Author: Ann H. Gabhart
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Discover what happens when one intrepid young woman steps away from the past into a beautiful, wide-open future.
In 1933 Louisville, Kentucky, even the ongoing economic depression cannot keep Piper Danson's parents from insisting on a debut party. After all, their fortune came through the market crash intact, and they've picked out the perfect suitor for their daughter. Braxton Crandall can give her the kind of life she's used to. The only problem? This is not the man--or the life--she really wants.
When Piper gets the opportunity to volunteer as a horseback Frontier Nursing courier in the Appalachian Mountains for the summer, she jumps at the chance to be something other than a dutiful daughter or a kept wife in a loveless marriage. The work is taxing, the scenery is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the people she meets along the way open a whole new world to her. The longer she stays, the more an advantageous marriage slips from her grasp. But something much more precious--true love--is drawing ever closer.
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
This story definitely drew me in, and it was a “must-read. It also didn’t hurt that the cover was simply gorgeous with all the purple in it. That sunset! WOW! So, yes, the cover was the first thing that grabbed me!
Set in 1933 following the stock market crash before World War II, this story is actually based on Mrs. Mary Carson Breckenridge (1881-1965; granddaughter of Vice President John C. Breckinridge), who founded the Frontier Nursing Service in 1925 which also led to the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery. The school graduated its first class in 1940.
Readers will be interested to know that the Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, Kentucky, was reported first (1st) by U.S News & World Report of graduate schools of midwifery and 14th among family nurse practitioner programs in 2011. Stories like this give an interesting and entertaining look into history.
Speaking of the stories – at the heart of those stories are the people/characters involved. This is told in the third person from Piper’s POV, along with Jamie’s POV.
I instantly admired Piper. From the beginning, her reluctance to fall into the “debutante” lifestyle was admirable and a refreshing change. Instead of being served, she wanted to serve. She wanted to do something before settling into her life, and I really loved that she made that decision. It was a shame her father nor ill-fated suitor, Braxton, could see it. Thankfully, Piper had no interest in him. For some reason, he reminded me of Hockley from the movie “Titanic.”
Aunt Truda was an absolute delight. Her honesty was candid, refreshing, and definitely added some perspective on the expectations of the times.
Jamie was definitely an admirable character because he didn’t give up on Piper. He also kept things low key and was mild-mannered. Of the male characters, I felt he was the strongest one. Despite his losses, he still maintained his personality and dignity.
Another character was Dr. Jackson Booker, who had a connection to Truda. With that, the reader gets two romances with this beautiful read – Piper/Jamie and Truda/Jackson. However, there is more focus on Piper and Jamie.
The plot was absolutely moving. Gabhart’s vivid, colorful writing with authentic vernacular for the time and location and short chapters certainly made this a quick read. I was really surprised how interested I was in this – especially given my “history” with historical romance. And, I was surprised I didn’t want to put it down.
I got a feel for the society of that time – some of the ideas were, compared to now, quite silly. One was about pregnant women who didn’t parade their expectant bodies around. Thus pregnant women, when they started showing, were to remain confined at home. Instead of celebrating pregnancy, it was treated as something shameful. And, given how miraculous it is – that is quite the shame. But, that is why reading books such as this are also important. It was also interesting to see how the different “classes” handled the stock market crash.
I enjoyed reading about the technological advances (vehicles), which were still combined with horse and buggy travel and travel by train. In addition, the book highlights the medical advances. Despite having hospitals, the Frontier Nursing Service was there to provide healthcare to those who had limited access, such as the mountain people of rural Kentucky and remote and impoverished areas. This drastically reduced the mother and infant mortality rates. Girls like Piper were often couriers and assisted the nurses, along with the hospital staff.
There is some humorous talk about moonshiners and revenuers (IRS, FBI). As one character stated, one does not discuss religion, politics, moonshine, or revenuers, which lightened the story’s tone.
Piper learns more than she bargained for when it comes to life in the hills but doesn’t shy away from the challenge. She also gets some valuable life skills. And some aspects were almost funny. To me, the chicken prep directions were hilarious, as was her trying to get the chicken.
To add to everything, Truda and Jamie both show up in Wendover. Both are there to “seek” out the people they still have feelings for. One lesson Truda learns, and it is one that is personal to me – some things are meant to be, even if decades had to pass. For Piper, it is coming to terms with balancing what is expected of her and what she wants. Of course, Braxton also shows up calling for Piper as well to add even more drama.
There are some dramatic moments in this book that caused me to pause for a moment, and one was a teary-eyed moment. This is definitely a stunning and almost heartbreaking read, and it is a story that will stay with the reader for quite a while.
The publisher is a known Christian/faith themed group, so there will be some bible and faith references and a strong belief in God. The references are not central to the plot, so the reader won’t feel as though they’re being preached to. While a “clean” read, there might be a slight questionable “roundabout” reference to reproduction on page 75 (chapter 9).
Fans of the author and genre will no doubt enjoy Gabhart’s latest release. This was my first time reading Gabhart’s work, and I truly enjoyed the book.
Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing a complimentary copy to review through Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required or requested, and all words are my own.
Reviewer: Debbie Smith
The characters in this charming story drew me in and surrounded me quickly with the feel of time and location. Even without much description, I could easily imagine each person as they spoke. I feel sure these Appalachian characters will win you over too.
In 1933, like most of the country, Louisville, Kentucky, was experiencing the Great Depression. Piper Danson and her family are lucky enough to come through the economic crisis unscathed. So her parents plan her elaborate debut complete with a suitable match that her father has chosen for her to marry.
But shortly after the debut, Piper hears about the Frontier Nurse/Midwives in the Appalachian Mountains. She chooses to distance herself from dating and feeling obligated to make her parents happy. So she hurriedly heads off to the Appalachian Mountains for a summer adventure.
As I mentioned, it’s not just the story that interested me, but the characters. One of the first to catch my interest was Maxine, a lady that Piper met on the train. I had to smile as I read what Maxine said to Piper.
“I suspect you’re fixing to have some eye-opening times down there with those nurse-midwives. They go right to the houses to help those mamas have babies, you know. Best way, if you ask me. My daughter, she went to a hospital. Waste of money. I had her right in the same bed where my man and me did what has to be done to make her. Worked fine.”
The woman reached over and touched Piper’s arm. “Now I’ve gone and made your cheeks bloom again. You’ll see plenty down there in Leslie County to make you blush, but it’ll all be good. As long as you step where the Lord wants you to step.”
Piper meets other interesting characters when she reaches Wendover and The Garden House. When she is instructed that it would be best to make noise, such as singing on the trail, to alert the mountain people, the conversation makes it easy to visualize the women.
“They wouldn’t shoot me, would they?” Piper remembered her mother telling Truda that all mountaineers had guns.
“No.” Suze sounded very sure of that, and Piper breathed a little easier. At least until Suze went on. “Definitely not on purpose. But shot on purpose or by accident can lead to the same unfortunate outcome.”
Though the people are quite different from the more financially secure that Piper is familiar with, it takes no time for her to begin enjoying them, the surroundings, and even the miracle of birth. The story comes to life with history, romance, surroundings, and of course, unique characters.
This is such a calming, warm story. It’s interesting and even uplifting. And who doesn’t love a bit of romance? It is the perfect book to grab a cup of coffee and curl up with. You won’t be sorry.
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: June McCrary Jacobs
A beautiful Depression-era gem written by Author Ann H. Gabhart . . .
This well-written tale begins the evening of twenty-year-old Piper Danson's society debut in May, 1933. The Depression is in full swing in the United States, and Piper's parents have decided it is time for their youngest daughter to marry a man of means. We soon learn that Piper has other ideas for her future . . .
The author's description of the Appalachian Mountains and the terrain the Frontier Nursing Society couriers and nurses must cover is excellent. At times I felt as if I were riding a horse on a narrow trail through the rugged terrain. Ann H. Gabhart wrote in detail about the sounds of the birds and waterways Piper heard and the spectacular sites she glimpsed on her sojourns to the medical centers and homes of those she was serving.
Particularly powerful scenes were the ones in which the main characters in the story encountered the local residents of the area. These strong and resilient men and women were wary of any outsiders who were traveling in their area and the direct manner in which they spoke was a source of great discomfort for the outsiders.
The characters in the story are well-developed and varied. From wealthy to poor, educated to uneducated, genuine to insincere, kind to indifferent, the core characters in this story were interesting and realistic.
One of my favorite elements of the story was the set of Christianity-based standards the Frontier Nursing Society instilled in their nurses and summer volunteers. The kindness and compassion shown toward the local residents they were serving was inspiring and admirable. These nurses and couriers were dedicated to helping the residents, and they showed respect toward the beliefs, superstitions, and lifestyle of the community members at all times.
Another important thread in the story was the close relationship Piper had with her aunt, Truda Danson, a forty-five-year-old unmarried woman with whom Piper always shared a special bond. Their relationship reminded me of my special aunt, and I felt the author did an especially fine job of giving us a tender insight into their relationship.
When I reached the end of the story, I was definitely not ready for my reading journey to end. I thought about this story and its brilliant characters and setting for many days after I read the final page. This was the first book I had the pleasure of reading which was crafted by this talented author, but it will not be the last!
I highly-recommend this book for fans of Christian fiction, Christian historical fiction, Christian romance, and Appalachian fiction.
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell, through Interviews & Reviews, for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Nancy J. Brown
An Appalachian Summer is a whet-your-appetite for more, kind of book! After reading this well written Christian historical fiction novel by Ann Gabhart, I wanted to learn more about the Frontier Nursing Service.
The protagonist is Piper Danson, the daughter of a wealthy father and mother. She is looking for something more in life besides socialite life, the latest fashions, and luxury. When her Aunt Truda hosts a tea for Mary Breckenridge, Piper's viewpoint begins to change. Mrs. Breckenridge convinces Piper to join the Frontier Nursing Services as a courier, just for the summer, in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. Piper becomes happily enmeshed with the organization, enjoying the challenging responsibilities, while trying to forget the two young men in her life who are courting her, one actively, one passively.
Mary Breckinridge, the granddaughter of U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge, went to school and college in Switzerland and Connecticut before getting her nursing degree from St. Luke's Hospital in New York. She took graduate courses in midwifery in the United Kingdom, which enabled her to run the hospital she established in Kentucky.
I enjoyed reading the well-placed Scripture verses Mrs. Gabhart used throughout her book, and I hope with her next novel, she uses even more. Each verse brought a more in-depth meaning to whatever part of the story I happened to be at. The Word of God is a living book, and it always adds much depth and treasure to any Christian novel when used properly, which is was, in An Appalachian Summer.
I liked the descriptions of the treks through the mountains, it felt almost real. I enjoyed the relationship Piper had with her lifelong friend, Jamie, and her dilemma with Braxton Crandall.
The relationship and then romance between Piper and Jamie was so well written! The way they interacted with each other and how their friendship matured was admirably done. Good job, Ann Gabhart. Solid writing through the entire book. I do recommend this Christian historical fiction novel.
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell, through Interviews & Reviews, for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Linda Klager
I was so excited to read this book because I loved the cover. I could picture the rhododendrons so well after Piper mentioned them. The purple flowers and the purple that Piper is wearing is so beautiful.
Piper Danson wanted to do something meaningful besides going to debutante parties all summer long. Piper's father wanted his daughter to marry a rich young man. He was very concerned because of the depression and wanted his daughter to have the best of everything. Her father thought, "love would grow" over time. Piper did not want to marry without love.
Many people thought Piper's name was very strange. It was not a family name, but one given to her by her Aunt Truda. Aunt Truda never married, and Piper and Truda were very similar in their thinking.
Truda invited Mrs. Breckenridge, the founder of the Frontier Nursing Service in one of the Kentucky counties in the Appalachian Mountains, to speak at Piper's parents' home. Truda and Piper's mother wanted to support this cause. At this meeting, Mrs. Breckenridge asked Piper to come and be a courier to aid the midwives. Piper convinced her mother to let her go. Piper's father was so concerned that she would lose the chance to find a proper husband at the balls that she would miss if she left.
Piper and Jamie have been friends for many years. Piper's father did not want his daughter to see Jamie anymore because Jamie's family lost all their money in the stock market crash.
I loved the description of the beauty of the mountains and how the girls learned so much about a simple way of life. It was not an easy life, though. These girls learned so many practical ways of living.
Some of the interesting things I learned were new lingo. I have heard about the midwives "catching babies" before, but I did not know about "sass patch," which was their vegetable gardens. The people in Kentucky that Piper met had a lot of faith in God - I loved that. I do wish that the author would have had Piper and Jamie come to more of a spiritual awakening besides just going to church.
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell, through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
When I read the info about An Appalachian Summer by Ann Gabhart, I thought it was a sequel to These Healing Hills. It wasn't, but it could have been.
Both books centered on the Frontier Nursing service in the Appalachian Mountains. This book focused on a young debutante, Piper Danson, who, dissatisfied with life, looks for a way to escape her obligation of getting married to the "right" guy, for all the wrong reasons (status, money, and a comfortable life). So she volunteers to become a courier in the Appalachian Mountains, for the Frontier Nursing Service. Her goal was to avoid thinking about the man she really loved, but was "unsuitable" for her to marry, according to her father. She also wanted to not think about the man her father wanted her to marry. A man she felt nothing for. So she runs away hoping to delay the inevitable. But sometimes, the "inevitable" chases you down until you have no choice but to make a decision.
I enjoyed learning more about the Frontier Nursing Service. Ann Gabhart once again has done her research, giving the reader not only a mind's-eye view of the Appalachians, but the experience of what the nurses and couriers had to go through. I am convinced I will never eat another chicken again. No, I'm not going to tell you what happens to the poor chicken. Suffice it to say, the author's writing was vivid enough that I am now thinking of becoming completely vegetarian.
I love that the author includes an element of faith in her books, while not being preachy about it. The major theme in this book, for me, was taking that step out in faith when we are unsure what will happen. Something Piper had to learn the hard way.
"That can be how faith in the Lord is. You might feel a little trembly when you take that first step of trusting your ways to him, but once you do, you can always depend on that firm foundation of the Lord's love."
A lovely book, with a beautiful message. I highly recommend it.
I received this book courtesy of Baker Publishing/Revell, through NetGalley.
Reviewer: Anna Bottoms
Hope, faith, and love abound as lives converge in the Appalachian Mountains. Reminiscent of Call The Midwife, Mrs. Breckinridge’s nurses and courier service in Appalachia are inspiring.
I connected with these young ladies as they stepped out of their comfort zones to do something bigger than themselves. I loved the rawness and authenticity of the mountain people. The characters were well written and stepped right out of the pages of the book.
Truda and Piper have pushed against the constraints of society. In the mountains they must both face what they learn about themselves. Will they decide to follow expectations or follow their hearts?
I was given a copy of this book courtesy of Baker Publishing House by Interviews and Reviews through NetGalley. I recommend this book.
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