The River Jewel

A Letter Series Novella

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
172 Pages
Reviewed on 05/31/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The River Jewel: A Letter Series Novella by Kathleen Shoop is a wonderful historical drama romance that takes place in Des Moines, Iowa in the mid-nineteenth century. Part of what is clearly a larger series of stories involving this family, The River Jewel focuses on a wealthy young man from New York, Landon Lockwood, who has lived in the shadow of his overachieving and cold father and is desperate to strike out on his own and show his family he is a capable businessman and able to make his own fortune. His ultimate goal is to win the love of his parents by making them proud of him. When he meets the fiercely independent and beautiful Tilly Rabel, a young woman who loves her land and her river, it seems to Landon that his dream and his plan are coming together. Tilly holds the key to achieving his ambitious plan - to utilize the mussels from Tilly’s land to create beautiful mother-of-pearl products and to automate their production. Landon hadn’t counted on two important things, however. Tilly has no intention of ever selling her land to anyone, let alone some rich Yankee from New York, and Landon is totally unprepared for the deep feelings of desire and love he begins to feel for the free spirit that is Tilly Rabel.

As a lover of historical fiction, I lapped up The River Jewel. Yes, it is shorter than I prefer but as part of a larger series that I can always read at my leisure, that’s acceptable. Author Kathleen Shoop has drawn two main characters that ring true to life and demand a reader’s interest and empathy. It is easy to identify with both Landon and Tilly. Landon, as a “poor little rich boy,” is easily recognizable by anyone who has always felt they lived in someone else’s shadow, be it their parents or their siblings. Tilly, who lost her beloved parents not too long ago is rooted in her land, to her beautiful mussels, and displays incredible tenacity, perseverance and courage to carry on her lifestyle in the face of real tragedy and drama, something not expected from women of the time. The highlight, for me, apart from the sweet romance is the clash of cultures between the rich city slicker in Landon and the new, untamed settlers of the mid-west. The writer’s style is simple and relaxed, which allows the narrative to flow beautifully from one story arc to the next. As part of a longer series involving this family, I can honestly say the author has piqued my interest to read more. Any author’s desire is to encourage readers to explore more of their offerings and Kathleen Shoop has achieved that with this story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novella and can highly recommend it to anyone who has a scintilla of romance in their souls.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

The River Jewel by Kathleen Shoop is a priceless gem of historical fiction. In a hidden cove on the river’s edge outside Des Moines, Iowa, wonder and beauty dwell beneath the water. It is here where this story begins and ends. Landon Lockwood, a young aristocrat from New York, seeks to find his personal fortune and the acceptance of his wealthy parents. As Landon enters the cove, he senses something he has never felt before - serenity. Wading in the water, Landon beholds Tilly Rabel for the first time; he is awestruck by her beauty. This beloved cove and the land surrounding it have been in the Rabel family for generations. Raising and harvesting the mother-of-pearl from the mussels is Tilly’s legacy. She adores her work and immediately lets Landon know his presence is not welcome. Landon is determined to own the rights to the cove. However, he was not expecting the fight before him, a war of everlasting love and admiration for The River Jewel.

Kathleen Shoop’s The River Jewel touches your heart in unimaginable ways. Beautifully written, it captivates and lures you in from the first sentence penned. Shoop is a masterful wordsmith; her words are elegant, yet powerful. The descriptions are sensory and emotionally charged, linking the reader instantly to the lives of the characters. The narrative takes place during the birth of the industrial revolution. Factories are beginning to take over, machinery and assembly lines are replacing the artistry of handmade products. Tension and conflict of “this is how it has always been” collides with "let us manufacture beauty while making a sizeable profit." The tug of war of property ownership is pivotal, yet it doesn’t compare to the internal battle within the hearts and souls of the characters. Arrogance versus adoration, pride and stubbornness, purity and corruption create momentum for the plot. This novella is magical; it is rich in stunning imagery, yet historically sophisticated. The River Jewel by Kathleen Shoop makes you believe that fairy tales really can come true.

K.C. Finn

The River Jewel is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, romance, and interpersonal drama sub-genres, and was penned by author Kathleen Shoop. Written as a prequel novella to the Letter Series, this short and effective tale can be read before or after the series and is accessible to new readers. The plot follows protagonists Tilly Rabel and Landon Lockwood, who couldn’t be further apart in terms of their background but are drawn together by a body of water that holds the promise of a better future for them both. What follows is a tale of attraction, intrigue, and the search for true happiness in the late nineteenth century.

Author Kathleen Shoop has crafted a truly beautiful tale that displays the kind of languid, sweeping historical prose which I love to get lost in. Tilly the oyster woman was a really unique character to get to know, and I really appreciated the amount of research and detail that went into the prose to give her charming little world its meaning and context. For romance lovers, Landon certainly delivers as a complex mixture of pride gone awry and new attraction helping him to change his perspective on what matters in life. The dialogue also aids characterization beautifully and, in general, I felt the speech was a real atmospheric marker of the historical period and a great way to amp up the drama. Overall, I would definitely recommend The River Jewel to fans of engrossing historical fiction with plenty of ups and downs.

Heather Osborne

A sweet, clean historical romance, The River Jewel: A Letter Series Novella by Kathleen Shoop invites the reader into a world beneath the gentle waves of the riverbed. Tilly Rabel’s family has lived in Des Moines since before Iowa was a state. They harvested the mussels living in the cove, creating beautiful pieces of art, as well as other commissions. However, when Landon Lockwood shows up in Tilly’s cove, with grandiose plans and parents he seeks to impress, Tilly is unmoved by his big-city swagger. Yet, when Landon’s father shows up with plans of his own, he’s forced to make a decision about what he really wants in life. Can Tilly save her beloved cove, or will the Lockwoods overrun her family’s legacy?

The River Jewel: A Letter Series Novella by Kathleen Shoop was much of what I expected a good historical fiction piece to be. Well researched, I appreciated the attention to detail regarding the mussels and what Tilly created from them. I did not, however, like Landon’s character. Maybe with more time and development, his change could have been a bit more believable. However, Tilly redeemed the story for me. I almost wished she didn’t end up with Landon, but where would the romance be in that? It was nice to see that she reformed his arrogant ways and made him into a better person. I will certainly look for more books by this author, as I immensely enjoyed the writing style and descriptions in this story.

Rabia Tanveer

The River Jewel: A Letter Series Novella by Kathleen Shoop is a story of love, dreams, and hope between two unlikely souls. Tilly Reed is a proud woman who earns her keep while Landon Lockwood is a man from a completely different social standing. They have nothing in common, yet somehow, fate brings them together. Tilly lives alone on the land with the mussel cove that her parents left her while Landon is desperate to find a place in the heart of his family. So, when he finds Tilly’s land and discovers its treasures, he decides to do whatever it takes to acquire her land. But Tilly is not ready to sell her land and she never will. However, when sparks fly, no one can deny the chemistry between them. Will they give love a chance?

Such a lovely romance! I loved Tilly and her simple life. She is a woman who doesn’t need much in life, but she has her rules and she lives by them. Landon, on the other hand, is a man desperately seeking his family’s approval and he is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Both of them are as different as they can be, but they have a certain spark that just clicks between them. I love how strong-willed Tilly is and how tenacious Landon is. The pace is perfect for this novella and it allows the reader to simply enjoy the story as it is. The dialogues are reflecting, the story is absorbing and the characters get ample opportunities to grow. The River Jewel: A Letter Series Novella by Kathleen Shoop is perfect!