Her Heart’s Desire (Book Review)

  • Author: Shelley Shepard Gray
  • Publisher: Revell
  • Available Now
  • Synopsis: While vacationing in Pine Craft, Florida, “wallflower” Mary Margaret Miller makes the acquaintance of several new friends, including a handsome young man.
  • Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. Opinions expressed are my own.

Scripture Connection

Hatred stirs old quarrels,

but love overlooks insults.

Prov. 10:12

Spiritual Themes

Spiritual themes are lightly infused throughout, with emphasis on forgiveness and trusting God. In terms of the forgiveness plotline, I liked that the author chose such a relatable scenario to showcase God’s work in empowering a person to forgive someone who had wronged her. This is the sort of thing that most of us would have to forgive at some point, although perhaps to a different extent. The book also makes it clear that it is through God’s empowering that the main character is offering forgiveness, which I appreciated.

I also liked seeing Jayson’s commitment to take care of his family, which is an important biblical principle.

What I Liked

Lately, and I’m conjunction with reading this book, I’ve realized how much I enjoy reading about friendship, particularly female friendships. While I like peering in on interactions between girls with a shared history, there was a particular sweetness in watching the developing friendship between Mary Margaret, Lilly, and Betsy. Because each of these young women felt like outsiders in their home communities, they entered the friendship with a shared experience, in spite of their distinct upbringings. And, the girls felt more relatable to me, as a reader, because they hadn’t had a lot of friends. I think this is something most readers can relate to.

I also enjoyed the vacation setting. Nancy is a generous hostess, as well as a great cook, and I liked reading about her willingness to serve, and about those hot breakfasts! Vacation settings are also fun, because characters have the opportunity to relax and do things they don’t ordinarily do. As a reader, I went to the beach and out to dinner with the young ladies, and I also joined them for a night of board games.

There’s a brief, but important discussion about emotional intimacy between male and female characters. I really liked that the author pointed out that people can form a strong attachment with one another, even without physical affection.

Respectful Critique

This was my first time reading a book by Shelley Shepard Gray, although I have been seeing her name for awhile. I enjoyed the experience, although it was a little bit different than I expected, in terms of reading an Amish novel. With the vacation setting, Her Heart’s Desire felt a little bit more like a contemporary read, that is a contemporary read with non-Amish characters. There were occasional reminders that the characters were Amish, but it wasn’t constantly at the front of my mind. However, I think this is a good thing, in that it removes some of the novelty from Amish characters, who are real people from a different culture. To be honest, prior to reading, I hadn’t really thought of Amish people as taking vacations to just relax. I think that’s part of why the book felt more like a contemporary novel. The sweet and light story and writing style reminded me of Melody Carlson.

On the other hand, one of the characteristics I have really come to appreciate, in Amish books, is the tight knit families. In a time when parents are encouraged to sacrifice for their children, only for the children to then grow up and not care for their aging parents, I find Amish fiction so refreshing. Much of the time, these books show relationships between different generations of family members, and these relationships showcase respect and love.

While I can certainly appreciate the realism the author employed in crafting families that were less than perfect and I can see how that informed the children’s actions, I was a bit disappointed with the treatment of family, in the book. This also made the book feel more contemporary, to me, because it seemed to conform a bit more to society’s interpretation of family. I am not speaking so much about the actions of individual characters as I am about the treatment of family, more generally, in the book.

Content Notes

While I don’t have content notes for a specific action/event in the story, I do want to make a note on the treatment of the romance. (Mild spoiler below)

One of the last lines in the story, before the epilogue, is about the characters “trusting [their] future.” This felt like a strange point to emphasize in a Christian book, since it elevates the romance, rather than trusting in God. In fairness, I will note that the actual epilogue does close with the point that God has been the One orchestrating everything.

(End of spoiler)

Recommendation Status

Although this book felt different than other Amish books, to me, I did enjoy reading and am curious about what will happen to the characters, next. Depending on reader preference, I would recommend this more to readers of contemporary fiction than those of Amish fiction.

Published by Stephaniesninthsuitcase

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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