Monday, January 24, 2011

‘Ozark Weddings: Three-In-One Collection’ by Anita Higman and Janice Thompson – Book Review

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One of my favorite authors of late is Janice Thompson. She and Anita Higman (who is a new favorite after reading this book!) have teamed up to compile a book featuring three stories based in Arkansas, 'Ozark Weddings.'

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

The Hills are Alive with the Ring of Romance…And love is challenging three women to soar to new heights of hope and faith in the Ozark Mountains. Larkspur Wendell hates to see anyone not enjoying life. So when a solitude-seeking neighbor moves in, she’s compelled to get to know him. Everett Holden moved into a small town to work in peace and quiet. But his neighbor seems to have an entirely different agenda. Will Larkspur’s attention bring him out of his shell or drive him in even deeper?
Painfully shy Clair O’Neal suddenly finds herself attracting two different men – image coach Glenn Yves and musician Hudson Mandel. Both are drawn to her unassuming presence and inner beauty. Can a vulnerable Clair trust either of them with their heart?
Nori Kelly’s biological clock is a ticking time bomb. But the only one seemingly interested in her is Zachary Martin, a tried and true member of the “geek” squad. Is this nerd her only hope of defusing her volatile situation?
Will these three women find their true loves amid this myriad of males – for better or for worse?

Here are ‘Dear Readers’ notes from each author:

        Dear Readers,
It is such an honor to share Ozark Weddings with you. All three love stories are set in the beautiful state of Arkansas. I hope these novels give you many hours of entertainment, but I also pray your heart will be lifted up in the process, and you will come away knowing the love and hope that God offers us through His Son, Jesus. Please visit my website at and drop me a note. I would love to hear from you.
Anita Higman

Dear Readers,
It is with great delight that Anita and I offer our readers these lyrical and romantic stories. These three Arkansas-based tales were crafted to captivate your imagination and to offer you a glimpse of this amazing state where hot springs flow and rivers sing. Beyond that, however, we hope you are captivated by the love stories…not just the ones between the hero and heroine, but the eternal story, which is sung over us each day by the very One who created us to love and be loved. He alone is worthy of our praise.
Janice Thompson
This book is a compilation of three previously published books; ‘Larkspur Dreams,’ ‘The Love Song,’ and ‘Castles in the Air.’ I really liked this book. I preferred ‘Larkspur Dreams’ and ‘Castles in the Air’ over ‘The Love Song,’ but there all were endearing and sweet. I enjoyed the fact that the main character in the previous story is mention in the next story – that was fun!
I really liked the main character of Larkspur Wendell in ‘Larkspur Dreams;’ I like her world view. Here she is describing her new neighbor, Everett Holden III:
Turning to her new neighbor, Lark couldn’t help but notice God had been quite charitable with his appearance. He had a striking presence with his hazel eyes, short brown locks, and a “surely he must lift weights” kind of build. Hmm. Early to mid-thirties, same as me. Same medium height. But who wears a suit to move in? And his tie look liked it would work equally well as a tourniquet. Lark also took note that Mr. New Guy held the bow on the sack of brownies as if he were holding the tail of a dead skunk. (p. 7)
Another amusing scene is when Picasso, Lark’s pet duck (!!) escapes from her backyard. Lark is all dressed up for an evening out, and she is a little perturbed:
Then she remembered a trick she’d used with her first pet duck. Yes. She needed the convincing boom of the megaphone on the bottom shelf of the entry closet, and clopped back down the driveway. Lark flipped the switch on the horn, and it squeaked to life. Suddenly like magic, she remembered the roar of the crowd from college – the students she’d revved up to a feverish pitch. The rush of winning. She wondered if she still had it in her. She lifted the megaphone to the mouth and announced, “Okay, Picasso. This is Lark speaking. Let’s bring yourself on home now. You can do this, Picasso. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.”
As if on some unexplainable cue, Picasso stopped in mid-waddle in the center of the street. He turned around, lowered his head, and began his descent from rapture. Skelly [her neighbor] turned around, shrugging his shoulder at her. Then he laughed until his whole body quaked. (p. 48)
The main character in ‘The Love Story,’ Clair O’Neal, was a sweet and lovely lady who loved her Lord:
Her thoughts shifted to the banks of the Arkansas River. She closed her eyes and pictured the Lord taking her by the hand and leading her to the very edge of the water, to sit in peaceful solitude and enjoy the view. Her heart swelled at the thought of it. God – the Maker of the Universe – wanted to spend time with her. To draw her to a quiet, intimate place. To call her His beloved, just as Ima had done. To wash away the pain from the past in the mighty rivers of His love.
“God, my Father…” She started to whisper a prayer but stumbled across the word Father. Visions of her stepfather came to mind right away, but she pressed them back and forged ahead. Clair poured out her heart to the Lord, thanking Him for all of the marvelous changes in her life over the past several days. She prayed for His guidance regarding the bookstore, and for His will concerning her new friendships.
Afterward, she felt the strangest sensation – as if the Lord had swept into the room and lifted her into His arms. For the first time in a long while, she truly felt as if she could conquer all of the demons of the past. (pp. 170-171)
I was particularly drawn to ‘Castles in the Air,’ as the main character, Nori Kelly, owns a candy store; I have a friend who also owns a candy store. Early on in the story was an encounter with Nori Kelly and her neighbor as described from her perspective:
Oh no. She noticed her neighbor, Zachary Martin, emerge from his apartment as if he’d been waiting for her.
“Greetings.” He appeared to study the floor.
“Hi.” Nori wondered why Zachary was the only one in the known galaxy to greet people that way.
He raked his fingers through his short brown hair, which made a couple of his locks rise up like antlers.
Nori squelched a chuckle. She knew he was stalling, trying to think of something to say. If she hadn’t been so tired, she would have given him a few rounds of chitchat. Instead she jangled her keys to give him a hint.
Zachary stuffed his fists in his pockets, making his polyester pants rise even higher. His white socks emitted a glow as if lit by a black light. “Hope your evening has been….good…so far.”
“I think it has been…so far.” Nori smiled, sliding her key into the lock.
“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there’s a 20 percent change of snow tonight.” Zachary stroked his palms together.
“It’s already snowing.” Nori tried not to have a condescending tone.
He shuffled his feet. “Oh.” (p. 240)
I also loved this conversation between Nori and her candy store manager, Lizza, after Zachary had left the store:
Lizza tied another peach satin ribbon around a miniature box of gumdrops. “Zachary seems like a lonely guy. Makes me want to bundle him up and stick him in my pocket for safekeeping.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Nori helped Lizza stack the dainty boxes on a display table.
“I don’t know. I always say that about people who look sort of lost. Like he doesn’t know the secret.”
“What secret?” Nori asked.
“That every person is wondrously hand-designed by God. I think the reason people don’t turn out so well sometimes is because no one has ever told them that.”
Nori thought if she told Zachary that he was wondrous, he would never stop pestering her. Hmm. But was he bothering her? She no longer knew for sure. In fact, this time she’d felt nervous and tongue-tied.
“And like I said, I think he’s charming.” Lizza gave the top box a little pat. (p. 252)
Nori also had a sweet encounter with her Lord at The Chapel in the Woods:
Nori knelt at the altar. Without holding anything back, she poured her heart out like a child – emptying all the joys and worries and hopes to her Father, her Friend, and her Savior.
After a long moment of reflection and then a prompting in her spirit, she prayed. “Forgive me, Lord, for desiring that tight little circle of love to always be about romance and not about You. I acknowledge You as the Lover of my soul and the Someone who cares for me far more than any husband ever could. Help me never to forget these truths and to love You first, above all.”
And then Nori wept. And waited. And listened. The Lord came near and comforted her. After some time had passed, she rose from the bench, feeling refreshed. (p. 338)
I have read several books by Janice Thompson: ‘Swinging on A Star’ (my review is here), ‘Allegheny Hopes’ (my review is here), and ‘It Had to Be You’ (my review is here). This is the first time I had the opportunity to read Anita Higman’s work. It is hard to know who wrote what, so I will assume that I am a new fan of Ms. Higman!  I thank Anita for providing the book to me, and for introducing me to her work – well done to both ladies!
You can order this book here.
This book was published by Barbour Publishing and generously provided by Anita Higman.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andrea!

Thank you so much for featuring Ozark Weddings on your blog and for all your lovely words of support.

Anita Higman

Andrea Schultz said...

Hi Anita -

You are very welcome! It was a fun read! Thanks so much for sharing it with me!

Blessings -


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