The Chapel Car Bride
Bethany House Publishers, 2017
As much persuasion as it took for her father to agree to allow her to accompany him on the chapel car, Hope Irvine is willing to do whatever it takes to prove that she is an asset to the ministry lest he change his mind. Pastor Irvine’s latest chapel car assignment is the remote coal mining town of Finch, West Virginia, where he will preach and minister to the adults of the community while Hope leads the music and teaches the children. What neither of them expect upon their arrival is the suspicion with which the miners and their families view outsiders in light of the constantly broken promises of the mining company and the revenuers that have flooded the county in response to the new prohibition laws that are taking effect.
Luke Hughes has lived in Finch his whole life and is more than willing to help the preacher’s pretty and kind daughter get the lay of the land and gain his neighbors trust during the downtime of his work at the mine. A devoted believer who feels the call to preach, Luke is delighted to become Pastor Irvine’s student as he also gets to know Hope.
But the budding affection the two feel for each other is complicated by the competing attentions of the mine owner’s son, Kirby Finch. While Hope wants to believe the best about him, Luke doesn’t trust him in the least. As Kirby’s behavior becomes increasingly strange and aggressive even Hope is forced to admit that there is something going on below the surface of his work for the mine. Luke and Hope will have their work cut out for them to save their relationship in the middle of the dangerous conspiracy that they have unknowingly become a part of.
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I’m a girl who likes action, danger, and intrigue in my novels to complement the mushy stuff. The Chapel Car Bride started out a little slow for me, not totally boring but not super exciting either. The story carried on in a fairly predictable, even-keel manner until about chapter 25 and then things began to get a little more exciting. Up until this point I felt somewhat ambivalent towards Hope’s character. She seemed inordinately naive to me to miss some of the signs of Kirby’s nefarious intentions, but towards the end she gets a little bolder and wiser and displays some quick thinking in a dangerous situation.
My favorite character was Luke because he is naturally suspicious, like me. Whether that’s a good quality or not is discussed a few times, but it served him well in this story. The other reason I liked him was because he was probably the most multifaceted character. I liked that he cared for Hope and wanted to what was right for her and for the family he was responsible for since he father’s death. I liked that he strove to keep his thoughts and feelings Christ like, not just his actions. He was a smart, honorable guy who made a few dumb mistakes too, and that is really realistic and likable to me.
The historical and geographical details of the region, the chapel car ministry, and the moonshine and coal mining conflicts were interesting and seemed accurate based on previous information I’ve read on those topics. My final word is that I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story didn’t end exactly where I thought it would. There was an extra surprise bit of conflict at the end that had to play out and I liked where the author went with it. The Chapel Car Bride is a sweet story that any historical romance lover would most likely enjoy.