Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Review: Penelope Williamson’s The Outsider - Moving Amish Historical Romance set in Montana

You know when you begin a romance by Penelope Williamson that the tears are going to flow. This book seems somewhat related to Williamson’s HEART OF THE WEST, another 2-Kleenex-box romance based in Montana in the 19th century to which I gave 5 stars. I had read all her historical novels except this last one, saving it like a kid saves his last sucker, putting off the sweet treat until it was all I could think of. So, setting aside other romances I’d planned to read, I got out my Kleenex and began to read THE OUTSIDER. I was not disappointed.

Rachel Yoder is one of the Plain People (likely Amish), living in Montana in 1886.

Rachel’s simple life of farming and taking care of her husband and young son were forever changed when a cruel cattleman killed her man. A year later, she is tending her sheep alone, and facing another year of hard work, when a gunslinger dripping blood stumbles into her life. Handsome Johnny Cain is a hard living, hard fighting man who has a reputation for killing. He is the antithesis of all Rachel stands for.

It’s a book of ironic contrasts as the Plain People fail to show God’s love to Johnny Cain, and Johnny Cain, the Devil’s own, shows them honor and honesty. Plain People who believe the grace of God doesn’t cover all sins, but rather that a person must be one of the Plain People to hope for salvation. Even then it isn’t guaranteed. A heartless gospel. THE OUTSIDER tells of young people who must choose between a life of conforming to a rigid society and a beckoning world of freedom. Rachel, loving and honest, tries to live in the middle and fails.

There are many things that distinguish Williamson’s work from other romance authors. Reading this one, a few come to mind: Her dialog is so genuine and rich she makes you feel like you know the Plain People. (Her writing is, in a word, superb.) Her attention to detail, as she describes the people, their surroundings and their culture, paints such a vivid picture you actually feel like your living it and not just reading a good story. Her ability to convey emotions had my heart in my throat as Johnny Cain saved Rachel’s son from a herd of stampeding cattle. Who wouldn’t begin to love such a man? And who wouldn’t love a mother who cries when a lamb dies at its birth? These are wonderful characters who will win your heart.

There is much heart-rending action in this one, but thankfully, since this is romance, we know we’ll get a happy ending. Yeah!

In short, I HIGHLY recommend this one. It’s a keeper. So get out the Kleenex and start reading!

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