Monday, May 8, 2023

Review - - Courage in the Storm

Courage in the Storm

by Laurel Blount

Publisher: Berkley 

Release Date: April 25, 2023

Reviewed by Hellie

Since witnessing the murder of her beloved parents, Miriam Hochstedler suffers from paralyzing anxiety and a deep-seated fear of the Englisch. Unwilling to venture beyond her family’s Tennessee farm, she forms a close bond with a badly injured gelding. Like Miriam herself, the traumatized animal seems unlikely to recover—until skilled horse whisperer Reuben Brenneman arrives.
A survivor of an abusive childhood, Reuben understands fear better than most. He’ll do whatever it takes to help a terrified animal, but his compassion doesn’t extend to the church that turned a blind eye to his family’s suffering. Once he finishes this job, he’ll return to the 
Englisch world, putting his Amish heritage behind him forever. 
As Miriam works alongside Reuben, battling the horse’s fear—and her own—an unexpected friendship blooms and deepens into romance. But the Amish faith that sustains her inspires only distrust in Reuben, and the Englisch world he’s chosen has already broken her heart once. 
Falling in love was easy. But staying together will take all the courage they have.

Hellie's Heeds:

First, you don’t need to have read the other two books in the series to bond with these characters or feel the story deeply. I imagine it may deepen the experience even more–and I completely plan to read the other two books as soon as I’m able–but this is my first book of Laurel Blount and it won’t be my last. Second, you’re going to spend a lot of time going, “The hero must look like Robert Redford.” Unless you’re a millennial and have no idea who I’m talking about. But if you ever saw a trailer (or the movie) of The Horse Whisperer, you know this is the plotline of this book. However, I never read that book nor saw that movie either–I just thought, “Gorgeous blonde guy with muscles and blue eyes…and crinkles at the corners. That’s Robert Redford, man.” Third, if you haven’t read the other two books in the series before reading this one, you’re going to want to read the others…because boy howdy, the world building for this series is wonderful.

The background of the stories is that there was a mass shooting by a white guy, who kills two Amish storeowners–the heroine’s parents–in the first of the series. Each of the books deals with the children/siblings who are recovering from their loss as well as the community where this evil happens. Additionally as the community is trying to grieve and move on, a movie company has come to the area to shoot a movie of the story…and bring up the emotions, fears, and anger in the community. The heroine of this book was the daughter who happened to witness the shootings, being she was in the store when it happened, but the shooter didn’t kill her. Miriam has not left the farm since the Incident. She’s terrified, broken, and unable to live her life normally–and worries she will never be able to do so ever again. She lives with her brother and sister-in-law, where she keeps chickens and makes quilts. 

Reuben, our hero, has reluctantly returned to the Amish (of which he used to belong) after living for years as English. He is a wonder with horses; and he is repaying a favor to one of the few Amish men he respects, who helped him escape an intolerable situation when he was a child. He will need to spend several weeks on the farm in order to help a horse that had been in a carriage accident and is now terrified, broken, and unable to live a normal horse life. Within a few moments, Reuben realizes the key to curing the horse will involve Miriam, but first he will need to get Miriam to trust him–an Englisher. 

If this all starts to sound impossible, it is. Reuben has very good reasons for not being Amish any longer–and does everything in his power to separate himself from his previous life. Miriam has very good reasons to distrust anyone not Amish and cannot help her fear around Reuben when he is every inch looking like the very thing she fears most. The horse…well…the horse only wants to protect Miriam and here we are in a triangle where no one seems able to bend to let the healing begin, but eventually it does. Laurel Blount does an amazing job of having three very distinct characters (and yes, the horse is one of these characters) with very jagged edges and very different experiences that all feel very similar in scope and insurmountable…and yet slowly, carefully, the pieces begin to line up and new growth begins to take shape, leaving the characters stronger than they were before. 

Now obviously Amish romance has its own tension…there’s no kissing on the first page or heavy petting (as the old folks might say) and certainly no sex scenes, but there is sexual tension and the sexual tension feels heavy and wonderful, even if no one is so much as undoing a button. This may be Christian fiction, but it’s not do-gooder Christian fiction where you might be made to feel guilty about the sexual tension. It’s normal; it’s right for these characters; and we know they are going to get married first before they consummate it–and that’s okay. (I’ve read my share of Christian romance where it felt a bit on the self-righteous side and I didn’t care for it, but this book did not do that at all. Considering how difficult it is to write sex scenes and love stories because of the need of this balance, of highlighting the joy of love and lovemaking while also not coming across as preachy or moralistic, this book nailed it out of the park.)

This book hit all the right notes for me; and I hope it does for you as well. I would love it if these books were turned into Hallmark movies because the drama and sweetness of the stories feels right up Hallmark’s alley…and the Amish twist would give them something new to the whole small town Christmas trope they’ve done ad nauseam

Oh, I almost forgot: my favorite character: the Bishop. The Amish Bishop…seriously…he’s like the main meddler in Fiddler on the Roof–and the book is worth reading for him alone. I now demand all my romance novels have a character like that guy. Go read it now.



  1. You've sold me, Hellie! Thanks for the wonderful review. This one has jumped to the top of my buy list. And, as someone who had a life-size poster of Robert Redford (as Sundance) above my college dorm bed, there's no doubt who I'll be envisioning as I read the book. ;-)

    1. *LOL* He and Paul Newman are/were PRETTY. I loved this book so much, I went back and sought the other two books and read them. They were very good as well, though this one remains my favorite. (Because, horses. And the bishop to this book is NEW and very funny.) And I imagine there will be a fourth book featuring Caleb, I hope--and I can't wait to see what happens there.

  2. This is a new to me author and will definitely be checking her out.

  3. Thank you for the interesting review. I can see the horse whisperer as Robert Redford. Shoot fire, I can see anyone as Robert Redford if I work at it. I like the idea of a romance that is based on desire rather than immediate intimacy.

    1. *LOL* I can see most book heroes as Tom Hiddleston if I try hard enough...but yes, imaging this Reuben as Robert Redford took ZERO skill on my part. *LOL* I too like romances that build on the desire rather than making it instantaneous. There were a couple moments where I was like, "The author watched WITNESS with Harrison Ford a couple times, didn't they?" *LOL* Though I think the book did a better job with the slow burn. Happy reading everyone!

  4. Hellie, Thank you for the review and recommendation. I do read some Christian and Amish fiction. Like you mentioned, too many tend to get overly preachy and heavy handed. It detracts from the story. They can show the influence of their beliefs by the way they live their lives. My philosophy in life also - Don't tell me how good your religion is, show me. I sounds like this author does it right. I will have to look for her books. Patricia B.

    1. Exactly--SHOW ME rather than heavy-handed tell me about your religion and beliefs. I hope you enjoy her books.

  5. Hellie, thanks a bajillion for sharing your thoughts on Courage in the Storm--I love this review so stinking much--it's honest and real and perfect. And yep, Caleb and Rhoda's story is coming out in December--and Bishop Abram is at it again--meddling for all he's worth! I love him, too.
    You made my week!

    1. If you ever teach a master class at how to write a compelling plot/story, let me know. I want to be there and learn everything!