Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska
I remembered liking a few of Irene Brand’s inspirational romances when I was about twelve, so I decided to give Love Finds You in Valentine, Nebraska a whirl.My twelve-year-old self might have enjoyed this book, but as an adult? Um…train-wreck would be a good term to use here. I actually read it in one sitting, but as I read, I kept thinking that this was a book that I really should just DNF. So, what kept me reading? I kept wanting to know what wacky piece of plot would come next. I did like the characters, but they are trapped in an unusually clunky plot.
The general setup of the book is that Kennedy Blaine, daughter of a wealthy California family has come to Valentine, Nebraska to see the family ranch. Her father has died, and she is curious to see the place that was his heritage. We learn pretty quickly that Kennedy’s parents both grew up in Valentine and that theirs was a forbidden marriage between two feuding families. Even after reading the book, I’m not 100% clear on why these families carried on a multi-generational feud, but it sets up the storyline, so I guess we’re just supposed to roll with it.
At any rate, Kennedy gets to the ranch and immediately meets Derek Sterling, the ranch manager. She mistakes him for a farmhand, but they clear that up and get right down to getting to know each other. It turns out that Kennedy’s late father had left most of the day to day decisions to a cousin and Kennedy learns that said cousin has gotten an offer to buy the ranch, which he expects Kennedy to just rubber stamp. It’s apparent early on that Derek has Big Opinions about what is going on, and it’s also obvious that Kennedy wants to get the lay of the land before she makes any decisions. Said cousin is of course very mysterious about the purchase offer and won’t even tell Kennedy who the buyer is, so all but the most obtuse readers will know right away that there are problems afoot.
Part of the plot of this novel are interesting, and I actually did like that Kennedy seemed like an intelligent and independent heroine. I also liked that Kennedy and Derek actually talked through their initial hostile meeting like adults rather than resorting to flouncing and curl-tossing. So, why did I call this one a trainwreck? Mostly, it’s the clunky writing. We get plenty of telling with just a little bit of showing. Also, the plot foreshadowing is ridiculously heavy-handed. Funny business with the ranch is obvious from the beginning, and then the author throws in random bad guys that just feel out of place. I kept getting the feeling that it was just an attempt to keep the plot going since the relationship really wasn’t bringing in a lot of tension or drama on its own.
Moving on to the romantic relationship, I have to say that my view of it is very mixed. On the one hand, Kennedy and Derek do actually talk to each other like mature adults and I found that a huge plus. However, they just didn’t have much spark. This book is an inspie, so I knew it would be closed door, but closed door doesn’t mean an absence of romantic tension. At times one can see glimmers of attraction between the leads, but the jump from attraction to serious relationship just didn’t feel genuine. The clumsy handling of the inspirational content didn’t help the situation. For some reason, when it comes to matters of faith, the various characters in this book switch from talking like normal adults to sounding like Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. It jerked me out of the book every time.
In the end, this book brings likeable characters but combines them with clumsy plotting, so it’s not a book I’ll feel the need to keep in my library. It’s not horrible, but for me I’d say it’s not even an average read.