Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of  and have been enthused to start reviewing for them, as I picked a small selection of stories I felt I would enjoy reading; three of which were from FaithWords.
I have been wanting to read the stories of Stephanie Grace Whitson for awhile, and felt this was a good author to start with as I become familiar with INSPY by FaithWords. Being an avid reader of Historical Fiction (including within the INSPY fiction market) I was delighted she focuses on this genre to tell her stories! I received a complimentary copy of “A Captain for Laura Rose” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On my passion for INSPY Fiction & Historical dramas:
Ever since I first picked up a copy of Frontier Lady by Judith Pella, I have been truly inspired by historicals written by INSPY authors! Little did I realise this story would spin itself into a trilogy, as I do have a copy of Stoner’s Crossing but not of the final story Warrior’s Song. I have only read Frontier Lady as a result and looking back, this is a prime example of my beginning roots as a ‘book blogger’ as I remember gushing about this book to such a level of joy, my family told me my ‘memories’ of the story felt as if they had actually sat down to read the story for themselves! Even then, as a young girl I was finding my voice to talk about stories and how those stories gave me such visual joy in reading them!
INSPY fiction has been in my life for such a long time, it’s hard to think back on a moment I was not reading it, as I have previously disclosed my joy in finding the Cooper Kids Adventure series, inasmuch as the fact I have roamed through INSPY and Mainstream markets since I became an avid reader somewhere in my youth – between the angst of learning to read (as a dyslexic reader) and finding my niches along the way by the time I hit Fourth Grade when my teacher refused to believe I couldn’t find enjoyment out of the written word. Mum and Da encouraged me to read whatever interested me, whilst encouraging my Indie spirit to seek out book shoppes that were not major chains… this helped twofold, as Indies were more lax about children in their stores who were seeking a ‘next read’ but needed time to sort that out and they had a larger inventory of books in which to seek! I also had a healthy curiosity of the fiction I’d find at a local Christian Book Store – where I’d spend hours looking through the adult fiction sections before I stumbled across the Mandie series and Cooper Kids Adventures. From there, I jumped straight into adult INSPY fiction as I found the Children’s Lit sections a bit too limiting – hence Judith Pella! The collective works of Dee Henderson soon followed suit, by the by!
I hadn’t realised it until I became a book blogger three years ago, I have the tendency to soak inside the historical past moreso than the Contemporary offerings throughout the fiction realms! Should have noted this I suppose along the way, but I read so very diversely across genres, it’s hard to pin-point me down to any particular ‘genre’ or style of literature at any given moment! Laughs. If you’ve visited my Story Vault by Genre you’d understand immediately! However, for a bit of a short history about my appreciation for INSPY Fiction, look towards my 70 Authors Challenge which this year I am making enroads towards whittling down a bit to where more entries are listed!
When it comes to the works by Ms Whitson, I felt like she was approaching the historical dramas with story-lines that not only appealed to my historical passion of interests, but with a touch of what I seek when I look towards INSPY writers who are crafting historical stories! Since I’ve become a book blogger, you might have seen my enthused joy in reading historicals by Susan Meissner (time slip historical – A Fall of Marigolds); Carolyn Steele (Willow Springs & Soda Springs) and Carla Kelly (Softly Falling & Summer Campaign). It has been an honour of mine to pick up the search for inspiring historical novelists since I first discovered Judith Pella and Lois Gladys Leppard (Mandie series) – I had a sense Ms Whitson might become the next author I add to my ‘short list’ of personal favourites; hence why I was wicked happy FaithWords gave me the pleasure of selecting two of her novels to begin reading as I become a reviewer of theirs and join their blogger team!
Laura Rose White's late father taught her everything he knew about piloting a Missouri River steamboat. He even named their boat after her. Despite that, it seems that Laura will forever be a "cub pilot" to her brother Joe, because in 1867, a female riverboat captain is unheard of. That is, until tragedy strikes and Laura must make the two month journey from St. Louis to Fort Benton and back in order to save her family's legacy, her home, and the only life she's ever known.
The only way for her to overcome the nearly insurmountable odds is with the help of her brother's disreputable friend Finn MacKnight, a skilled pilot with a terrible reputation. Laura loathes having to accept MacKnight as her co-pilot, especially when she learns she must also provide passage for his two sisters. Straight-laced Fiona has a fear of water, and unpredictable Adele seems much too comfortable with the idea of life in the rough and tumble environment of the untamed river and the men who ply it. Though they are thrown together by necessity, this historic journey may lead Laura and the MacKnights to far more than they ever expected.
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Daughter of the Regiment
Published by FaithWords
on 4th March, 2014
Format: Trade Paperback
Formats Available: Trade Paperback and Ebook
Converse via: #StephanieGraceWhitson, #INSPYbooks, #ChristFict or #ChrisFic
& #INSPYfiction & #HistFic or HistRom
Laura Rose: a character and a steamboat:
I had to smile when I saw Whitson had given her lead character such a charmingly strong name but also, that supposedly her father had christened the steamboat with her name to honour his love for his daughter. I felt it was a small way for her father to make amends to her regarding her true love (piloting a steamboat) knowing full well her life was going to take a few difficult turns if she tried to proceed with that kind of lifestyle. Her father raised her well, but sometimes society and the generation your bourne inside can dictate what can be permissible in regards to careers. I had hoped there might be a loophole revealled somewhere along the way and/or out of sheer desperation, Laura Rose could command her family’s steamboat! It’s hard to see a character so befit a layer of angst just because their passion fell outside the etiquette of their time.
I nearly burst out laughing when I could well imagine the shocking look on Laura Rose’s face when her mother informed her that despite her carefulness to mask the ordour and condition of her brother Joseph’s drunken state, she was very much aware of her son’s misfortune! Truly, some of the best lines and scenes portraying a flustered daughter and a distraught mother are right at the ending of Chapter Two! This spoke such volumes about how close the family was to each other and how unexpectedly brilliant Whitson had written the White family! I liked seeing Laura Rose taken off-guard as it gave her a new layer of curiosity as she felt she was on top of everything and yet, not nearly as well as she hoped!
Raised with a strength of faith, Laura Rose was guided by her parents to lean on her faith whenever life took a turning that felt upturnt and uncertain. With gentle wisdom, fervent prayer and a heart held fast to a hope that would not dislodge, Laura Rose lived with a practicality about steamboating whilst anchoured by her faith which strengthened her resolve. This is what I appreciated seeing in this INSPY story most – how her living faith was drawn close to her heart as she needed it and how softly Whitson included her spirituality to set the undertone of the novel itself.
My Review of A Captain for Laura Rose:
I felt instantly engaged in the plight facing Laura Rose – she’s easy to warm too, as she relates her family’s affairs and her long-held dreams as easily as chattering with you over a cuppa tea! Laura Rose has a hankering to commandeer her family’s steamboat business – where it flourishes (or rather did!) on the Missouri River – except for one slight problem: in her generation, women were not allowed to be licenced to operate the steamboat! Imagine!? She had a sharp mind for business, blessed by her father and she was a bit fit to be tied the sole person in charge of keeping her family afloat had a wandering eye and a zeal for entertainment that might run contrary to ‘above board behaviour’; at least by the standards of a family whose work ethic kept them running freight up one of the hardest rivers to navigate!
Counter-current to the financial uncertainty of Laura Rose’s family, we meet Adele whose been given a hard hand in life to be dealt – the cast-off half sister of Laura Rose’s brother’s friend Finn, of whom is only meant to be kept on at their family’s home until she’s of age to inherit and/or is married to a man of their choosing. It’s quite a hard reality for a girl of eighteen to carry on her shoulders, which is why Adele felt like an interesting character to me – she’s upfront about how she’s never known what it is like to be part of a family who truly cared for each other, but also how she would rather live humbly than be begotten to half-kin who would rather she went elsewhere. Her plight reminded me of the children in foster care whom long for a forever family and oft-times do not succeed in finding one. There are many ways in which children can grow up without a loving environment, and being carted off to a relation merely due to not being of age to live independently has to be one of the hardest paths to walk. Adele’s innocence and willingness to seek out a better life for herself is what endears her spirit to your heart.
Joseph’s friend Finn is suffering from what we now call PTSD from returning home from the battlefield unprepared to handle his memories and resume his civilian life. His guilt is heavy and his burden is difficult, which is why he turnt to drink originally. He is forthright in his frailties but completely uncertain how to pursue the life he wants to lead. His heart is on the river, same as Joseph’s – as all three of the river pilots (Laura Rose included!) only feel the most comfortable on the water. It calls to them and the water runs in their veins; it’s a life they trust and one that they itch to revive. Finding out about the anguish on Finn’s soul, you can start to understand his behaviour and motivations better; a small glimmer of what Laura Rose might have to come to understand down the road. She only sees Finn and Joseph on the surface of their lives, not realising what lies within a layer behind where they hide their emotional hearts. Even Joseph has self-doubt he’s struggling against – as he tries to step into his father’s shoes and command a business he was not ready to take-over.
My, my what tides can soon be changed! Laura Rose finds herself put into a position she never felt she’d earn (in her lifetime) even though she felt as if she’d gained the respect of being a pilot from her family. When her brother falls ill, her mother encourages her to take-over the reins of the Laura Rose, especially in the wake of reality realising Finn was a no-show to command the steamer himself! There are a few unresolved questions churning her mind (as well as in Joseph’s and her mother’s) but those are put to aside to find the courage to boldly believe in herself when the family’s keep is on the line! I was hoping Whitson would set this up to happen – Laura Rose is on the fringes of gaining her self-confidence as she’s still a bit uncertain about her skills – thus, imagine my happiness seeing this twist of fate written into the story!
With sudden alacrity of her circumstances altered beyond what she can rightly believe, Laura Rose takes a brace of bravery out of the poetic words her mother once taught her as they awaited the return of her father and brother; back when the war was raging and the steamboat continued to prevail. I hadn’t seen a foreshadow of this happening, but I wasn’t too quickened to shock either – the 19th Century was stricken by illnesses that caught like quickfire and were unable to be put out except through death. Your heart tightens when you realise the magnitude of what Laura Rose is facing but blessedly there are small kernels of hope flickering outside the numbing silence of her sorrow.
Whitson digs deep into how far men and women will go to find redemption and restitution for what has happened to them, to such an extent as to think through each step of the process to come through something they first feel is overwhelming stacked against them. I liked how she purposely gave Finn a strong sister with a fortitude of insight towards the rights women had to lead their own lives and to be guided by where their hearts aligned their passions. She was the unexpected champion and heroine of the close-knit cast of characters, as her guiding voice of reason rang true and strong throughout the chapters. Finn like most men who had returned scared emotionally and psychologically took a bit longer to sort out their next step – his choices altered even further out of a tragic accident.
Yet all the while, Whitson is etching inside her narrative how true strength of faith and true courage of conviction to overcome life’s adversities is worth the patience to see through til the end. Whitson has given us such a strong story built around looking at things from multiple perspectives and threading everything through a measure of faith – where reality and spirituality collide to embolden us with what is necessary to carry on.
On the historical writing style of Ms Whitson:
Ms Whitson writes with a gentleness and ease of manner whilst curating this lovely image of the historical past – this story takes place just after the Civil War during a time in America where everyone was in transition. Her narrative is happily guided by strong characters and a portrait of life in this new America being defined by those who returnt from war and those who were helping the war effort back home. One thing I appreciated most is seeing how everything smelt and felt to the character’s eyes – she truly eclipsed what I would imagine for myself about St. Louis and the Missouri River region – she’s so well in-tune with that lifestyle you could nearly hear the river lapping on shore!
My favourite INSPY writers are the gentle story-tellers who light a beautiful story with illuminated spirituality through a character’s actions and how their faith intercedes throughout their life choices. I appreciate the gentleness of these kinds of stories because they feel so very true to life – how faith affects our own spirit, mind and heart as we face our own adversities and joys. I like seeing characters who feel like a composite to a real person but also, of whom can show their vulnerabilities and are writ with an honest impression of how someone might react given a certain set of circumstances.
Ms Whitson is a delight to read – her story-telling voice is a joy because she encourages your steadfast attention at the smallest of details and gives a hearty measure to taking a leap of faith alongside her characters. She’s stitched a few life lessons into the background of her story whilst giving freedom to let her characters decide for themselves where they want to go with their lives; including how to adjust to conflict and consequence. This is the type of story-teller that makes being an INSPY reader such a delight of joy to read – as you find a heart-warming tale that lifts your spirit!
This book review is courtesy of:
Before Memorial Day, I will be reading my second Whitson novel Daughter of the Regiment, however, before I duck back inside the lovely breadth of a Whitson historical, I will be re-emerging into the Contemporary INSPY world of small towne Hope within the pages of A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley! I love small towne fiction and this one sounded especially keen as it felt as if the community was quite quirky and that’s just how I love my ‘small townes’ to be in fiction! This novel will be my first reading by Center Street the compliment to FaithWords and Jericho Books!
As an aside on behalf of Hachette Book Group Inc. and their imprints, I wanted to thank them for providing such an excellent resource as to keep their book catalogues on Edelweiss and provide the incredible resources they do via their Bloggers Portal to help book bloggers blog about the books they are selecting to review. They truly are a blessing to book bloggers, as they aide you directly with the Press Materials you need for your blog whilst giving you keen information about upcoming releases!
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.
I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read
Steamboats. Family Drama. River Life.
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) May 19, 2016
Heart-warming family drama w/fortitude & faith in adversity
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) May 19, 2016
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge