Historical novels have a way of transporting you into the world of a bygone generation, and sometimes the setting remains with you after you’ve set the book down. WHEN LOVE BLOOMS takes its readers to the Idaho Territory in 1883. Young Emily Harris travels from Washington, D.C., to Boise to care for her older sister and nephew, suffering from pneumonia. Once there, with the domestic scene under control, Emily answers an ad placed by a family with two young girls seeking a governess, not in town but on a distant “mountain ranch.”
The ailing Mrs. Blake --- Drucilla --- hires Emily, disregarding the disapproval of her husband Gavin. Gavin thinks Emily is too urbane, too refined, not hearty enough for life on the other side of the mountain pass, in the Sawtooth Valley. Emily hasn’t always been a city girl and thinks she knows what she’s getting into. She quickly accepts the offer and accompanies the Blakes out of town, assuring the family that she will stay with them through the winter, until the next summer.
Life of course is more complicated than Emily had imagined. The winter weather is unbelievably harsh. Drucilla’s illness is not just a passing weakness but a terminal cancer. Emily hits it off with the daughters but can’t quite figure Gavin’s negative vibes. Why does he so dislike her? (“She would make him admit that she was well suited for the work he’d hired her to do. So help her she would, even if it killed her.”) If Drucilla dies, how will she fit into this family? The reader asks even more questions. Who is this Charlie whom Drucilla mentions in conversation with Gavin? What kind of marriage do Drucilla and Gavin really have?
Eventually Emily meets Patrick, the oldest son of a wealthy Irish family that lives in a castle-line home, Killarney Hall, near the Blakes’ Star Dust Ranch. Despite Gavin’s warning that Patrick is full of blarney, Emily entertains his attention. Maybe he is God’s provision for her own family life.
Emily ultimately has to make decisions about her future. Where and with whom will she be? When she left Boise she “felt destined to make a difference.” What was God wanting her to do?
There is nothing subtle about the writing in WHEN LOVE BLOOMS. This is a light read for women who --- if they had been born a generation earlier --- would have enjoyed the historical romances of Grace Livingston Hill.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on November 13, 2011