Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer

HISTORICAL NOTE: Provided by Lavyrle Spencer
During the years immediately preceding Minnesota's declaration of statehood, while it was still considered the frontier, few women ventured into her depths, particularly not north of St. Anthony Falls. Frontier life made the women pay too dearly for her place in the North Country. Although newspapers in the East carried tempting descriptions of all the Minnesota Territory had to offer men, along with open invitations to settle there, no such invitation was extended to women. Instead, those newspapers ran articles discouraging women from that rough, untamed land. Thus, most men who came as pioneers to pluck a living out of the wilderness of the Minnesota Territory came, at first, womanless.
And so was necessitated the practice of sending for women, sight unseen. And these were called "mail-order brides."
The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer is a historical romance set in Minnesota in 1854. This is a tale of pioneers living in the Minnesota wilds, a mail-order bride, her thirteen year-old brother and a Swedish immigrant -- an absolutely gorgeous tale. The details pertaining to pioneer life are just wonderful -- the description of the area, the loneliness, the heart and grit that it took to settle the land, all of it is there.

The characters are portrayed as people of their time. Karl Lindstrom is a twenty-five year-old Swedish settler who achieved his dream and his heart's desire in the land, but who needs Anna to make it complete. In Karl, Spencer creates a wonderful male protagonist who is knowledgeable when it comes to his beloved woods and survival, but clueless when it comes to women.

Karl's loneliness, strength, patience, need for love and sweetness pulled my heartstrings, as did his pride in all he had accomplished. His strong beliefs and intransigence were both frustrating and believable. My heart was broken for him, by him and he also restored it a few times during the course of the story.

Anna Reardon is no less of a character. She is a seventeen year-old girl/woman who takes an amazing risk to save herself and her brother from an unthinkable life. She becomes Karl's mail-order bride by answering his ad and telling him a slew of lies. Most of her lies come to light before Karl and Anna marry and even though he forgives her and she swears to never lie again, there's one secret she keeps to herself, one that will have deep repercussions and will threaten their budding relationship.

Spencer portrays Anna as both a young woman, who is experienced in some ways but immature in others, a flawed character that grows with the story. An Irish girl with a temper and grit, Anna is also irresponsible, fun and playful, hates housework and bathing. She also loves fiercely and is willing to work the woods with Karl from dusk till dawn. Anna is full of insecurities and needs everything Karl has to give, not only his love, but also his forgiveness and understanding.

Spencer completes this story by including James, Anna's brother, a young boy who flourishes in the Minnesota wilds under Karl's tutelage. Lavyrle Spencer uses James and Karl's growing relationship to relate the small details of pioneer life in the Minnesota wilds that set the tone and atmosphere for the story. The richness of those details made this book an absolute treat for me.

The Endearment is not full of sexual scenes, yet there's passion, sexual tension, loving, laughter, friendship, and warmth aplenty. I can tell you that I didn't want this book to end. The story of Anna and Karl touched me and for a while Lavyrle Spencer transported me to that little clearing in the Minnesota wilds and I didn't want to come back. I loved this book.

NOTE: All images taken from Minnesota archives of early settlers and are from 1854 or thereabouts. The first image is of Saint Anthony Falls, Minnesota. The image of the stove is a depiction of one used by early settlers. All images tie to the story.

Genre: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Release Date: September 1, 2006/Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Find list of Lavyrle Spencer's books here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge - May Review

10 comments:

  1. LaVyrle Spence is a MASTER story teller. She is the only author that I have LOVED, not just liked, but LOVED every single book she's ever written ("Morning Glories" being my favorite. They all sit in my keepers shelf and have been read numerous times over the years.

    :o)

    MsM

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  2. Beautiful review Hils. You're making me want to do a re-read. :)

    Thank you for taking the time to add the pictures. Spencer is one of my all time favorite authors and this is a beautiful love story.

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  3. I agree with Leslie, what a beautiful review! I've seen Spencer books around a lot but never tempted to read. I'm going to see if I can find this book to check out. :)

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  4. Great review, Hilcia :D I've only read one or two Spencer and that was a long time ago... but this one definitively sounds different :)

    and LOL, she doesn't like to bathe?!? :P

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  5. MsM, she certainly is! I'm so glad I found this book for my Kindle. Gorgeous writing. :D

    Leslie, I could probably do a re-read of this book now, lol! I didn't want to leave that place. I'm glad you liked the pictures... this was such a "visual" read for me, I couldn't help looking them up & adding them to the review.

    Tabitha, I hope you enjoy Spencer. Gorgeous writing, lots of details! :D

    Nath, thanks. I just loved this story... and, yeah, she didn't like bathing, lol! I loved the way Karl got her to clean up. *g*

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  6. Hilcia, I love that you are reviewing some of these older historical romances set in interesting times in interesting places. You and Leslie, both! And then your opinions are supported by other readers in comments... how am I supposed to resist?? :D

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  7. Christine, you're not supposed to resist, lol! I'm really loving these books. I have so many of them on my TBR pile and I'm just glad they're finally getting read. I'm just loving the different historical settings at this point -- it's a nice change.

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  8. you're not supposed to resist, lol!

    How'd I know that was exactly what you were going to say??!!! ;-)

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  9. What a wonderful review, Hilcia!
    I've only read 1 by her, Years, and enjoyed it. I really like that she uses non-traditional locations/periods for her historicals.

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  10. @Christine - He he...

    Renee, the setting and time period in this book were a big draw for me. These make a nice change from Victorian and Regency historicals.

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