September 1815, Providence, Rhode Island
Thirty-year-old Remembrance “Mem” Wilkins loves her solitary life running the farm and orchard she inherited from her father and has no plans to give up her independence. Especially not for the likes of Mr. Graham Lott. But when Mem is unable to harvest the apples on her own, she accepts the help of the man she despises.
Fresh off a boat from Ireland with his four-year-old son in tow, Simon Brennan secures a building in which to ply his trade as a cobbler. Still healing from the grief of his wife’s death a year earlier, he determines to focus only on providing a good life for his son. But when he intervenes in an argument on behalf of the intriguing Miss Wilkins, sister-in-law of the tavern owner who befriends him, he suddenly finds himself crossways with his landlord, Mr. Lott, and relieved of his lease and most of his money.
With no means of support, Simon takes a job helping Mem with her harvest, relieving her of the need of Lott’s help. But their growing attraction to each other makes them both uneasy. Mem gladly escapes to town when her sister begins labor, and Simon, believing it best to distance himself from Mem, takes his son and leaves.
But neither anticipates the worst gale New England has ever seen—or that the storm will threaten all they hold dear.
Why This Book:
See the blurb above? That’s why. I was intrigued enough to check out the author. What I found encouraged me that the author was likely to deliver well on the promise of her premise, so I requested a review copy and a spot on her tour through Celebrate Lit.
Opening Line (from Chapter 1):
Remembrance Wilkins – Mem to her friends and family – shivered, feeling to her bones the coolness of stone walls which never warmed.
While I wasn’t a fan of the interruption in the first sentence explaining her name, that was my only nit-picky dislike of the first scene of this novella. It was clear from the first page that this author had honed her craft as I was drawn in by descriptions that enticed my senses and a character whose struggles were clear and relatable. Like the first scene of a great movie, I felt I was there, in the story.
Remembrance “Mem” Wilkins – The blurb for the novella explains her well. She is independent, capable, and intelligent. Without being arrogant or aggressive in any way, she understands the expectations of her neighbors, but refuses to conform to them. She is stubborn and her motives for being independent are certainly questionable – that’s the point of her character arc – but she is, for the most part, a calm, reasonable, responsible woman who works hard and is loyal to her family.
Simon Brennan – Another character who is well described in the novella’s blurb, Simon is a loving father and widower with a chip on his shoulder from past wrongs done him by those who are financially superior. This leaves him wary of becoming attached to Mem who is a landowner in her own right, making her financially superior to him. His driving desire is to prove himself in the economic realm – to gain financial equality with those currently above him. This desire is motivated not by greed, but pride and is connected to his character arc.
Timothy Brennan – The four year old son of Simon, Timothy is bright, kind, and obedient. I found his behaviors and emotions completely believable for a child of his age in this time period.
Charity Hyer – Mem’s younger, married sister lives in town with her husband, Isaac, and their young daughters. At the start of the novella she is far along in her pregnancy and her history of quick deliveries adds to Mem’s worries. The two sisters have a healthy, loving, close relationship.
Isaac Hyer – Isaac Hyer owns the Gray Goose. He is a loving husband to Charity and caring father. However, he is also the younger brother of the man who betrayed Mem’s heart years prior and thus his resemblance serves as a reminder to Mem not to let her guard down.
Graham Lott – Having been a friend of Mem’s father, he uses that former relationship (Mem’s father has passed on) to declare himself her protector. Their twenty year age difference and Mem’s repeated refusals of his proposals don’t seem to have had any discouraging affect on his determination to gain ownership of her orchard. His character is made clear from the start and he is someone readers will love to loathe.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I mentioned in my First Impressions section, this novella drew me in from the very beginning. While the first third of the book had a comfortable, yet compelling, sense of tension, the last two thirds held me in such a grip I must confess to not getting to sleep until nearly four in the morning – when I’d turned the last page.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I loved that this story was sparked by actual historical events (as confirmed in the Author’s Notes at the end of the novella). Every historical detail felt rich, real, and true. While the climax may have stretched the bounds of believability (I’m making that a word), it didn’t completely break them, and honestly, I couldn’t have cared less. I was literally gnawing my lip as I read that scene, holding my breath as if I were … well, experiencing what the characters were experiencing. Needless to say, I loved it. Then I read the author’s notes at the end and realized that what I found barely plausible was actually based on a true historical event! I absolutely love when truth is stranger than fiction!
While independence in and of itself is not wrong, independence sought for the wrong reasons and taken to the extreme of ignoring/denying one’s dependence on God is wrong.
Holding on to the wrongs done to you in the past can cost you not only your future happiness, but even those things which you currently hold dear.
I loved the ending scenes of this novella. I felt they beautifully wrapped up everything the reader hoped for as we made our way through the story. My only complaint is that I wanted just a little bit more. While I realize this is a novella, I needed just a page or two more to luxuriate in the joy of where the characters’ journey had taken them. Nevertheless, I closed the book with a huge grin on my face and an eagerness to read more by this author.
5 out of 5 stars
Available at: Amazon
(none of the links in this review are affiliate links)
UPDATE Nov. 18, 2019: You can now read my review of Book 2 in the Coast-to-Coast Brides series here!
Do you prefer short endings, or would you rather have a little bit more time to enjoy the glow? Let me know in the comments below!
Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos above for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !
About the Author
Guest Post from Anne Mateer
I’m always up for a good historical story. It’s what I enjoy reading. It’s what I enjoy writing. But I find that my pleasure in any historical fiction increases exponentially when the story at hand is based on at least a kernel of historical fact. All four of my full-length novels share this trait. So it stood to reason that when turning my mind to a historical novella I would seek the same grounding in truth I’ve sought before.
So what historical fact inspired No Small Storm? It was a combination of them, actually. Which I think always makes for the best tales!
I like an overarching historical event to help frame a story. Things like war or economic crisis or natural disaster. Situations in the historical record which required courage or resilience or sacrifice from the people who lived through them. When I stumbled upon the Great Gale of 1815, which hit Providence, Rhode Island particularly hard, I knew it could provide obstacles for my characters to overcome.
As I began to read about this event—a hurricane before such storms were commonly called hurricanes—I happened upon some first hand accounts of that day. Fascinating remembrances about a storm arriving without much preamble, then departing and leaving bright sunny skies with which to view the destruction.
And destruction there was! Not only from wind and water, but also the fact that both of those things unleashed the ships moored in the harbor and sent them sailing down the main street of town! Can you imagine looking out of the second or third story window of a building which was likely flooded on the ground floor and seeing a ship coming at you?
That, in itself, was dramatic enough. Especially when coupled with the fact that those ships often broke apart, whether from wind and waves or from contact with the buildings and bridges they encountered on land. Then I considered the people in those ships. What happened to them? Many were flung into the water, searching for purchase.
It was just such a circumstance that brought one man to the window of a young woman. She helped him inside. They were later married. And if finding such a story isn’t a romance writer’s delight, I don’t know what is!
Finally, as I continued to read about the destruction in the area, I discovered a few lines about area orchards. The hanging fruit was found covered with a dusting of white. When tasted, it was discovered to be salt. Salt from storm surge and sea spray. Salt that saturated, even miles inland. Water and wind—and the salt they carried—ruining fruit crops ready for harvest. What could be more devastating to a farmer than that?
And so No Small Storm was born, with Remembrance and Simon each trying to make a good life for themselves, each trying to trust God as they work hard. Each keeping careful watch over their heart. But sometimes circumstances take things we don’t want to give. And give things we never imagined possible.
Historical fact and spiritual truth. Characters who are a product of their times as well as universal in their struggles and desires. It’s the kind of story I love to read. And the kind of story I’m proud to write.
Texas Book-aholic, February 6
Carpe Diem, February 6
Reflections From My Bookshelves, February 7
Reading Is My SuperPower, February 7
The Power of Words, February 8
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 8
Inklings and notions, February 9
Blossoms and Blessings, February 9
Kathleen Denly, February 10 YAY, YOU’RE HERE! 😀
History, Mystery & Faith, February 10
Bukwurmzzz, February 11
Views From the Window Friend, February 11
By The Book, February 12
Maureen’s Musings, February 12
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, February 13
Mary Hake, February 13
proud to be an autism mom, February 14
Connie’s History Classroom, February 14
A Greater Yes, February 15
Janices book reviews, February 15
Jeanette’s Thoughts, February 16
A Baker’s Perspective, February 16
Bibliophile Reviews, February 17
Margaret Kazmierczak, February 17 (Interview)
Simple Harvest Reads, February 18 (Guest post from Mindy)
Bigreadersite, February 18
Pink Granny’s Journey, February 19
Pursuing Stacie, February 19
To celebrate her tour, Anne is giving away a grand prize of a reader bag of goodies—including a Pride and Prejudice fleece throw, a “reading” charm necklace from Storied Jewelry, a Secret Garden litograph tote bag, and a $25 Amazon gift card!!!