Authors: Tracie Peterson/Kimberley Woodhouse
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Jewels of Kalispell #1
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Publisher: Bethany House
They must uncover the truth before it's buried forever.
After witnessing a wrongful conviction as a young girl, Rebecca Whitman--the first female court reporter in Montana--is now determined to defend the innocent. During a murder trial, something doesn't sit well with her about the case, but no one except the handsome new Carnegie librarian will listen to her.
Librarian Mark Andrews's father sent him to college hoping he would take over the business side of the family ranch, but Mark would rather wrangle books than cows. When a patron seeks help with research in hopes of proving a man's innocence, Mark is immediately drawn to her and her cause.
In a race against time, will Rebecca and Mark find the evidence they need--and open their hearts to love--before it's too late?
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
This is the second book by Peterson I’ve read (the first was Remember Me), and the FIRST by Woodhouse. I do have her Secrets of the Canyon series on my TBR list.
I was drawn to the legal angle of the book and Rebecca's witnessing the wrongful conviction of a man when she was 10 and being affected by it. I also liked the idea of her being the first female court reporter.
In addition, I did NOT expect a male librarian and did not know that the position was mostly a male-dominated job prior to the 1930s.
Woodhouse and Peterson write with such unity that it is hard to tell there are two different authors writing this.
While it is distributed by a primarily Christian publisher, the first half of the story does tend towards proselytizing. It starts off like a "salvation" mission for Rebecca, along with her theological discovery and conversations with Mark, before hitting the main plot.
Some readers might not enjoy that much of the Christian faith in their books. I don’t know if that was Woodhouse’s contribution or Peterson’s. Remember Me did not seem that heavy with references.
The main plot didn’t start until around the 49% mark, when a visitor to Kalispell is stabbed. Rebecca doesn’t think the suspect is the true culprit. She then tells Mark about the incident she witnessed, causing him to want to help her since he’s already drawn to her. The trial begins with less than 30% of the story remaining, which doesn’t leave a lot of time left to devote to it with the other arcs going on as well.
The other two arcs involve a con artist connected to one of the characters, which ends up connecting to the case. The con artist or villain is easily revealed and a bit too soon, to be honest. There is also the judge’s secretary, Sam, harassing Rebecca over a courtship. That was off/on for about a third of the book.
Overall, this has what I want most in a good story: a bit of suspense, slight elements of humour, strong characters that have careers that tend to be less conventional, and a bit of romance, though that was minor in this book. This tended to be more fiction than romance.
I would’ve liked to have seen more of a resolution with the Chicago case that began Rebecca’s crusade, though. I am interested in reading future books in the series.
Thank you to Bethany House (a division of Baker Books), for providing a complimentary review copy through Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required, and all words are my own.
Reviewer: Cheryl Wood
Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse are two authors that you know when you turn the first page of the book you will be in for an adventure. This is a wonderful story for the start of a new series.
As a young girl, Rebecca witnessed a young man who was convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Her goal was to defend the innocent. She applies for and accepts a job outside of Chicago in beautiful Montana as the first female court reporter. Upon her arrival in Montana, Marvella and her husband, the local judge, help Rebecca establish her life in Kalispell. She meets Mark Andrews, the new director of the Carnegie Library, and with her passion for books, they both start a friendship that withstands time.
Can a woman be a court reporter inside a courtroom? Rebecca is a very determined young lady who wants to make sure another innocent person is not wrongly accused. I love the message behind the story about trusting God to always bring good out of something bad. I did not care for the villain in the story. However, his story was interesting.
If you love historical fiction, this is a must-read. I was up late into the night turning pages to find out what happened to Rebecca and Mark. I am eagerly waiting for the second book in the series.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews in exchange for my honest review.
Reviewer: Billi Varela
Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse did an outstanding job on this novel.
I love novels about when women were not allowed to do stuff back then and how they do what they can to get their rights. Peterson and Woodhouse did their research to give us this novel.
I also really found the whole court thing interesting. It gave me new insight into this era’s court system.
There are a few mentions of ranching, which I greatly appreciate. I hope the next book has something to do with ranching.
Rebecca and Mark’s romance story was so pure. I loved the whole friends-to-lovers trope. It is a slow-burn romance.
Mark’s relationship with his father was a bit difficult to read. But I was glad to see the progress. His “stand-in” parents really stepped in to help him navigate his life and fill in the gap that Mark’s father couldn’t fill.
This is a clean read. There are a few mentions of women in a saloon. There is an on-page murder, but it is not gruesome. There are mentions of poisoning. On-page assault, not gruesome.
I requested and received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews. I was not required to give a favorable review. All options are my own.
Reviewer: Nancy Brown
This was a story about a young woman, Rebecca, gaining independence and a career at a time when women basically had no rights and were not taken seriously. It's also a story about a young man, Mark, who chose not to pursue a lifelong career that his father would have preferred, and the clashes between him and his dad.
Rebecca and Mark meet each other after she moves to Montana to take a job as a court reporter and after Mark opens the Carnegie Library for a town in Kalispell, Montana. Rebecca is in search of books, and Mark is the head librarian. I also liked the characters of Marvella and her husband, the Judge. They were so likable!
What I liked most about The Heart's Choice was the clear, complete Gospel of Jesus Christ, written for all the readers of this book. Tracie Peterson is faithful to include the most important message in her books, and I think Kimberly Woodhouse helped to intermingle the truths of God's word into the story in a way that was so natural. I appreciated reading how Rebecca learned how to be born again and asked Jesus to save her. Mark was already born again and was thrilled after Rebecca told him about her new life in Christ.
I did not particularly care about the court case of the murder of a man, and I hope Tracie doesn't start making that a common part of her books.
Overall, this was a well-written, interesting story with some facts about Kalispell, Montana, and how the laws worked in the early 1900s in the great country of America.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Demetria Head
Tracie Peterson’s and Kimberley Woodhouse’s The Heart’s Choice is an extraordinary historical fiction novel that effortlessly transports readers to a bygone era, capturing the climate and essence of the past with meticulous attention to detail. Through vivid prose and compelling characters, the authors weave a mesmerizing tapestry of love, resilience, and one’s true calling to advocate for justice.
Set against the backdrop of historical Kalispell, Montana, we are pulled into the worlds of Rebecca, the fiery advocating court reporter, and Mark, the librarian who immerses himself into the world of books. We follow where their chemistry leads while also seeing what mystery unravels that could leave a man’s innocence hanging in the balance or see if there really is light at the end of the tunnel of justice. We also see their lives nearly turned upside down when a near tragedy hits close to Mark’s home.
I love the tidbits of history, the historical landmarks, and the societal norms that the authors highlight for the 1890s to early 1900s. It allows the readers to gain understanding and insight into an era where men and women had certain expectations in terms of roles in the workplace and society in general. I felt as though I was living in this time period with Rebecca and Mark.
At the heart of The Heart’s Choice is stellar storytelling like none other. It transports readers to a captivating era, delving into the lives of its vibrant characters with grace and authenticity. The novel’s pacing is impeccable, with each chapter seamlessly transitioning into the next. Peterson and Woodhouse are true to their ability to paint a great narrative that makes this book an absolute treasure for fans of the genre. Prepare to be swept away on a remarkable journey through time, where the past comes alive, and the vivid imagery is painted that allows readers to feel the blossoming emotions and experience the characters’ joys and heartaches.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Ewurabena Wilson
Love, redemption, mystery, and justice all come together to make this novel a very good read.
There is a tendency to predict how a novel under a type of genre will play out based on previous read works under such genre. Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse’s, The Heart’s Choice has disproved my assertion.
The first book in The Jewels of Kalispell series is different because of the spiritual journey of the female protagonist. Rebecca Whitman is a young woman who moves from Chicago to Kalispell, Montana, to take up a job as the first female stenographer of a court. At this place, she meets people like Mark Andrews, Judge Asbury, and his wife, the vivacious Marvella. Through interactions with these people, she finds romance, friendship, and, most importantly, salvation. Almost all female protagonists I have read in this genre are already Christians. It was, therefore, new and interesting to read about Rebecca’s doubts and difficulties on her journey to salvation and seeking justice.
The novel was a bit difficult to read at first because the first aspect was quite slow. However, the second part of the novel picked up nicely to the extent that I could not put the book down. I loved the authors’ description of Kalispell. The description makes one want to add the place to one’s bucket list of places to travel to. Overall, a very good novel to read. Any book that places the gospel at the centre will always get a nod from me. If you are looking for a solid Christian book with a taste of romance, justice, friendship, and women's rights, this novel is one to check out.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through NetGalley and Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Conny Withay
“I just can’t abide another innocent man dying when I could do something about it,” Rebecca prays in Tracie Peterson’s and Kimberly Woodhouse’s novel, The Heart’s Choice.
The first book in the Jewels of Kalispell series, this three-hundred-and-thirty-six-page paperback targets those interested in a historical romance about a young couple learning to trust God to find the truth. With no profanity, topics involving physical abuse, murder, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending has notes from the authors, the authors’ biographies, and advertisements.
Set in the small town of Kalispell in the early 1900s, Rebecca Whitman is excited about her new position as the first female court reporter in Montana. Having witnessed a wrongful conviction as a young girl, she loves learning about the law and justice. When she meets Mark Andrew, the new librarian, the inquisitive woman finds him helpful in more than questioning a man’s innocence involving a murder.
With the backdrop of historical landmarks in Kalispell, this book focuses on the Carnegie Library, women’s suffrage, and the legal system. At the same time, the two protagonists search for their true selves. I loved that it explained the eternal plan of salvation, stressing faith, not works. The prayers to God and hymns showed how Christ was the story’s focal point as the two searched for answers to conflicting relationships and unexpected issues.
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not like this story of staying true to oneself while uncovering a murder mystery. Others may not care for the nagging character who seemed to run the town, but she could be used well in another book in the series. The romance is predictable.
Including a map of the town and a list of characters in future books in the series may be helpful.
If you enjoy a Christian read about a man and woman making their mark in a rural town as they trust in God, this first book in a historical series has a refreshing blend of mystery and romance.
I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
From the stunning cover to the final pages, I thoroughly loved this novel. This writing team is one of the best for Historical Christian Fiction. The research was the backbone of this story and depicts the beginning of a new Carnegie Library in Kalispell, Montana, in 1904 and the fictional Rebecca Whitman, who became the state's first female court reporter.
The authors have spun a terrific tale of mystery, romance, faith, and courtroom drama that I will not soon forget. I loved the touch of humor with the small white dog and the fleshed-out characters. I am grateful for the clear gospel message this story contains.
The heroine was searching for the truth in the Bible and realized that a relationship with God, through Christ, can be personal. Other themes included reconciliation, being too busy to focus on family and relationships, and not being afraid to accept help from those older and wiser. Great lessons to learn from this entertaining read.
Put this one on your To Be Read pile.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House on behalf of the authors. I was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Lori Parrish
It's an interesting read, for sure! Anything written by these ladies is always good!
I knew the moment I opened this book it would be awesome. In my opinion, there's nothing sweeter than books and libraries together.
Peterson and Woodhouse have added some twists and turns you won't see coming. This made me keep turning the pages to see what happened next. So realistic that it sometimes made my heart thump.
A wonderful confession of faith was added in as well to make it that much more interesting. My favorite thing was the little tidbits of information on how this story came about. This story will keep your attention and leave you full and satisfied.
Thank you, Revell and Netgalley, for a copy of this wonderful adventure. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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