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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.