Book Review: Tell Me About Orchard Hollow
By: Lin Stepp
Published By: Canterbury House Publishing
Publication Date: March 2010
Page Count: 250
Source: Provided by Author
Tell Me About Orchard Hollow is the second installment in Lin Stepp's Smoky Mountain series set in eastern Tennessee. Stepp, a native of Tennessee, seeks to transport readers to the Great Smokies in this series. As someone who spent most of their childhood and their college years nestled among the Blue Ridge in western North Carolina, I can say with authority that she does a beautiful job of describing the region in an authentic manner. I love the strong sense of place that comes with a Lin Stepp novel. Setting is one of those things that can make or break a book for me. Reading the Smoky Mountain series makes me long for my grandmother and chicken and dumplings. I miss those comforts as I am so far from home at the moment, but these books have a way of transporting me to my family and the place I love - even if its only in my mind.
This book follows Jenna Howell, a young artist, who flees New York City in the wake of adultery. She finds solace in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains while staying at a friend's cabin on Orchard Hollow Road. While there she learns about having a true support system in her community and as a result she can finally decide what's best for her life. During her time in Tennessee, Jenna meets the handsome Boyce Hart, a local artist and gallery owner. Boyce teachers Jenna that she has many gifts and she truly can stand on her own two feet. When a turn of events forces Jenna to return to New York City she will learn valuable life lessons and find who truly cares for her.
The first book in the Smoky Mountain series lured me in not only with the setting, but also with the plot and characters. However, this one took me a little longer to get into. It felt very similar to the first book in plot - a young attractive woman with a hidden past comes to Tennessee to sort through her problems and finds a handsome man whose only too willing to help her find solutions. Also, I didn't like the two main characters, Jenna and Boyce, as much as I liked Vivian and Scott in the first book. I understood why Jenna was so timid and unsure of herself, but I still found it somewhat annoying. I wasn't able to relate to her so that made it harder to truly like her. Boyce was a strong leading male, but its really hard to follow Scott.
Stepp is a strong writer and she brings a lot to the Appalachian writing community. I would love to teach a Southern Lit or Appalachian Lit someday and use her work. She does a nice job of showcasing the eastern Tennessee culture and geography. Each of her books introduces readers to a new little mountain community. This book was a lot of fun for me since it mentioned various locales such as Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. These two towns played prominent roles in vacations during my youth and I enjoyed flashing on images from my past as Boyce and Jenna experienced them in the story. Furthermore, I was so excited to see Cades Cove mentioned in this one. I have been fascinated with the history behind Cades Cove since I was young. However, I do remember lots of long, boring car rides through the area when my Dad insisted we go to see if we could spot wildlife. I was rewarded with some deer and black bear sightings from time to time, but I really loved seeing the old homesteads.
I have one more book in the Smoky Mountain series to review for the time being - so y'all come back now, ya hear?
One Last Gripe: Some of the dialogue didn't feel realistic to me. In particular, Boyce's speaking moments didn't always sound like the way people actually talk.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The regional aspects
First Sentence: Out of the corner of her eye, Jenna saw daffodils in a shop window.
Favorite Character: Sam
Least Favorite Character: Elliott
Tell Me about Orchard Hollow is the second in the Smoky Mountain Novel series. Stepp's first installment was The Foster Girls. In Tell Me about Orchard Hollow, marital betrayal sends New Yorker Jenna Howell retreating to her friend's mountain cabin in Townsend, Tennessee. She hopes for peace and quiet and time to think about the course her future should take, but soon she finds herself challenged by unexpected events and new friends. One of her neighbors is Boyce Hart, whom Jenna knows she has no right to find as attractive as she does. This upbeat contemporary romance is set against the backdrop of the picturesque Smoky Mountains.