Make You Feel My Love
The rhythms of the split-PoV, split era inspirational romance Make You Feel My Love are well-worn in several places. There are comfortable spots and tropes here, but when told in Robin Lee Hatcher’s comfortable, practiced and folksy style, they’re like the reading version of eating a bowl of chocolate pudding. It’s about comfort and spiritual enrichment.
Chelsea Spencer is hiding out in her Great Aunt Rosemary’s antique shop, Rosemary and Time in Chickadee Creek, Idaho. Having fled an abusive relationship with a now ex-boyfriend who refuses to let her go easily, she’s stunned to realize that no one has been tending Rosemary and Time while Rosemary has been in the hospital for surgery. Chelsea steps up to the plate, taking care of her aunt and running the shop – and among the stacks, finds a priceless antique violin which belongs to a famous man’s family.
Actor Liam Chandler is grieving the death from cancer of his musician brother Jacob. Trying to figure out where to go with his career, Liam hides in Chickadee Creek and hopes to heal some old family hurts, avoiding going back to his burgeoning Hollywood career. Chickadee has been his family’s summer place for generations, and here he goes incognito (Chelsea, naturally and conveniently, does not recognize him even after he gives her his full name). With Chelsea, he unravels the mystery of the violin which leads back to the Chandler family’s past. Can Chelsea outrun her abuser, and will Liam choose between Hollywood and Chickadee Creek?
Back in 1895, society girl Cora Anderson’s biggest joy is in music – specifically in playing her violin. She is expected to marry, and thanks to the wealth amassed off war profiteering by her father and his greedy social climbing, she has her future all but arranged for her when he bribes a man to marry her. Seeking a way out, Cora hops a train from New York City with some family heirlooms, the clothing on her back, and her violin. Chickadee Creek takes her right in, and she blends in, studying for a teaching license and becoming the new schoolmarm. She meets Preston Chandler, who’s looking to start a mining company in Chickadee Creek. They begin courting, but can she keep her complex past from infiltrating her simple present?
Make You Feel My Love does a good job of alternating between its likable characters both past and present. Though sometimes Chelsea comes off as overly credulous and Cora as impulsive, both women are nice, relatable people who care about their family and newfound communities. Both women are brave, and the romances they find with Preston and Liam are sweet, with Cora and Preston’s relationship quickly becoming my favorite of the two. But it was hard for me to sympathize with Liam, who often felt too self-pitying.
The way the book uses faith is beautiful; people go to church, watch remote services, seek advice from the Bible and from pastors, but their faith is used to give them strength versus punching down at others. God is the rock they rely on. The small-town setting feels realistic, though I couldn’t believe that Chelsea never once recognizes the allegedly world-famous Liam before her great aunt explains who he is. I could absolutely buy that the rest of the town was happy to hide him – many small towns often shelter celebrities this way.
The only other real quibble I had with the book came from its nigh on saintly portrayal of Jacob, a musical savant who was the guiding light of his family and had a flawless relationship with God. I wanted him to have more flaws, but the book never produced any.
But Make You Feel My Love is generally a tender experience, and one that will be enjoyable for inspy fans.
Note: The book contains a scene of attempted rape which stands out from the sweetness of the rest of it like a nail in a pumpkin pie.