Saturday, April 23, 2022

Review: "The Element of Love" by Mary Connealy

Another lifetime ago, I really enjoyed reading Mary Connealy novels. (Seriously, according to this blog, it's been eight years since I've read one of her books.) When The Element of Love came up as a featured book for Bethany House bloggers, I decided it was time to read another Connealy book.

With their sharp engineering minds, Laura Stiles and her two sisters have been able to deal with their mother's unfortunate choice in husband, until they discover his plans to marry each of them off to his lecherous friends. Now they must run away--far and fast--to find better matches to legally claim their portion of their father's lumber dynasty and seize control from their stepfather.

When Laura befriends a mission group heading to serve the poor in California during their escape, she quickly volunteers herself and her sisters to join their efforts. Despite the settlement being in miserable condition, the sisters are excited by the opportunity to put their skills to good use. Laura also sees potential in Caleb, the local minister, to help with gaining her inheritance. But when secrets buried in Caleb's past and in the land around them come to light, it'll take all the smarts the sisters have to keep trouble at bay.

I finish this book with some seriously mixed feelings. It’s a quick, easy read, no doubt about it. I really enjoyed the story of three sisters escaping their evil stepfather and heading out into the world. Michelle, Jilly, and Laura are brilliant, and they have been specifically taught certain skills that will enable them to take over their father’s lumber business one day. Each girl will get 1/3 of the business upon her marriage or her 25th birthday, whichever comes first. But when their stepfather arranges marriages for them to evil men – men who will allow him to continue running the business – they hatch a plan to escape, find husbands they can control, and return to claim their inheritance.

The escape scene is frantic and fraught with danger, setting up what could be a thrilling adventure. Things slow down, though, as the sisters meet up with Parson Caleb Tillman and a group of missionaries heading for mining country to start a mission.

This book, while focusing on all three girls, is really youngest sister Laura’s story. While at first she sees Caleb as a means to an end – if she marries him, she can claim her 1/3 of the lumber business, thus wrenching control of at least a portion from her stepfather – she soon finds herself drawn to him and wanting to continue working with the people at the mission. Yet she also feels a sense of duty – she must help run the business, even if her heart desires something else. I really appreciated her journey as she tried to discern God’s will for her (after at first charging straight ahead!).

So why the mixed feelings about the book? I guess the stakes just didn’t seem high enough, even though, ostensibly, they were as high as they could be – the girls’ mother’s life was in jeopardy! Except it wasn’t really, which was made clear early on, and that lowered the suspense. Also, I guess I just expected the stepfather and his minions to be more of a threat; other than the girls’ fear of him, he didn’t factor much into the story.

Also, while I enjoyed Caleb and Laura as people, and I liked their conversations, I didn’t feel the connection between them. Same for Zane and Michelle, which is clearly where another book is headed. The pairing that intrigued me the most was Nick and Jilly, and they barely shared any space on the page in this novel!

All that said, I did enjoy The Element of Love, and I would be interested in continuing the series – especially when it comes time for Nick and Jilly’s story! 3 stars.

Buy the book (Amazon ad).
Read my reviews of other Connealy novels.

Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys always with a strong suspense thread. She is a two time Carol Award winner, and a Rita, Christy and Inspirational Reader's Choice finalist.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to leave a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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