Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: Down by the River

Down by the River (Smoky Mountain Series #6)
Published By: Kensington
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Appalachian Fiction

Down by the River is the newest installment in The Smoky Mountain series by Lin Stepp. While these novels are loosely connected by location, you don't have to read them in any particular order. It's been awhile since I have immersed myself in one of Lin's stories, but I was happy to work this one in over the past weekend. There is something nice about losing myself in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and the Appalachian culture. Stepp is truly a master of capturing the Blue Ridge and its people. Her novels are like a quilt - familiar, comforting, and filled with interesting details.

Down by the River like most of Stepp's work focuses on a women seeking to make life changes and some sort of romance. I do like that this structure is predictable when I pick up a Stepp novel, but a tiny part of me wishes the formula would derail from its traditional trajectory just slightly. One thing I hope will never change is that these romances leave things to the imagination. I would have no problem in giving this one to my grandmother to read. In fact, she has also read and enjoyed Stepp's work. This novel will probably find its way into her hands soon. 

One thing I loved about this installment was the bed and breakfast aspect. In the back of my mind, I wonder what it would be like to run a bed and breakfast of my own. I am not sure it is a career path I could truly embark upon, but it is intriguing to consider. Like Grace, I have thought about giving up my stressful, hectic career and forsaking life in the suburbs for something a little calmer and isolated. While I doubt this life will ever be a reality for me, it is nice getting to live vicariously through a character like Grace. In addition to Grace, I enjoyed getting to know Margaret. Another trait of Stepp's writing is strong female characters. She never lets me down in this respect.

One Last Gripe: I do crave a plot that isn't so predictable. 

Favorite Thing About This Book: I love the descriptions of the setting.

First Sentence: Grace Conley could hear that nagging little voice in her head again, chiding her with every step as she walked down the winding driveway from the mountain motel.

Favorite Character: Grace

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.

While on a visit to the Smokies, Grace Conley makes a stunning decision: she's going to walk away from her busy life in Nashville to move to tiny Townsend and open a bed and breakfast. There's a beautiful old inn for sale along the Little River that will do perfectly. Of course, Grace's family is scandalized. After all, she's a middle-aged widow! And as a career homemaker, she's always been available for babysitting, chauffeuring, and generally being the peacemaker among her grown children. Has Grace lost her mind? She begins to wonder the same thing once she finds herself attracted to the local ladies' man. But the surprises don't stop there. . .
To further complicate her move, Grace's daughter, Margaret, has grudgingly come to live with her. Having just graduated from college, remote Townsend is not where she envisions her future. Yet the handsome young minister next door is convinced he and Margaret are meant for each other. As life choices abound, soon both women will discover that the biggest decisions require confidence, a sense of humor--and a deep, abiding faith.

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