Mended Hearts is from the Quilting Romance line of books from Jove – historical romances that contain quilting as a story element. Handmade quilts have long been a symbol of home, warmth, and love. But can quilts also predict marital happiness? Some of the inhabitants of Apple Grove, Iowa believe so, and this is the concept behind Mended Hearts, a light-hearted look at small-town romance in 1870. Action-lovers could find this story a bit uneventful, but people-watchers may enjoy the characters whose faults are as apparent as their virtues.
Maude Griffith is the quilting wonder of Apple Grove. Her talent for design and exquisite needlework is not her only claim to fame, however. When a young woman of Apple Grove becomes betrothed, the others work together on a special friendship quilt as a wedding gift. Maude always makes the center square, and it is believed that if she can successfully compose an artistic design using the combined initials of the betrothed couple the marriage will be a happy one. If she cannot make the initials work together, the couple would be well advised to reconsider tying the knot, but fortunately, so far every square has been beautiful. Maude is satisfied with her ability in quilting, and in every other area of life. Determined, proper, and a natural director of others’ lives, Maude has her own life well planned out – until Jack Kingston returns to town.
Jack was orphaned at the age of six, and was adopted by his aunt and uncle. He has a talent for trouble, and is disliked by many, but he possesses an uncanny charm for the feminine gender. Despite being too young, Jack ran away to join the army when the Civil War broke out, and later became the sheriff of a town out west. This career came to an unfortunate end when he was convicted of bank robbery and thrown in jail. Now he is out, and has shown up in Apple Grove for the wedding of his cousin. Maude is the only woman in town who is not charmed by Jack, especially when he makes fun of her supposed ability to predict the outcome of marriages. Jack, on the other hand, is quite charmed by Maude, and wonders why he never saw her potential when they were growing up.
Jack has a secret reason for being back in Apple Grove, and this is enough to make any future with Maude impossible. Maude has other plans, anyway, involving Caleb, the man who is the town’s choice as Most Likely to Succeed. Maude wants to marry off her flighty younger sister, see her widower father settled with a new wife, and then she will convince Caleb that she, Maude, is the perfect wife for him.
There is little action in this story, but a great deal of human interaction. The first half is too slow, and the characters are a little over the top in their nastiness. The opening scene offers a poor first impression of the women of Apple Grove. Snobbery, prejudice, gossip, and spite are just a few of the traits that are abundant in the inhabitants of this town, but as the story unfolds, humor, kindness, and love also emerge. Maude undergoes a transformation that is especially amusing. As one by one her carefully made plans are ruined, her proper, starchy demeanor cracks to show what lies beneath, and it isn’t very pretty.
The momentum picks up a little steam by the second half of the book, and the end is quite exciting, though the book would have been improved by more even pacing throughout. Maude and Jack are both strong characters who make a good match, and their interaction somewhat offsets the early cattiness some of the secondary characters exhibit. The story is also enhanced by a touch of mystery.
Readers who enjoy getting past facades and seeing people as they really are should enjoy this sassy tale. But be warned: it does take patience before the enjoyment really sets in.