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Sep 28, 2012

Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson

A character-rich tale of life in a mining town
Skip Rock Shallows by Jan Watson
Tyndale, June 1, 2012
Paperback 384 pages 9780764209901
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine, August 2012
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can't understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock--a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents' trust.As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner--one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he's hiding.
Dr. Lilly Corbett is sent to a coal-mining town of Kentucky where folks have an issue with women being anything more than hard working wives. Lilly struggles to get the residents to accept her and only illness can force the issue. As successive tragedies strike the mining town, both Lilly's medical abilities and tender nature endear her to the residents of Skip Rock. In turn, Lilly finds herself becoming attached to the folks in Skip Rock which disrupts her plans to marry the worthy Dr. Paul back in Boston. Meanwhile, a drifter at the mine turns out to have more in common with Lilly than she expected, and a relationship blossoms despite undercurrents of treachery and foul play. 

The plot is fairly simple, yet this is a well-written character driven novel.  Characters such as a young lady Armina who doesn't hesitate to tell you what's what, and Cousin Ned who works so hard you would never knew he had a peg leg; these are all characters who will stay with you after the end of the book. As the plot drifts towards the mine's endeavors and shady dealings, each of the romance and inspirational themes provide a subtle touch to complement Lilly's own relationships and character development. Readers will get a dose of medical procedures with this telling, as well as welcome details of the way of life of the families of the miners in early 1900’s. Although part of a series, the novel stands alone, as only a small thread ties it to Jan Watson’s previous works.