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The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection: Hope Reaches Across the Centuries Through One Single Bottle, Inspiring Five Romances Paperback – March 1, 2017
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What a journey this book takes the reader on. Starting in the year 1170 in County Kerry, Ireland to 1715 in Scotland, England to 1798 in New York to 1864 in Roswell, Georgia to 1890 in Coronado Island, California. The message of hope and a bronze bottle winds its way from start to finish. It is so interesting to see how each author weaves this bottle in each individual story.
The authors Heather Day Gilbert, Amanda Dykes, Maureen Lang, Jocelyn Green, and Joanne Bischof so carefully wove their stories together yet each story stands on its own and has its own flavor and style. Maureen Lang is one of my favorite authors and she did not disappoint me. I had not read the other authors previous to this book. It is always fun to learn about other great authors!!!!
Everyone needs hope. It is a timeless need throughout the ages. Put this book on your “to read “ list and be encouraged!
In the book’s prologue, Gilbert skillfully introduces readers to the special bottle that will accompany them throughout this group of stories. From its humble beginning in an Irish monastery, the bottle travels through the centuries and crosses continents, encouraging it’s bearers with a message of “spero,” that is, hope. In her story, “The Distant Tide,” a Viking clashes with an Irish princess in a quest of vengeance, but hope can reconcile them all. Ari Thorvaldsson is no stranger to Christianity, but has never opened himself to it. Britta’s kindness and acceptance of him, despite their differences, brings him a perspective that he’s never considered – one of healing and hope. I am unabashedly a huge fan of Heather Day Gilbert, especially her Viking stories. She portrays them realistically without falling back on stereotypes, and this story is no exception.
In “A Song in the Night,” Amanda Dykes takes readers to 1715 Scotland, placing them firmly in the precarious, traitorous interaction of Scottish clans. Meg is ready to sacrifice her future happiness for her clan, but before she can, rivalry between her clan and another leads to tragic results. Picking up the broken pieces of her life, Meg finds a new home with a traveling group, one that travels Scotland selling pearls. Despite her shadowed past, she is content, until a ghost from the past appears, with news that all was not lost of that terrible day two years past. Meg’s courage and willingness to sacrifice are admirable, and her fears feel genuine. If she can get past the pain of reconciling with her past, hope is within reach. I was utterly charmed by Meg’s storytelling and Duncan’s pipe playing. There is a whimsical quality to this serious story, which I think fit well in the Scottish setting. I have loved Dyke’s previous novella and short story, and this story has just reinforced that feeling.
“The Forgotten Hope” takes the bottle and its message to 1798 New York, a time when medical work is one left to men. Abigail, however, is determined to find a husband who will accept her work in medicine. Calvin is a jaded physician, interested in healing patients, but not very interested in restoring his own broken spirit. Maureen Lang touches on a time when the Revolutionary War is not a distant memory, but rather something that still tinged people’s lives with sadness. It’s not a time period that seems to be touched on often, so I really appreciated the authenticity that those details offered. The medical practices of the time are equally fascinating and somewhat appalling with what we know today. Abigail’s character highlights how women had little say in what was considered appropriate, and even though nurses played an integral role, decisions were to be left to men. While a lot of the issues between Abigail and Calvin arise from lack of communication, it feels realistic to the times and makes their understanding much more satisfying. Maureen Lang is a new-to-me author, but certainly one that I am more interested in reading after this novella.
Next the bottle travels to Civial War era Georgia, where Jocelyn Green introduces readers to the displacement of Southern mill workers by order of General Sherman in “A River Between Us.” Cora Mae chooses to become a nurse for the Confederate Army in order to stay in Georgia, with hopes of returning to her ailing mother sooner rather than later. She unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in Ethan, a Confederate soldier, but of course, circumstances easily come between them. The authenticity of Cora Mae’s character and the intense details of a battlefield hospital captivated me. Usually authors can really mishandle a southern accent, but in this case, it feels authentic and not overdone. The bravery of the doctor’s, soldiers as well as those nursing them is highlighted by the added details of the battlefield and its aftermath.
In the final story, “The Swelling Sea,” by Joanne Bischof readers will find themselves on the coast of California, at a posh resort, crossing between the classes with Jonah, a wealthy law student, and Rosie, a resort maid with a mysterious past. The beauty of the shoreline, as well as the coastal flora and fauna drew me into this story, but even more catching was the emotional depth of the characters, who despite their different worlds, find they aren’t so very different after all. Rosie’s whimsical child-like nature and Jonah’s eagerness to accomplish his goals endeared them both to me. Something about their relationship just really captured my heart – it’s one of those unfathomable connections that I sometimes just have to a character. Bischof writes about character’s difficulties with sensitivity and excels at creating characters that are easy to love. I love the idea that sometimes life’s mysteries are unsolvable, yet even so we are not without hope.
The prologue brings readers back to the present day, tying all of the stories together, with an authentic yet subtle nod to each story. This is a quality collection, one that I feel sure I will revisit again one day. Typically, there is one or more that don’t dazzle me, but with the Message in a Bottle Collection, I couldn’t find a bad story. I think even those who are not typically drawn to novellas or collections of them will find something to savor here. Fans of romantic historical fiction will not be disappointed!
I really enjoyed this collection of historical romances, especially how the stories were all tied together, it made me eager to go on to the next story. I'm not usually a fan of these kinds of collections--there's almost always a story or two that I just can't get into--but these were all very good.
They were all well-written, with fascinating settings and compelling characters that I enjoyed spending time with. And each story felt complete - a challenge in a short story. Each tugged at my emotions for a different reason and Joanne Bischof's story at the end left me teary, in a good way.
This is a great collection for those who like short stories - and those who don't. I'll be looking for this kind of combination again.
I’ve read many various story collections and often times you find maybe two stories in the collection that you enjoy; however with this one I enjoyed each of the stories. Often times I’d wish the story would continue. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a travel thru history with sweet stories of love and gentle reminders of God’s ever present love and watch-care of each of his children.