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Alice’s Tulips by Sandra Dallas

23rd September 2009

Another outstanding book by Dallas, told entirely through letters that Alice, a young farmwife in Iowa, writes to her sister.  Alice’s husband joined the Union army, and Alice is left to run the family farm, with the help of her disapproving mother-in-law.  Alice is young, irresponsible and unaware of the brutality of war.  When Alice is accused of murder and the whole town seems to turn against her, Alice learns who and what is truly important.

I am so delighted to have discovered Sandra Dallas.  Her books are just fantastic.  The Persian Pickle Club is a group of quilters who have been meeting for years to quilt, gossip and support each other through thick and thin.  Queenie Bean loves the Pickles, but when Rita moves to town, Queenie is thrilled at the prospect of having a younger Pickle join their the club.  But Rita isn’t as interested in quilting as she is in solving a murder mystery that the rest of the club would just as soon see go unsolved.

New Mercies by Sandra Dallas

17th August 2009

Dallas veers from her typical story setting (Midwest plains) and sets this book in Mississippi.  Nora travels from Colorado to Mississippi to claim an inheritance from an aunt she never knew.  As she settles her aunt’s estate, Nora uncovers some secrets in her family tree, and finds peace in her own life as well.

If I didn’t know how outstanding Dallas’ books could be, I would’ve said this one was pretty good.  But I know her books can be so much better.  The two things I enjoy the most about Dallas’ books are the strong friendships that her female characters develop, and the unique and powerful conversations they enjoy together.  New Mercies didn’t have those strong friendships, and the character development felt kind of flat.  I had to struggle to finish this one.

Sandra Dallas is my new favorite author.  I have loved every book of hers that I’ve read (3 to be exact).  She combines so much of what I love in a book to create the perfect novel: historical, romantic, slightly suspenseful, a bit of action, and lots of drama.  Once I start reading one of Dallas’ books, I just can’t put it down.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser tells the story of Mattie and her husband Luke as they travel from Iowa to build a home on the Colorado plains.  Although the physical hardships are difficult, Mattie struggles more to come to grips with the many tragedies she encounters on the frontier, and with her growing suspicions that her husband doesn’t love her.  Watching Mattie grow from a proper, timid young girl to a strong, capable woman was an absolute pleasure, and I loved the way Dallas chose to end Mattie’s story.

Absolutely wonderful!   Hennie Comfort drew me in with her stories from the first page.  Hennie has lived in the Colorado mining town of Middle Swan for most of her adult life.  As she prepares to move on, she has some unfinished business to attend to, in the form of a young girl to provide for, and an old secret to deal with.  Hennie prepares for the future by telling stories about the past.

One note to moms who read this book:  There was one particular heartbreaking story about a baby early on in the book that will be hard to read.  In fact, I skimmed the entire passage once I figured out what was going to happen.  So be prepared.