Review of Romancing Olive by Holly Bush
In 1891, a spinster librarian, Olive Wilkens left the quietness and stability of her Philadelphia home on a mission to rescue her now orphaned niece and nephew in Spencer, Ohio. All she knew when she embarked on her journey was that the children, Mary and John, were taken in by a neighboring farmer Jacob Butler after the deaths of her brother and wife. What she learned was that her brother was not living the respectable farm life he led her to believe in his letters. In fact, the quaint little farm house he painted in his letters was nothing more than a shack on overrun land. He was drunken gambler married to a whore who didn’t do much by way of their children. What starts out to be a saintly mission turns into a journey of self discovery for Olive and a lesson in opening your heart and mind to the world around you.
Olive’s character starts off very naive in the book; not that she can’t handle the horrors that the world can hold only that she hasn’t had to. She was by no means extraordinary privileged growing up, but she did have the nicer things in life. She is absolutely appalled, but then again, who wouldn’t be, when she learned how her brother actually lived. However, if she were truly naive and unworldy she would have taken the children and ran back to Philadelphia as fast as the carriage could take her. But she didn’t. She did what was best for the children, children who were traumatized by witnessing the death of their mother. I was a little bit worried at the beginning of the novel because I do not like prissy “oh woe is me” women and with her innocence and upbringing I was afraid Olive may be that type, but she wasn’t. Regardless of the situation, Olive buckled down and did was what necessary to ensure that the children warmed to her. She had every intention of taking them back to Philadelphia but not until they got to know her first.
Bush constructed every woman’s dream with the widowed farmer, Jacob Butler. Strong, independent, a bit proud, and one hell of a father to his three children, Butler is a man who teaches Olive that life is more than just books. He’s also 10 years her junior. I thought this was a very interesting twist to the classic romance storyline. I enjoyed watching the insecurities that Olive had not only as a woman who didn’t know how to cook but who only lived through books, play out against Butler’s every day common sense and sensibilities. Both are proud characters yet at the same time there was a leniency they gave to one another that was endearing.
Being a romance there were many moments where the pages heated up, but Bush never really took it to the place where most romances go. Instead, she used the tension of forbidden attraction to develop a strong and believable union between the two. There were many times where I found myself sighing at the dialogue between Jacob and Olive, and all it led up to was a kiss, and I was ok with that.
Overall the story was very well developed and thought out; the pacing was good and the ebb and flow of the story was punctuated with tense scenes dealing with the children’s grandfather on their mother’s side. In regards to the story I only wish that that tension would have been more prevalent throughout the story. Bush introduces Jeb Davis early on as a potential threat and then kind of lets him go by the wayside until closer to the end. I would have liked to have seen him show up in the middle, perhaps at the social, in order to give more weight to his threats.
In regards to the editing there were quite a few grammatical errors that could easily be fixed with a quick run through. There were issues with comma splices, ellipses and just simple mistakes that are easy to overlook, however, they jump out and grab my attention. With that said, I read the story in a day. It’s a great story with strong characters and pacing, a wonderful addition to any romance reader’s collection.