Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: When Calls the Heart

When Calls the Heart. Janette Oke. 1983/2005. Bethany House. 224 pages.

It came as a great surprise to me. Oh, not the letter itself. We were all used to the arrival of letters from brother Jonathan. They came quite regularly and always caused a small stir in our household. No, it wasn't the letter, but rather what it contained that caught me completely off guard. And Mother's response to it was even more astounding. 

When Calls the Heart was one of my favorite, favorite books growing up. Before I discovered Anne of Green Gables, before I discovered Gone With The Wind, before I discovered Eugenia Price's dramatic historical sagas, I discovered the glorious historical romances by Janette Oke. It was love. It was LOVE. I haven't read the "Elizabeth" books in decades, so I thought that I would indulge in a reread. Partially inspired by a couple of recent reads (Mrs. Mike and Courting Miss Amsel).

The novel is set in 1910. Our heroine, Elizabeth, is a schoolteacher originally from Toronto. But soon after the novel opens, she decides to accept her brother's invitation. She'll soon be making the journey to Calgary. And from there, she'll receive a teaching assignment. Of course, she's expecting her teaching post to be nearby, but after she annoys Mr. Higgins--by bluntly refusing his marriage proposal--her assignment takes her even further away from civilization--as she knows it. She'll be on her own for the first time.

The novel follows her 'adventures' and 'misadventures' as a teacher and a newly independent woman. It is a romance--and a giddy-making romance at that. She takes special notice of a Canadian Mountie, Wynn Delaney. But at first this "romance" is complicated because of a mistaken impression. He is the uncle of one of her students, but she mistakenly believes he is the father--that he's married. That her thoughts of him are most improper. So whenever she sees him, she does her best to ignore him as much as possible. Not even giving him the courtesy she would as a parent of one of her students. But. Once she knows the truth, then this romance can properly begin! Not that she can outrageously flirt with her brother's friend even then. But still. When opportunity comes, she'll take it!

I loved this one. It was just as wonderful as I remembered. There were scenes that I just loved as a kid, and I found myself loving them still.

"I have a confession--about my ankle. I didn't injure it. I pretended. It's fine--I--" I dropped my gaze. No longer could I look into those honest, blue eyes. I turned slightly from him.
"I didn't think you would carry me. I just wanted--a little--a little more time..." I knew that I had to be honest, as much as it humbled me. "I acted like a silly child," I said, making myself look straight into his eyes. "I guess--I guess--I--I wanted your attention--and I--I didn't know how else to get it. I know it was foolish--and I'm--I'm sorry."
Wynn was looking directly at me. His eyes did not scorn or mock me, nor did he look shocked or disgusted. There was an understanding--and, yes, a softness that I had not expected to see. I turned from him lest I would do something very foolish--such as cry, or throw myself into his arms.
"I have confessed my dishonesty to God--and asked for His forgiveness. He has graciously granted it. Now--" My voice was almost a whisper, "now I would like to ask your forgiveness, also."
I felt Wynn's hands on my shoulders and he turned me gently to face him.
"Elizabeth," he said softly, "I can't tell you how much I respect you for what you've just done. Few people--" he hesitated a moment. "You've asked for my forgiveness. I give it--willingly, and now I, in turn, must ask yours."
I know that surprise must have shown on my face.
"Elizabeth, I examined your ankle--remember?"
I nodded.
"It was my choice to carry you--right?"
I just looked at him, not able to follow his thinking.
"Elizabeth, I am trained in first aid--to recognize breaks, and injuries, and sprains--"
I understood then.
"You knew...?"
He nodded, his eyes not leaving mine. I turned from him, confused. What was he saying? He knew that my ankle was not injured when he examined it, yet he had carried me and held me close against his chest. Was it to shame me? To see how far I would let the charade go?
As I spoke, my back was still toward him. He paced to the window where he stood looking out on the darkness.
"Why?" he echoed. "I should think it rather obvious."
He stood for a moment, and then, his somber mood changed. He crossed back to me, his Mounties' hat in his hand ready to be placed on his head. I knew that he was leaving. The twinkle of humor had returned to his eyes and made the corner of his lips twitch slightly. 
"And frankly, Elizabeth," he said through that controlled smile, "I've never enjoyed anything more." And with a slight nod he departed, and the door closed softly behind him. (203-4)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Amy said...

Oh this brings back memories!!! I LOVED these books. And I loved that scene, too! :)