A Midwife for Sweetwater and A New Face in Town. Susan Payne. 2020. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence from A Midwife for Sweetwater: Rebecca had her nose practically pressed to the train's window as it pulled into the neat brick station with stylish green trim.
First sentence from A New Face in Town: The grandfatherly conductor helped Victoria down from the high train car.
Premise/plot: A Midwife for Sweetwater and A New Face in Town are two novellas set in Sweetwater, Kansas, set in 1873. (Amazing how all FOUR books in the series so far are set in 1873--it's like time doesn't pass at all and yet there are babies being born!)
In A Midwife for Sweetwater, Rebecca Johansen, a midwife, comes to town to be the midwife for the community. This slightly plump midwife is wooed by the town's minister, Daniel Walters, but it's not a smooth relationship. She feels he's too goody-goody and a bit hypocritical. She wants a man not a man of God. Meanwhile, Daniel is overwhelmed with lusty thoughts and tries his best to flee from temptation. But alas, the community is too small for them to avoid one another's notice. Will these two marry?
A Midwife for Sweetwater features a secondary romance of the town's dressmaker, Abby, to Callie's "brother," Matthew. This romance was hinted at in the previous two books.
In A New Face in Town, Victoria Watkins arrives in town with no real aspects or plans. She's pointed in the direction of Abby and Matthew's house. Perhaps Abby needs help in her shop?--the "grandfatherly conductor" supposes. Victoria is hired to be Grace's nanny. Though Abby feels that Victoria will be "snatched up" soon because she's single and young. Well, she is snatched up--quite literally. This historical romance stars some VILLAINY VILLAINS. And it is up to the sheriff, Mason, to rescue her AND woo her.
My thoughts: Much of what I said in yesterday's review of Harrison Ranch & MacGregor's Mail Order Bride holds true for this follow-up. The book could be improved by a proof reader. (Lots of Champaign drinking going on). Yes, it's a little thing. And would reading champagne make for a better experience overall? I can't guarantee it. But maybe. Little things add up.
But what Payne does well is in the introductory sections of all the novellas. The first three or four chapters are usually really great at establishing the characters and setting up the stories AND setting up all sorts of relationships--not just romantic ones, but good, solid friendships. Because she pays attention to these relationships, the town feels inhabited. This is rare in a romance novel. Lots of people can and do write smut, but only a few have a mind to ground characters.
Now let's talk smut content. I do believe that books three and four (the books I'm reviewing in this post) have less smut than books one and two. That's a good thing--relatively speaking. But they are still smutty. It's more balanced with storytelling in these two novellas. But it's still very graphic and detailed. I wouldn't recommend to readers who prefer clean or nearly clean fiction. If I was reading a print copy, I could probably easy just skip pages--plural--and get back to the story. In an e-book this is nearly impossible.
All the men in the novellas seem to be oblivious and stupid, completely lacing in self-awareness and basic understanding of how thoughts, feelings, and emotions work in general, let alone in love.
I also had some issues with the presentation of the minister in A Midwife for Sweetwater. If a book doesn't mention faith--church, Bible study, prayer, belief in God--I don't drag that into my review usually. But Daniel, a preacher, clearly doesn't understand any/many of the doctrines of the Christian faith. And that bugs me. When preachers act as if GOOD WORKS get you into heaven and that WORKS SALVATION is how God works, I just get upset. Clearly, Daniel doesn't understand how sins are forgiven, doesn't understand the basic concepts of grace and mercy. Daniel doesn't seem to grasp the imputation of Christ--how Christ has PAID IT ALL. All our sins have been placed on Christ--Christ bore our punishment, paid it all, satisfied God's wrath--and all of Christ's righteousness has been placed on believers. We are justified in Christ and Christ alone. You cannot add ANYTHING to what Christ has done. Daniel was all about penance and making up for his past mistakes by being GOOD, good, good and trying to please God and doing his duty. Sermon over.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews