and Zachary Brekenwith, her lawyer.
Unfortunately, this book has several elements that may put some people off. There are several times when characters lie and deceive, and the climax of the book is achieved by most of the cast participating in an elaborate deception. There is also an incident that starts with a workman going to the bathroom in public. The book approves of spouses keeping their financial assets separate as well.
The historical accuracy of the book is also shaky. There are two female characters who dress in mens clothing, and they are looked on as only a tad strange, rather than being arrested and morally condemned. Emma expresses her amazement at someone rearing eight children, a quite normal number of offspring in the days before modern medicine virtually assured the survival of all babies to adulthood.
Another troublesome historical inaccuracy is related to the New England silk industry. Mr. Langhorne, the key antagonist, wants to purchase land from several characters to speculate in this industry. The winter of 1839-1840 had dealt an ultimately fatal blow to the silk industry, and the book starts in September of 1841 making this scenario feel poorly researched.
The setting on the canals of New York State may appeal to some, as may the many strong female characters. Those who have enjoyed Parrs earlier books may also be interested. However, the almost feminist views espoused at some points and the lack of a genuine historical feel will cause readers to suspend belief in order to enjoy. Sarah J. Deal, Christian Book Previews.com
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