Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.
August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.
Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?
Why This Book:
Well, if you have read either of my reviews for the first two books in this series, you’ll know exactly why I wanted to read and review The Thorn Healer, the third installment in the Penned in Time series by the talented Pepper D. Basham. (I loved the first two books and couldn’t wait to read another book by this very talented author!)
Wounded soldiers returned from war as heroes. Wounded nurses returned as old maids.
I’ll be honest. While I love the opening line, the beginning of this book didn’t wow me nearly as much as the openings for the first two books did. I just didn’t feel hooked by the first chapter. That’s not to say the writing was dull by any means. It simply didn’t invoke the compulsion to turn pages which I have come to expect from a Pepper Basham novel.
Nevertheless, I kept reading because 1) the story truly was an interesting one and 2) I knew Pepper wouldn’t let me down. Sure enough, by the fifth chapter I was having trouble making myself put the book down to sleep at night.
Jessica Ross has been a star on the sidelines in each of the first two books and it is wonderful to see her take center stage in this book. She is, of course, a well-rounded and compelling character who truly engages your heart as she struggles to overcome the wounds, both physical and emotional, which have followed her home from the war.
August Reinhold is a character new to the series. He is German and an internee in a camp in Jessica’s hometown nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountains. How he handles the challenges he faces as a German stuck in America during the first World War can’t help but endear him to the reader and you find yourself rooting for him.
Additional characters include:
Dr. and Mrs. Carter – Jessica’s grandparents
Cliff Carter – Jessica’s cousin and a guard at the camp
Eliza Larson – war widow, mother of 7-year-old Jude Larson, & pregnant
Jasper Little – a wounded newcomer who arrives in town with anger to spare
As well as several other townspeople who all add to the story in their own way. Including some important characters which I won’t name here or it would give away surprises. No one character blends into another. They each stand out as unique and authentic.
For those of you who have enjoyed the previous two books in the Penned In Time series, you’ll be pleased to know that some of the characters from those books make an appearance in this one and you do get updates on their lives.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
Once this story got ahold of your heart, it didn’t let go. It made me laugh out loud, audibly gasp, and even cry. Real. Tears. I can’t remember the last time I actually cried over a book. Choked up? Sure. But I don’t remember actually crying. This book made me cry. I had to wipe my face because my tears were going to drip on my Kindle. And I loved it! I was crying because I was so wrapped up in what the characters were going through. It was so real.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
This book had several elements which served as an introduction to the unique culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the first World War. I enjoyed feeling like a visitor with a backstage pass in the small, remote town of Hot Springs. The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related, all felt very well researched and authentic.
The elements of history introduced by the author, whether Blue Ridge, World War, or medically related, all felt very well researched and authentic.
The primary themes are prejudice, forgiveness, and the cost of hate.
Ending (mild spoiler):
If the idea that this book made me cry has you worried, do not fear. This book has the happy ending requisite of its genre. And it is perfect. I am completely satisfied with how the book ended. And yeah. I closed the book with a smile on my face.
4 out of 5 stars
Material Note: I purchased my own copy of this book, for my own reading pleasure.
Have you read any of Pepper’s books? What do you think?
Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !