Review of “When You Are Near” (Brookstone Brides #1) by Tracie Peterson

Peterson, Tracie. When You Are Near. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2019.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0764219023 | 311 pages | Christian Fiction/Historical Romance

3 stars

I received a copy of When You Are Near in a Goodreads giveaway a while ago, and am just getting around to reading it to prepare to read book two, which recently came out. And while this is my first Tracie Peterson book, I’m reasonably impressed enough to read more from her.

The concept of this series as a whole is fun, surrounding a traveling Wild West Extravaganza with a cast of women performers. And I think it made the most of this concept, while also exploring the characters’ inner struggles, both with faith and and with life in general.

However, it does suffer from “first-in-series” syndrome, where it’s doing double duty of setting up the roles protagonists in future books will play, while also working to juggle that with the romance between Lizzy and Wesley (and by extension the love triangle including them and Jason). In fact, despite them appearing to be the focus on the book, I didn’t find either of them to be all that compelling. I found their respective struggles relatable enough on a surface level, but in comparison to Ella, who was dealing with a father and fiancee trying to force her into a marriage which is detestable to her and the fact that they might be up to some nefarious deeds, they paled by comparison.

But Ella’s storyline, and the connected mystery element were incredibly well-done, and I found the way it was resolved to be the most satisfying part of the book, even if the her father and fiancee are so cartoonishly irredeemable. And Mary, who is also somewhat connected to the mystery is one of my other favorite characters, giving me hope that there is some potential in continuing with the series.

This was a somewhat short, fun read, although I did feel like the length did it a disservice in terms of all the things it tried to accomplish. But I think it shows a lot of promise, and given what I’ve heard about Peterson’s standing as a respected and top selling Christian fiction author, I would recommend this to other fans of the genre who haven’t tried her work yet, as I feel (at leas at the moment) that this is a solid entry point, in spite of its shortcomings.

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