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Welcome to my blog! You may not think you know me, but I have a feeling we are very much alike. I am the woman in the long skirt and bulky sweater sitting cross-legged on the library carpet reading the hardback vintage classics one can only find on the bottom shelf, back row. You will also find me searching through the online catalogs of publishing companies and chatting with authors on forums. I love the smell of fresh paper in a new book, and the smell of dust on a vintage classic. I love the classics, Christian fiction, short story collections, and those unique finds that keep me up until the early hours of morning when I finally fall asleep with the book still open on my chest. I am, however, a careful reader. I notice missing details, glaring plot flaws, and characters who suddenly have drastic personality changes halfway through the novel and I do not hesitate to discuss these issues in my reviews. I am honest and believe I am fair so please don't take my criticism personally and don't hesitate to contact me about your next book. I also enjoy a good, long chat with other readers and often learn from these experiences. Comments are always welcome. You will find more about me in the right hand column and more about what I look for in books in the left. I hope you enjoy your time here! --Darla Sue

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan by Melanie Dobson



Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan by Melanie Dobson
Summerside Press
Minneapolis, 2012
ISBN 10: 1609366409
ISBN 13: 978-1609366407

It is June, 1894. Elena Bissette and her parents are on the steamer, Manitou, traveling through the Straits of Mackinac, headed for their summer residence on Mackinac Island. This may be their last summer on the island as Elena's father's investments have not provided the financial support they had hoped for, and Elena's mother has made it clear that this will be the summer Elena will become engaged, for the family's sake, for the sake of money. According to Elena, her mother has thought this through carefully and chosen the richest, most eligible bachelor on the island for her daughter. Elena realizes her family's situation is dependent on her success at finding an appropriate spouse over the summer months. Although she's not sure she's ready for marriage, she does understand her mother's feelings of desperation, and yet, she still believes that marriage should be for love. The conflict of the novel is established from the beginning--love versus money.

As Elena and the rest of the passengers disembark from the ship a gust of wind catches Elena's hat, whips it from the top of her head and sends it tumbling along the boardwalk toward the water's edge. Elena pushes through the crowd, trying desperately to retrieve her lovely hat and nearly falls into the water, rescued at the last minute by a departing soldier. She can hear the whispers in the crowd as she returns to her mother. She can see the look of embarrassment and disapproval on her mother's face, and this scene establishes yet another theme in the novel--gossip, judgment, friendships based on popularity, the type of life that Elena abhors and tries to avoid, but she now knows she will be the focus of this gossip the entire summer, all because of her silly hat and a playful gust of wind.



Elena's concern for her hat is matched by her concern over how her mother will react to the situation. In Elena's mind, her mother seems to fit in well with the rest of the families on the island, people who are more concerned with gossip and impressing their neighbors than living a Christian life. Soon, however, Elena will realize that her mother is showing concern for Elena's reputation because she deeply loves her daughter and wants what is best for her. This realization will take time, though, and Elena will experience a few more embarrassing moments before she recognizes the wisdom in her mother's advice and decisions.

There is one area of her life, though, where Elena appears to be wiser than her mother, and that is in her choice of husbands. Although Elena realizes her family's finances are in jeopardy, and a marriage to a wealthy man could help this situation, she seems to understand clearly, in her heart, that marriage should be for love. She is torn inside with the conflict between marrying for love and her duty to her family.

The man her mother has chosen, the most eligible bachelor on the island, Chester Darrington, is struggling with a similar conflict. Darrington is aware of the fact that every mother on the island is hoping he will marry her daughter and he does his best to avoid the usual gatherings where he will be forced to spend his time meeting every single daughter in his family's social circle. Darrington also understands his family obligations and tries to please his own mother by smiling, dancing, and acting appropriately during these seemingly endless introductions.

A Change in Personality

Then Chester is told a bit of gossip that oddly seems to change his personality. When he hears that Elena is seeking him out, intent on a wealthy marriage, he judges her before they even meet, and when they do meet, he is rude and unkind. It almost seems as if a union between Elena and Chester is impossible. This novel, however, has a second story embedded in each chapter, the story of a woman and her children seemingly abandoned in the lighthouse that Elena has used to hide away from her family since her childhood years. The story appears in the form of a diary, and the diary's presence eventually helps bring Elena and Chester to a stronger understanding of the truth about love and commitment.

This is a novel that is hard to set aside, even for a few hours. The relationship between Elena and her mother is realistically portrayed and the historical details are both accurate and fascinating. It is hard to classify the plot as it could be historical romance, but with the inclusion of the diary, it also becomes a mystery, which makes it even more fun to read.

On the other hand, I was frustrated by the way the diary was introduced in the novel. A page from the novel simply appears in the book without explanation or introduction. I would have preferred to read about Elena's first discovery of the diary. As it is, the introduction of the diary into the story creates a bit of confusion, and the confusion is not cleared up soon enough. In fact, it continues until the reader is well into the story.

I felt the same way about the introduction between Elena and Chester, which does not take place until nearly halfway through the novel. I wanted them to meet much sooner. I felt a bit of irritation over how long it was taking for the two to meet. I wanted to feel the tension between the two of them from the start. Instead, I felt their individual tensions over their life situations, but no connection between the two that would lead me to believe they might eventually fall in love.

Spoiler Alert

And now I will say a few things that may spoil the plot for those who have not read the book. In fact, these comments are specifically for those who have read the book.

I also felt as if the conflict that kept this couple apart was a bit contrived. Elena's actions did not seem shocking in any way, and the fact that Chester's sister was embarrassed by her husband's flirtations with another woman should not have deterred Chester as he already recognized that his brother-in-law was a womanizer.

I was equally confused by Chester's response to gossip about Elena. From the beginning, the reader is made aware of Chester's disdain for the gossipy nature of the social circles on the island, so it doesn't make sense that he would listen to, respond, and react to the gossip in the way that he does.

There is yet another conflict between Elena and Chester involving identity confusion, but this does not seem serious enough to cause the tension between them that appears in the novel. However, when the tension is finally resolved, and the couple are united, Chester's character becomes almost unbelievable. He suddenly transforms from a serious businessman to a silly, irritating schoolboy. The resolution of the financial situation could also have been made more clear considering this was such an important theme in the novel.

In spite of the problems with characterization and plot, I would recommend this novel. The details are strong and compelling. The author has clearly completed a tremendous amount of research about the history of the island and has a solid understanding of the workings of society at that time. Elena's mother is a strong presence in this novel. Although Elena does not present her in the best light in the beginning, the reader begins to understand the woman's fears and desperation, emotions that make sense under the circumstances. Elena is an interesting character, a woman I would enjoy reading about in a sequel. She is intelligent, compassionate, and kind, a young woman who is trying her best to make her own way in this world while still pleasing her family and maintaining her Christian ideals.

I would rate this novel with a four for quality. Although there are problems with the plot, and with the hero's character, Elena, her mother, the exquisite historical details and the mysterious diary are enough to justify a high recommendation of this novel and its author. As for the blush factor, the only sexuality in this novel is implied in the behavior of Chester's brother-in-law and other island gossip, not enough to even rate on the blush scale.



Melanie B. Dobson


I would like to say a few words about the author, though. This is not a first-time novel for Melanie Dobson. She has eleven historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels in publication. Like most authors, she started writing while still in school. Her writing career began in 2006 with the publication of a novel inspired by the adoption of the oldest of her two daughters.

Dobson spends a tremendous amount of time with her family traveling and hiking in the mountains near their Oregon home, and this family closeness is reflected in her stories. In Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan, the reader finds a realistic conflict between mother and daughter, but also recognizes the love and respect the two have for each other.

Dobson is also an award-winning author. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and her novel Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. When commenting about her writing, Dobson was quoted as saying, "My desire is that the stories God has etched in my heart will give readers a glimpse of His love and grace even when they don't understand his plan." To me, this statement is an accurate summary of the feelings expressed by Elena Bissette. Dobson has certainly achieved her personal writing goal with Love Finds you in Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Resources: 

  • Dobson, Melanie B. Love Finds You in Mackinac Island. Summerside Press. New York: 2012. 

I received this book free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group. However, I was not asked or required to write a positive review. The opinions I express are my own and in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."






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