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Jun 15, 2012

The River Rose by Gilbert Morris

Loved this intriguing and classy story
The River Rose: A Water Wheel Novel by Gilbert Morris
B&H Publishing Group June 1, 2012
Paperback 400 pages
Review copy from publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: FOUR STARS!

Life hasn’t been easy for Jeanne Bettencourt, a widow approaching thirty and struggling to provide for her eight-year-old daughter. But hope arrives in the form of the Helena Rose, a steamboat she unexpectedly inherits from a distant, departed relative. Jeanne’s father had captained a similar vessel and taught her how to pilot a steamer along the banks of Memphis. She’s looking forward to a renewed livelihood on the mighty Mississippi.

However, as plans are made, news comes of another heir to the Helena Rose - a tough man named Clint Hardin - and a clause in the will that says claimants of the estate must live aboard the boat. Jeanne, a Christian woman, makes it clear she won’t stay with a man who is not her husband. But both are desperate for work, so they agree to keep their distance as Clint occupies the lower deck and Jeanne takes the captain’s quarters.

As they restore the Helena Rose, the slowly softening Clint becomes attracted to Jeanne - who is now being courted by a wealthy plantation owner. With her family and future at stake, the desires of Jeanne’s heart are duly complex. Only her simple faith can navigate her through what’s about to happen.

The opening chapters of The River Rose sets the scene as if it were straight out of a Louisa May Alcott novel. I could imagine a black and white movie with Jeanne and her angelic daughter Marvel vividly in my mind, and I was hooked. I had expected a river boat type setting but that doesn't happen till later, and I enjoyed the author taking the time to let us explore his characters and become entrenched in their lives. There were indeed quite a few characters, from the sexy singer of Clint Hardin, to a wealthy suitor of Jeanne's who aches to sweep the young maid off her feet. Instead of welcoming the gentle advances of George Masters, Jeanne is an honest woman, and doesn't mind working hard for a living to provide for herself and her daughter.

Clint's story is much like Jeanne's: willing to work hard, and even to fight for a living. Unusual circumstances and an inheritance of a river boat bring Clint and Jeanne together as Jeanne agrees return to her roots and pilot the river boat, despite the astonishment of those who believe a woman's place is in the kitchen. Jeanne and Clint also face adversity with each other but continue to work together despite their differences, as honor and willpower drive them both.
Jeanne's daughter Marvel - along with her friends the dog Leo and a young boy - bring a sweet element to the story of hardship and survival, which also underlines a devotion to God and flawed characters. I enjoyed the fact that most of these characters were not one dimensional; they were all intriguing in their own way. The plot was superb with a mix of romance and even suspense, and the Christian element was well done. I think with all of the elements the author presented into one novel some things could have been explored deeper; though seemingly for the sake of expediency with efforts to include a myriad of plot points some things may have been glazed over and rushed through. However, Gilbert Morris has sold me and I plan on reading many more of his novels as this Christy Award winner has quite a few to choose from. The River Rose is a perfect read for those who enjoy clean and classy Christian historical fiction, with an old fashioned flair.

The previous novel in the Water Wheel series is and is a stand-alone.