Ashley Tolliver has tended to the women of her small Appalachian community for years. As their midwife, she thinks she has seen it all. Until a young woman gives birth at Ashley’s home and is abducted just as Ashley tries to take the dangerously bleeding mother to the nearest hospital. Now Ashley is on a mission to find the woman and her newborn baby . . . before it’s too late. Hunter McDermott is on a quest—to track down his birth mother. After receiving more media attention than he could ever want for being in the right place at the right time, he receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to be his mother. Hunter seeks out the aid of the local midwife in the mountain town where the phone call originated—surely she can shed some light on his own family background. Ashley isn’t prepared for the way Hunter’s entrance into her world affects her heart and her future. He reignites dreams of having her own family that she has long put aside in favor of earning her medical degree and being able to do even more for her community. But is it commitment to her calling or fear of the unknown that keeps her feet firmly planted in the Appalachian soil? Or is it something more—fear of her growing feelings for Hunter—that makes her hesitant to explore the world beyond the mountains?
Ashley Tolliver has been carrying on the tradition of Appalachian midwifery that's run through her family for centuries. Lately though, she's felt compelled to temporarily leave her community to pursue a medical degree, so that she might serve her community that much better. Her hesitation lies in the possibility of offending family or community members with her decision. Mountain midwives get plenty of flack from "city doctors" for their lack of training, it might seem to some that Ashley's moving over to the dark side.
Hunter McDermott is on a business trip in Lisbon where he ends up saving the life of a little girl who wanders into traffic. As the little girl's family rushes out to grab her from Hunter, a car bomb goes off behind them, making it appear as if Hunter saved the entire family. The story hits international news stations and Hunter is made into an overnight hero figure. When he gets back home, he is immediately bombarded with phone calls, mostly from media, but one call is from a mystery woman claiming to be his birth mother. Confused and stunned by the news, that one call sets Hunter on a journey to seek out the truth about his family roots, a journey that leads him right to Ashley Tolliver.
This novel had some intensity right out of the gate -- right in the very first chapter there's already a difficult birthing scene and a kidnapping introduced! It set me up for high hopes for the rest of the story, but alas, the action fizzled out for me pretty quick. Then I started running into issues with the plot and the writing itself. The biggest issue for me was the portrayal of the Appalachian people here. I live in Appalachian territory myself, my husband was raised here. In my experience, Appalachian folk can be some of the most humble, lovely souls you could find anywhere. Sure, there are bad seeds but that's true for anywhere in the world. It bothered me that so much of the plot here focused so much on negative stereotypes, stereotypes that the characters verbally try to fight against, but their actions end up perpetuating the image. This story, to me, just didn't have an authentic voice that would have done the culture justice.
Another concern I had was with plot holes or plot points feeling like they were just falling to the wayside. Hunter's whole story is him on a mission to discover the truth about his birth mother, but for much of the book all that seems to take a backseat to him swooning all over Ashley. And why? I didn't quite get why they were supposed to be such a perfect fit. Hunter talks about how smitten he is with her but what does he have to go on? He mentions finding her incredibly physically attractive, he respects her work ethic and can't deny that she's educated, but aside from that they don't seem to have much common ground for long term success. Not to mention he's frequently making derogatory remarks about Appalachian culture (since he grew up with money, he tends to knock the poor mountain folk pretty easily). Some of his comments even border on slightly misogynistic. Likewise, Ashley likes Hunter's good looks but often gets annoyed with his ignorant, egotistical behavior / comments. Didn't leave me much to swoon over or root for.
A couple issues with the writing itself --- I found the dialogue to often be a little too stiff for my liking. It didn't flow like natural conversation, but more like a bad tv movie script. Almost like "I am saying this, because I think this is what someone like me would be expected to say in this generic situation". Zero personality. I was also aggravated with the ending. To me it seemed somewhat contradictory to the rest of the plot.
In the end, I found myself annoyed with this one, feeling like I got stuck with a bland romance disguised as a cultural fiction / medical drama piece.
Note To Readers: Author Laurie Eakes mentions in the beginning of this novel that some of the surnames used in this story do tie in with family names from some of her previous novels. Having never read this author before, I feel I can safely say this novel is easily readable as a stand-alone work.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.