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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.