A while back I had won “Orchard of Hope” by Ann H. Gabhart from the Book Club Network. As I hadn’t read the first book “The Scent of Lilacs,” I decided to pick it up via Kindle in order to prep myself for the second in the Hollyhill Series. IF you have a Kindle or a Kindle app even, you can get it right now for free (that can change fast). It wasn’t free when I picked it up (but I think it was only like $3.99 or so) but was still quite the deal.
Title: The Scent of Lilacs
Author: Ann H. Gabhart
About the Book (from Goodreads):
Before Ann H. Gabhart
became well-known for her much-loved Shaker novels, she wrote three
poignant novels centered on the loveable Jocie Brooke and her family,
who lived in 1960s small-town Kentucky. Once named as one of
“Booklist”‘s Top Ten Christian Novels and now featuring a brand new
cover, “Scent of Lilacs” is poised to capture the hearts of new readers
everywhere. Life-changing events rarely happen here, and when they do,
they are few and far between. But for Jocie Brooke and her family, they
happen all at once. Jocie has questions that need answers. As she digs
into her family’s past, she finds a whirlwind of discoveries, and
everything begins to change. In the end, will Jocie find the answers
everyone so desperately needs, or will her questions lead to truths that
were better left uncovered?
Combining unforgettable characters,
true-to-life struggles, and the perfect dose of humor and nostalgia,
this riveting story takes readers through the universal experiences of
true love, new life, and renewed faith. With a beautiful new cover,
“Scent of Lilacs” is poised to capture the hearts of readers everywhere.
Author’s website: Ann H. Gabhart
When I began to read “The Scent of Lilacs,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. I could tell that the book was going to be based in the past and that seemed just perfect for me. Although I only occasionally read historical fiction, a book based in the 50s or 60s is just fine for me. There is a warmth there that I don’t necessarily feel with more modern era books without being something that I simply can’t relate to. The only downside to me, and really this isn’t a downside but a quirk, is I kept reading Holy Hill instead of Hollyhill.
“The Scent of Lilacs” completely pulls you into the story of Jocie Brook and her family. Although it is partially centered on thirteen-year-old Jocie, this is not a book that feels like YA fiction. There is far more too it than that (nothing wrong with YA fiction, it was simply more adult than that). The reader also explores the feelings and thoughts of Jocie’s father David which makes them both the heroine and hero of the story.
“The Scent of Lilacs” is a Christian story through and through and does not hide from it. There are some works you might read where a prayer is said here and there, “The Scent of Lilacs” does not do that. It is unapologetic about being Christian yet handles some pretty extreme issues, and handles them very well. The thing that is beautiful about the way the author handles the Christian aspect of this book is that it completely folds into the story. It is not thrown in like an after thought. It fits into the story which it would have to considering that David, Jocie’s father is also a preacher. I so admire the way it was done, because it really does reflect real life. As a Christian, I am aware that I do have issues and problems I have to overcome, but I seek out the Lord in it all (and fail quite a bit too).
The characters are so very well done. It was quite easy to visualize each one and build a relationship with them. In fact, the town of Hollyhill and Jocie’s family’s home and orchard property was seated firmly in my mind within a few chapters. I easily slid back into the story again and again as I went through my own day-to-day activity between reading.
I loved Jocie’s family and also David’s employees. There was an easiness and believability with all of them. I loved that there were some strong messages and lessons with truth and forgiveness. I loved the hope that the story brought. I loved feeling like I was on a sweet little summer vacation as I read “The Scent of Lilacs.” I also loved that I already have “Orchard of Hope,” the second book in the series to look forward to.
“The Scent of Lilacs” is a book that makes you care. It doesn’t beat you over the head with heart wrenching dramatics to get you there. It gets you there by making you care about the characters first. There was not a manipulative point in the story (and I have seen that in others), but I found myself crying with tears of sadness, hurt, and also joy and hope. Truly this is a fine piece of work and I look forward to reading “Orchard of Hope” next and getting my hands on “Summer of Joy” after that.
Full disclosure: I purchased this book via Amazon Kindle. It was free at the time of my posting however and I believe you’d be a fool not to get it. Just saying. 🙂