The year is 1891 and a spinster librarian, Olive Wilkins, arrives in a frontier town in Ohio to rescue two traumatized children, her niece and nephew. At the start of the story, they are orphans, having witnessed their parent’s brutal murders. They have been living with a neighboring farmer, a widower and father to three young children whose wife lost her life in childbirth.
Olive is thrown into what was then the wild west where conditions and behavior were primitive. Instead of returning to Philadelphia with the two children, Olive stays in the widower’s home until her niece and nephew feel more comfortable with her and she can take them back to the east with her. The families merge. Olive does her best to create a stable, family environment for all five children while she does the drudgism of a frontier mom. Olive and Jacob Butler, the author tells us, are “two strangers, stranded in a tragedy they had not written.”
But life—violent and unpredictable—intervenes to endanger Olive and the children and keep us on the edge of our seats.
I loved the flesh and blood characters that Holly Bush created and won’t soon forget them. I felt I was walking on the frontier. Understandably all five children are traumatized by catastrophic loss, fragile, wounded, speechless or angry, and I liked the way their slow change to normalcy is woven into the story’s action. And, of course, Olive needs to change. Her reactions to this frontier world are those of a Philadelphia miss, grounded in her rigidity and absolutism. It is the book’s central paradox that the frontier Holly Bush deftly recreates for us does its best to destroy and, at the same time, rescue Olive from her long-held, life-destroying beliefs.
There are tender moments, violent scenes, twists and turns in this family saga. ROMANCING OLIVE will keep you on the edge of your seat turning pages. You will have to read to the very end to find out if love conquers the bitterness of broken dreams. I highly recommend the book for all readers.
My Rating: 5 Stars
About the Author
I grew up in a home where I was surrounded by books. There was not a room that did not hold a bookcase, stack or shelves of books. My father didn’t care what we read, although he did, as long as we read something, even a comic book. His stack of books beside his reading chair that sat next to a sunny window was a strange mix of westerns, political intrigue, current affairs, science fiction and the odd biography. Books made me curious, comforted me, excited me, scared me and gave me glimpses into lives and worlds beyond my reach. What a gift—the written word—what a gift!
by Holly Bush