“These red roads are so peculiar!” Those words are some of the first I remember from the delightful Anne Shirley. Until I read about the red-headed orphan, I’d never heard of Prince Edward Island. I didn’t know about the old-fashioned notion of “romantic” that meant more than hearts and flowers–the romance that tugs at all heartstrings rather than just those of a relational kind. The kind you’ll find in The Red Door Inn, of course.
And I’ll admit, one reason I haven’t wanted to visit good old P.E.I. has been because I liked my mental picture of the Maritimes as shaped by L.M. Montgomery in books such as the Anne books and my favorite stand-alone (which takes place in Ontario, I think), The Blue Castle (If you haven’t read it, DO!)
But Liz Johnson sent me an invitation to be an advance reader for her new novel, The Red Door Inn, and I never turn down a chance to read anything by her. Liz is a lovely woman and a fabulous writer. She’s one of those few writers who doesn’t pull me from the story with my tendency to want to make word and style choices for her. *blush*
Before I get to the main review, I have to tell a funny story.
You see, a few years ago, she contacted me about reviewing The Kidnapping of Kenzie Thorn. When I read the premise, I almost choked. Seriously. It sounded so like a book I’d nearly or just finished–Justified Means. Can’t remember which. Freaked me out thinking I’d done all that work and then would have to scrap it because it’s too like someone else’s. But, of course, I read hers and it wasn’t. *insert huge sigh of relief here*
Well, this book has ANOTHER tiny plot point that, when I first saw it, I winced. Look, it’s so small that I doubt Liz will have a problem with me doing it, but I am going to ask. The difference between ours is that hers is a tiny thing that threads the story together. Mine IS the story. so, if she considers it too close to her idea, I’m going to be very disappointed. What is it about her that makes us both have such similar ideas (yet so opposite!)?
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, while I was sent a review copy of the book, I also purchased one as well.
Okay. Why This New Series Is Destined to Be a Favorite.
Liz Johnson has done it again. While I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by her, The Red Door Inn, and by extension, the entire Prince Edward Island Dreams series, is on a different level entirely. This book has a warmth and richness that sets it far apart and above the rest.
Characterization is a huge part of book enjoyment for me. If I don’t fall in love with the characters–or fall in hate, if I should–then the book flops for me. Thankfully, all three main characters, and the two supporting characters are fabulously crafted into people you root for, yell at, and want to hug until their troubles go away.
Well, how can you go wrong with the frosty beauty of Prince Edward Island? The rundown inn, the ocean, and c’mon… I can’t be the only one who, in the Anne books, loved the sound of someone living in a place called “Rustico.” Liz has made me ache to visit a place I wanted to keep locked away in my imagination, not to be marred by modernity. Now, I get the sense that I would be far from disappointed.
The best characters and setting in the world will fall flat without a good plot. And Liz delivers on that, too. Each of the three main characters is battling a personal demon, and it leaves for misunderstandings, wariness, and the chance for full growth both personally and spiritually. Liz didn’t skimp on any of it. Without falling prey to the charge of preachiness, she leads the reader gently through Scripture and leaves you at the feet of the Cross where Jesus can take those troubles and use them to mold you into the beautiful person He knows you can be!
Okay… with all of that said, I’m going to be incredibly blunt.
Warning: Spoilers are to follow, so if you do not like spoilers, I recommend not reading much further. Just know that there are two caveats to my recommendation of this book. The first is mild and not really surprising.
Liz, like most Christian fiction authors, is much more… physical in her descriptions of affection. While she never takes it to an inappropriate place, for those who are accustomed to my less… intense relational reactions, I just wanted to point out that this is where Liz and I do not have similar ideas. 😉 I’m more like this:
Yeah… Seth isn’t going to ever worry about Marie complaining that he’s reluctant to kiss her. Just sayin’.
And now for the hard caveat.
Look, if almost any other writer had written this book, I guarantee she would have lost a star. I tend to have a sixth sense about these things, so I knew, almost immediately, what was going to happen, and to be honest, I almost closed the book and apologized for not being able to continue it. However, Liz has never betrayed my trust in any book, and I decided to rest in that. I’m glad I did. But despite that, the fact is that this book has flashbacks to a rape scene in it.
There is zero gratuitous description. Liz beautifully manages to follow the writer’s “law of Medes and Persians” in showing the story–not telling it–and all without dragging us through horrors that we shouldn’t have to read.
But I had to give it as a warning because Liz did such a fabulous job in writing it that I can see it being a huge trigger for some people. I spent much of that very small section holding my breath, just trying to get through to the next scene. Rape scenes are incredibly difficult for me to read. I almost always skip any hint of them. You could say I just have what is probably an irrational aversion to them. But I trusted Liz, and I’m not sorry I did. She handled it perfectly–not glossing over the horrors of it and not filling our minds with those horrors either. Beautifully, tastefully done, Liz. Bravo.