The Other Side of Certain

A Love for Certain, Book I

Romance - Historical
242 Pages
Reviewed on 07/15/2022
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Author Biography

Hi, I'm Amy Willoughby-Burle. I'm a writer and teacher living in the mountains near Asheville, NC. I live with my husband our five kids and too many animals to list here. I adored writing this book as it hits all the high notes for me personally--books, librarians, teachers, family, and love. These things are timeless.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The Other Side of Certain by Amy Willoughby-Burle is a historical romance set in small-town Kentucky at the height of the Great Depression. Mattie Mobley is a young woman who has her eyes set on the future. From a well-to-do Asheville, North Carolina family, Mattie is determined to make her own way in the world and not settle for an appropriate marriage to a suitably wealthy beau. When Mattie graduates as a teacher but is unable to find a position in her hometown, she accepts a posting to the tiny rural town of Certain, Kentucky. Not only will she be preparing to teach school in the coming academic year, but she is also required to assist the pack-librarians, who transport books over the Kentucky hills for isolated families, in the mobile library service. Mattie is ill-prepared for the ruggedness of the terrain and the weather but she is determined to make a success of her first job, albeit until something suitable comes along in her hometown. When Mattie delivers some books to a house high in the mountains, she meets widower Daniel “the Grizzly Bear” Barrett and his three children. Captivated by the children and strangely drawn to this ruggedly handsome outcast of man, Mattie is made well aware that Daniel Barrett is not only persona non grata in the town but there are also deep undercurrents of resentment toward Daniel within his own family and the townspeople. If Mattie is to break through Daniel’s walls and find a place for herself in his family’s life, she will need all her love, persistence, and resilience, for Daniel also believes he is deserving of no happiness and a lonely future.

The Other Side of Certain is a sweet and gentle romance that gets under your skin. Author Amy Willoughby-Burle has created a fascinating character in Mattie who was so independent and unusual for her time. As the daughter of a well-off family, she had everything going for her, even despite the Depression gripping the country at the time. Yet, Mattie was single-minded and determined to find her own path in life. One could not help but admire the young woman’s courage to travel away from everything she was familiar with to work amongst the very poorest of the poor in such difficult times. I loved the way the two characters of Mattie and Daniel played off each other – they were so similar in many ways and their fierce natures and single-minded determination meant they would push each other away just as much as they would cling to each other in hope and desperation. If there is one overarching theme to this story, it would have to be that redemption, forgiveness, and a new beginning can always be found if one is open to the possibility and unwilling to let the past drag one down. Ultimately the key to these things is love and this is what the author portrays so beautifully. I loved the clean, wholesome romance with just that slight hint of titillation that keeps a reader interested. This was a wonderful read and one I can highly recommend.

Stephanie Chapman

Mattie had always dreamed of making a difference in the world. Amy Willoughby-Burle creates the space for the essential elements of Mattie’s dream to materialize in The Other Side of Certain. Mattie set out to Certain, Kentucky, to be a teacher. They gave her a place to live in a parsonage next to the library. Ava, the head of the library, informs her that there is more involved in her position than just being a teacher. She has no students. To encourage people to send their children to school, she is to deliver books from the library on horseback. The last stop of her route has Mattie encountering three bright children raised by their single father, Daniel. He has the nickname “The Grizzly,” and her first meeting with the man confirmed why he had earned the moniker. However, Mattie refuses to give up on providing the children with access to fulfilling their dreams.

Amy Willoughby-Burle paints Certain, Kentucky, as impoverished, and Mattie’s adaptation to the limited resources is remarkable. She fell in love with the children before she became interested in the adults. I became immersed in the story because I shared Mattie’s burning curiosity as to why the townsfolk disliked Daniel. When she visited his home the second time, he was much more polite, and she read to his children. Small-town gossip is among the cruelest abuse a person can endure. I have lived in a small town before and by the time a tale spreads, it has become a heinous crime. The overriding lesson I learned from this book is to always go directly to a person and ask questions instead of listening to rumors. Many times, you will find there is more to the story than you have heard. The Other Side of Certain would be a good fit for young adult readers who like slow-burn romances and vividly described characters.

Phumeza Ndzambo

It is said that “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” This could not be truer for Mattie as she left her big city life for a rural town, planning to return as soon as circumstances allowed. In The Other Side of Certain, Amy Willoughby-Burle explores the budding love affair between Mattie Mobley and Daniel Barret. No two people could be more different. Mattie comes from a city family of great means but has very few people she can call close. She is self-assured, strong-willed, and independent. Daniel, on the other hand, grew up surrounded by a big loving family. But he is not very good at receiving love and kindness. His rough start in life has wounded him far more than he is willing to admit. Mattie does not know the half of it, but she is determined to peel off Daniel’s protective shell, layer by layer, until she meets the person she believes he truly is underneath the stubborn self-deprecating front. But what can she, a stranger, possibly do that the people who truly know him have not already tried?

The Other Side of Certain: A Love for Certain, Book I is not only a love story. It is a story of patience, compassion, and forgiveness. Amy Willoughby-Burle writes in a first-person point-of-view, telling the story through the eyes of both Mattie and Daniel. Daniel is not much of a talker, leaving the bulk of the story to be told by Mattie. She is a patient person with all the time in the world. This, coupled with the fact that the setting is in a sleepy rural town with unspoken secrets, makes the story slow-paced but suspenseful at times. I loved that, though the story is based in the 1930s, the characters are individuals with much more defining agency than the social norms of the era. It makes their love story relevant to modern-day audiences. Although not overtly pronounced, the book has Christian themes. However, the nature of their subtlety makes the book a great read for both religious and non-religious lovers of clean romance.

Stephanie Lynn

The Other Side of Certain introduces us to Mattie Mobley, a dedicated book lover and one who has aspirations of being a teacher to nurture that love of books in children as well. Only, the Great Depression makes finding a job anywhere nearly impossible. But not completely, as she soon lands a position in a small town tucked away in the Kentucky mountains called Certain, KY. Mattie soon realized nothing is certain in Certain and stumbles on a haunting story they would rather she not know. The notorious town grizzly isn't one Mattie is eager to meet, but upon meeting his three 'cubs' she quickly sparks a bond with his oldest over their shared love of books! Now, she must determine if taming the town's pariah is worth it when everyone but her seems set against it and is such a feat even possible? The Other Side of Certain by Amy Willoughby-Burle is a charming and powerful tale of the cost of healing and an example of just how tight we sometimes hold onto the things God has already asked us to lay at His feet.

Amy Willoughby-Burle writes some of my favorite characters in her The Other Side of Certain, as we enter the town of Certain, Kentucky. It reminds me of some of the other Appalachian towns I've been to and lived in and I adored how easily I was transported into their lives while reading! Such beautiful imagery and I love Mattie's descriptions as she describes her appreciation for the small rural community after growing up in the much larger town of Asheville, NC. There are some faith elements, including the mention of a parsonage next door to where Mattie is staying, and a few instances of praying, but this one doesn't have the heavy faith themes that some books do, and I found that I enjoyed this one as a Historical Fiction novel with light faith elements. It was more a love story and a redemption story, and one I would feel comfortable recommending for both Christian and clean secular fiction readers alike.