October 05, 2011
When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
When Calls the Heart is the first book in Oke's Canadian West Series. It follows a main character of Elizabeth and is written in the first person from her perspective.
A school teacher back East, she travels to the West to begin a new school teaching job at the advice of her brother Jon. Before she learns of her assignment, the superintendent tries to woo her, and in failing to do so seemingly banishes her 150 miles North to the town of Pine Springs.
Determined to make the best of it, Elizabeth travels there and sets up her school. She is delighted to find that she has her own little home by the schoolhouse instead of boarding and also that her brother's handsome friend Wynn Delaney is also in residence at Pine Springs as well.
The children she teaches are mostly charming and her heart goes out to all of them in unique ways. She makes close friends with a family of immigrants nearby and these children frequently appear in the novel to help her out and spend time with her so she doesn't become too lonely on her own.
Another student in particular, a boy named Andy, is frequently sick but a favorite of hers and all the other children. Having been in an accident when he was quite young, he has trouble learning but is always positive and supportive of everyone else. When his sickness gets worse they raise money to send him to a doctor. This involves a fundraiser put on by Elizabeth and the schoolchildren.
During this fundraiser, Wynn, whom she now believes to be married, wins an auction for a lunch with her and she is so thoroughly embarrassed to be pursued by a "married" man that she sets forth a sequence of events to turn him down at every opportunity, despite secretly admiring him.
It is only when she discovers her mistake that she realizes her deep feelings for him and can only be saddened as he appears to love his job more than her. He is very particular to his job and does not feel that being the wife of a Mountie is anything he would do to someone he loves.
Oke, while being a Christian writer, does not get overly hard handed or preachy with her writing. While some references and scriptures may be written in, she prefers to lead by example; having her characters do acts of good rather than preach about them. This makes it easy for even those who are not very religious to read her books. Her writing, while not overly complex suits the romance genre just fine and you can connect to her characters as they seem like real people. They aren't just perfect characters that do whatever is right and good, they have flaws just like everyone else.
Oke also took the time to include a bit of history in this story which helps the reader to understand the background and setting of the novel. She elaborates on the town of Calgary and also of the Mounties as one of the main characters, Wynn Delaney, is a Mountie himself.
I really enjoyed the premise of this novel. Most often writers have the heroine just falling into the arms of their chosen man. Elizabeth is not like that. She is strong enough on her own and doesn't need a man, she only consents because she is truly in love, not dependent upon him. I feel that this shapes her character a lot better than if she had just stuck to regular romance and had Elizabeth completely infatuated with the man. It made the story more believable.
The only fault I would find with the novel is Wynn's quick change of heart at the end. While it was written to seem that he couldn't stomach the thought of being without her, due to his earlier convictions that were so strong, it just seems unlikely that he would change his mind so easily.
Janette Oke is a fantastic story teller and her novels reflect life on the early plains of Canada. They are a pleasure to read and are perfect for a lazy Sunday or rainy afternoon.
When Calls the Heart