1891... Spinster librarian Olive Wilkins is shocked to learn of her brother's violent death at a saloon gaming table and her sister-in-law's subsequent murder, traveling far from her staid life to rescue her niece and nephew, now orphans. She arrives to find the circumstances of her brother's life deplorable and her long held beliefs of family and tradition, shaken.
Accustomed to the sophistication of Philadelphia, Olive arrives in Spencer, Ohio, a rough and tumble world she is not familiar with, facing two traumatized children. Her niece and nephew, Mary and John, have been living with a neighboring farmer, widower Jacob Butler, the father of three young children of his own and a man still in pain from the recent loss of his wife.
Real danger threatens Olive and Mary and John, while Jacob and his own brood battle the day-to-day struggles for survival. Will Olive and Jacob find the strength to fight their battles alone or together? Will love conquer the bitterness of loss and broken dreams?
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Great Midwestern Tale of Early American Struggles
Romancing Olive by Holly Bush is a wonderful early American story. Not quite a western, the story takes place in Ohio in 1891. The story centers on 35 year-old Olive, who proudly lives a contented life as a spinster librarian in Philadelphia. After she learns of the death of her beloved brother and sister-in-law in Ohio, she sets off to retrieve her young niece and nephew with the intent of bringing them back to Philadelphia.
What Olive didn't expect was the atrocious mannerisms and near barbaric way of life in Ohio. She also didn't expect two very frightened children who would rather stay with Jacob, the neighbor, and his three young children than move to Philadelphia with an aunt they didn't know. Olive quickly decides to stay a few days until the children get more comfortable with the idea of moving with her. In just a few weeks, Olive organizes routine and discipline into all five children's lives and she soon realizes how much "living" she's denied herself over the years.
I really enjoyed watching Jacob's view of Olive change throughout the book. Olive gradually and believably transforms into a warm blooded woman yearning of a man's touch - Jacob's touch. Jacob, being a widower at 25 and was wise beyond his years, was extremely stubborn when it came to Olive (until he realized the local sheriff was also interested in Olive). Jacob's personal struggle to overcome his wife's death was very heartfelt and realistic- so much so that I couldn't help but let a few tears escape.
Lee Ann Howlett's performance was good, having different tones and inflections for the varying characters. The voices for the children who played such a big part in the story were excellent. Her reading pace was also good and set the proper atmosphere for the story.
Wonderful story with a wonderful narrator
- Barry Owens