By the time I swiped left the first time, I had this feeling. Hope Between the Pages wouldn’t be a good book. I wouldn’t walk away satisfied. That feeling grew to a certainty by the time I swiped left again.
After searching for an hour (or more) to find my print copy, I’d given up and purchased the Kindle. After all, Pepper Basham wrote it, so I wouldn’t mind having two copies, right?
Of course, right! (Just embracing my inner Yente there).
Page by page my delight grew, and so did my confidence in my opinion that this would not be a good book. I would not walk away satisfied. Oh, no…
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That Moment You Know You’re Actually Reading a Great Book
Calling Hope Between the Pages “good” would be a travesty. “Like” it? Ha! Adore might fit better.
Seriously… it’s not a feeling I usually get before the end of the very first literal page of a book. I often know I’ll love it right away, but just knowing it will be among my most favorite books ever? Rare… very rare.
Should I be surprised that Pepper Basham did it? Nope. Was I? Not in the least.
This split-time novel follows the stories of two women, great-grandmother and great-granddaughter, and how their parallel lives diverge and reconverge both in the past and in the present. Seriously, this book seriously has all the best elements and settings of a story. It’s as if the author said, “Oh! I like that! Let’s put that in!” And somehow it all works!
Like opulent homes like the Biltmore Estate? Got it. How about books, libraries, and bookstores? Check! Literary quotes seamlessly woven into story? Of course! A spontaneous trip to England? Why not? A brooding, troubled hero? Sure! A strong-willed but kind and generous hero? Absolutely! Vintage clothing… do you get the point? Seriously. Hope Between the Pages book has it all.
And not once does it feel like Pepper Basham just threw everything and the kitchen sink into it and hoped it worked. Nope, every element has its proper and perfect place and reason for occupying that space. The result is a novel you can’t put down and if you tried, your heart would revolt. When my throat went dry, I carried my laptop to the kitchen, still reading as I reached for a glass, nearly broke it, and carried it to the fridge for ice and water. I almost stepped on my dog on the way back to my corner of the couch.
This book is that great.
Let’s talk characters. Oh, all the characters. Clara Blackwell, Sadie Blackwell, Oliver Camden, Max… because Max. Each person is unique–each voice a perfect rendering of that unique person. I felt Sadie’s love for her job, her delight in little Victoria Camden, her respect for her employer, and her devotion to Oliver.
Clara’s personality had just a touch of Basham’s “Jane” in Jane by the Book. I didn’t realize that until this moment. She doesn’t feel like a recycled Jane in the least. Instead, I imagine those two women would either be wonderful friends or very bad for each other–too much enabling. Clara is more whimsical… and when given a good nudge, much more adventuresome. She’s bolder without realizing it inside. Even in her uncertainties, there’s a confidence beneath it, and when you consider her faith, you see where it comes from. You see how she draws the best out of people. A bit like her great-grandmother.
Then there are the men…
Oliver. If his grandmother had been other than she was, Oliver would have felt… well, for lack of a better word, anachronistic. His views of people and situations would have felt out of place in his time and sphere. It would have felt as though he were written through modern sensibilities. But having a grandmother such as he did–the woman who raised both his father and to an extent, himself, it worked. Beautifully.
So when a wealthy Englishman appears at the Biltmore and becomes enchanted with a maid he calls a “book fairy,” it feels real. Right. Destined.
I adored the fully-boy, fully-man that Oliver was. In his jumbled personality, you find that bit of incongruity that exists in all of us. And Sadie brought out the very best in him. As it should be, don’t you think?
But Max… My heart aches for Max. Basham brilliantly sets up a personality that allows for a slow, gradual, and then instant change. It’s as if we see hints that it’s coming, and boom! There it is. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I suspect if I saw any other author attempt the unique growth arc, it would fall flat. It would have to! It frankly doesn’t make sense that it works, but it does. It’s Max.
But best of all (never thought you’d see me say this)… the romance.
Only once before in my life can I recall loving the romance for its own sake. Hope Between the Pages did that for me. It’s real, delightful, beautiful, and immersive. Even the kisses (which aren’t my thing) didn’t have me flipping the pages as fast as possible. In this book, watching two people (four, really) slowly discover that other half of themselves and commit to it… beautiful It’s just beautiful.
Recommended for readers who love to immerse themselves in books and have to be dragged out again. This is one such book. You’ll settle in for “just a few pages” and find yourself emerging hours later, book drunk and full of the hope and love found within those pages. Seriously, it’s Basham’s finest–destined to be a classic in my book.
Book: Hope Between the Pages
Author: Pepper Basham
Genre: Christian Historical
Release date: April 2021
Uncover the Story Behind a One-Hundred-Year-Old Love Letter
Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.
Clara Blackwell helps her mother manage a struggling one-hundred-year-old family bookshop in Asheville, North Carolina, but the discovery of a forgotten letter opens a mystery of a long-lost romance and undiscovered inheritance which could save its future. Forced to step outside of her predictable world, Clara embarks on an adventure with only the name Oliver as a hint of the man’s identity in her great-great-grandmother’s letter. From the nearby grand estate of the Vanderbilts, to a hamlet in Derbyshire, England, Clara seeks to uncover truth about family and love that may lead to her own unexpected romance.