Romancing Olive by Holly Bush
There are tender moments, violent scenes, twists and turns in this family saga. ROMANCING OLIVE will keep you on the edge of your seat turning pages.
1891… Spinster librarian Olive Wilkins is shocked to learn of her brother’s violent death at a saloon gaming table and her sister-in-law’s subsequent murder, traveling far from her staid life to rescue her niece and nephew, now orphans. She arrives to find the circumstances of her brother’s life deplorable and her long held beliefs of family and tradition, shaken.
Accustomed to the sophistication of Philadelphia, Olive arrives in Spencer, Ohio, a rough and tumble world she is not familiar with, facing two traumatized children. Her niece and nephew, Mary and John, have been living with a neighboring farmer, widower Jacob Butler, the father of three young children of his own and a man still in pain from the recent loss of his wife.
Real danger threatens Olive and Mary and John, while Jacob and his own brood battle the day-to-day struggles for survival. Will Olive and Jacob find the strength to fight their battles alone or together? Will love conquer the bitterness of loss and broken dreams?
Review by Lindsay Leigh:
I confess, I began reading “Romancing Olive” somewhat reluctantly. I generally tend to avoid both western historical novels (the story takes place in Ohio, which is west enough for me, in 1891,) as well as romances where the Heroine is significantly older than the Hero (Olive is in her mid-to-late 30s and Jacob is in his mid-to-late 20s,) and this book has both. I ended up reading this book anyway thanks to the urging of a good friend, and much to my surprise, I found myself unable to put it down after just a few short pages!
Romancing Olive is really a wonderful story. Author Holly Bush has a gift for creating strong characters who are interesting and easy to relate to, despite differences of setting and situation. I found Jacob’s personal struggle to come to grips with the passing of his wife and to accept his changing feelings toward Olive to be especially poignant, and although I was at first thrown by the age difference, Olive’s gradual transformation from a settled spinster into a wonderful young-at-heart woman full of vigor was a delightful and interesting twist from that of most formulaic romances written about young ladies. Of the other characters in the story, I also found Mary, Olive’s 10 year old niece, to be an especially compelling and strong character. Perhaps in the future Ms. Bush will decide to tell Mary’s story — I would certainly be interested in reading more about her and her story as she comes of age. Ms. Bush also shows her talent with words in her descriptive imagery. I was easily able to picture many of the places and scenes that were described, and the town of Spencer was charming.
I would happily recommend Romancing Olive to anyone who enjoys a good romance or just an excellent story in general. I’m sure that I will be re-reading it when I find myself in need of either of these things, and I will eagerly anticipate Ms. Bush’s future novels as well.
Review by Saved:
Put away your notions of romancing. Dust off your ideas of shocking and pick up a copy of ROMANCING OLIVE by Holly Bush, a family saga reminiscent of THE THORNBIRDS.
The year is 1891 and a spinster librarian, Olive Wilkins, arrives in a frontier town in Ohio to rescue two traumatized children, her niece and nephew. At the start of the story, they are orphans, having witnessed their parent’s brutal murders. They have been living with a neighboring farmer, a widower and father to three young children whose wife lost her life in childbirth.
Olive is thrown into what was then the wild west where conditions and behavior were primitive. Instead of returning to Philadelphia with the two children, Olive stays in the widower’s home until her niece and nephew feel more comfortable with her and she can take them back to the east with her. The families merge. Olive does her best to create a stable, family environment for all five children while she does the drudgism of a frontier mom. Olive and Jacob Butler, the author tells us, are “two strangers, stranded in a tragedy they had not written.”
But life–violent and unpredictable–intervenes to endanger Olive and the children and keep us on the edge of our seats.
I loved the flesh and blood characters that Holly Bush created and won’t soon forget them. I felt I was walking on the frontier. Understandably all five children are traumatized by catastrophic loss, fragile, wounded, speechless or angry, and I liked the way their slow change to normalcy is woven into the story’s action. And, of course, Olive needs to change. Her reactions to this frontier world are those of a Philadelphia miss, grounded in her rigidity and absolutism. It is the book’s central paradox that the frontier Holly Bush deftly recreates for us does its best to rescue Olive from her long-held, life-destroying beliefs.
There are tender moments, violent scenes, twists and turns in this family saga. ROMANCING OLIVE will keep you on the edge of your seat turning pages. You will have to read to the very end to find out if love conquers the bitterness of broken dreams. I highly recommend the book for all readers.