Book review: fabulous novel from Ann H Gabhart – These Healing Hills

Having read previous mystery novels from this author, I picked up These Healing Hills despite reservations about the romanticising of mountain life on the pioneer front in the 1940s. I needn’t have feared, the topic is elegantly and informatively handled and the pace of the story brings the history to life.

Being South African, I knew little of what life was like in the Appalachian Mountains and particularly the Frontier Nursing Service but women riding around for work on horseback, yes please! What a fascinating role these women play, to this day, in the lives of the families in this area, from midwifery to everyday health, I so enjoyed learning about them and the lady who started it all.

Whilst true to the story, the back cover paints a more romantic novel and I appreciated the book spending more time on how Francine adjusts to mountain life and the people who live there than on the romance element. Ben reflects on his time in WWII and, again, it is accurate but beautifully handled so that it isn’t too gruesome, but it’s not seen through rose-tinted glasses either.

I do so hope this is the first of many books, this could be the start of a wonderful series and so recommend it. Five out of five on the en-JOY-ment scale!

As a fellow horse rider, I loved this description:

“So far, Fran had only been unseated once when a dove flew out of a rhododendron bush directly in front of them. Fran, as startled as Jasmine by the sudden whir of wings, slipped out of the saddle when the horse reared, with no harm done except to her dignity. Jasmine hadn’t even run away, but turned to nuzzle Fran’s shoulder as if wondering why she was sitting on the ground instead of in the saddle.”

From the back cover:

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII’s end writes to tell her he’s in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

With thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advance copy

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