Jewel Libby has no choice but to leave the only home she's ever known for the sake of her daughter. She's told that she can find refuge in the small dairy town of Gresham where she can seek shelter at the vicar's residence. Little does she realize that her woes are not over. Instead of being taken care of, Jewel quickly changes roles to that of the caregiver for the ailing Andrew and gets deeply involved in all the members of his family.
As a huge fan of the the Gresham Chronicles and Lawana Blackwell's works, I was thrilled to hear that there was going to be a fourth book in the series. I had devoured the three books in the series several times (they're one of my favorite book series to reread) and was looking forward to seeing what was going on with the village and its inhabitants. It was pleasant to return to the peaceful village where everyone knows each other. We're introduced to new characters and are reunited and caught up to date with old friends. I will admit it was a bit jarring to see the children now grown up with their old families but the Hollis and Phelps family are still the same as ever. I liked Jewel and her daughter and was sadden at their plight. The treatment of a single mother in England during that time period was very rough and justice was not served properly to those who needed it.
While I enjoyed this book, I felt that it wasn't on the same level as the author's previous books in the series. I never really felt connected with the new characters in this book and I felt like the old characters were just thrown in for good measure. The other books in the Gresham series (as well as Blackwell's other two Victorian series) had a certain charm and comfort feeling. You felt as if you were literally swept up into the story and transported into that time period along with the characters. This book however, gives sort of a standoffish feeling. I felt as if I was looking at the story from a distance. The romance in this story seemed to happen very fast and almost as an afterthought. After the quirky and accidental romances in the past 3 books, the one in this one fell flat and was not very believable.
That being said, this is an enjoyable book. Fans of Jane Austen and other regency era type books will find this book a pleasure to read. If you've never read any of the other books in the Gresham series, you won't be lost reading this one as it can be read as a stand alone. However if you're a fan of the original series, this book is a nice way to catch up on everyone and is a good addition to the series. Hopefully this won't be the last we will see of Gresham and it's inhabitants.
The Jewel of Gresham Green by Lawana Blackwell is published by Bethany House (2008)
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