BOOK REVIEW: Rachel's Dream by Lisa Jones Baker

Rachel Kauffman and Jarred Zimmerman seem to have nothing in common. She's the outgoing youngest of a large, close-knit Amish clan, and longs to raise a brood of her own near those she loves. Estranged from his family by tragedy, Jarred is a young veterinarian who trusts the animals he heals far more than he trusts people. However, when Rachel's beloved horse falls ill, Jarred's struggles to save him show Rachel he's a man who cares deeply. And the respect he feels for her gentle warmhearted ways soon becomes an irresistible bond...
When Rachel tries to help Jarred reunite with his parents, it is an unexpected blessing--with one complication. If he takes this chance to put his past to rest, it could separate him and Rachel for good. Now, with prayer, love--and her hope chest's small miracles--Jarred and Rachel must find the courage to reconcile their wishes into a joyous life together. 

"You can't control your past, but with God's help, you can own your future."  This quote stands out for me from the entire book.  If I had to one line summarize this book this quote would be it.  That and of course "Memories stay in your heart.  But if I've learned anything throughout my life it's that the future's all about making new ones."  'Rachel's Dream' is the third book in The Hope Chest of Dreams series.  I was concerned about not having had time to read the previous two books before reading this one but it works extremely well as a stand alone novel as well.  Rachel is an idealist, she knows that God can and does answer prayer and she takes everything to Him with the expectation that her prayer's will be answered.  Jarred, while an Englisher, was raised by a Mennonite couple and is familiar with the Amish ways.  He's also the local vet, while young, comes with a great history and recommendation and places the fate of his patience in God's hands as well.  A patient, Rachel's horse, brings them together and leads the way to their connection, his re-connection to his birth family, and so much more. 

Let's talk about why this book was only rated 2 stars online.  It's a good story that just needs some help.  And it really needs help right out of the gate.  The introduction to the 'conflict' of the story feels so contrived, forced and completely unrealistic.   I had a hard time falling into the story-line because I felt like it wasn't established reliably.  She asks off the wall questions, he freezes up, the part ways.  Next they meet she thinks about it but doesn't say anything, he reads her mind or something and brings it up, but it's left hanging.  Rinse and repeat a few times until he tells some great secret he's harbored since childhood and has never trusted anyone with.  The story was good, a little off, but it's introduction didn't work for me.  Let's also talk about character descriptions.  In chapter 1 Rachel has these amazing blue-green eyes with a tan halo around the pupil.  Jarred has blue eyes that have been compared to a couple of different shades.  OK.  However suddenly in chapter 8 Jarred has this tan halo as well (and we are told so 3 times in as many pages during one conversation).  Much much later in the book, another character suddenly develops a tan halo as well.  I'm thinking perhaps something in the water?  Or something completely missed by the story editor.  There were a few other story 'glitches' as well but the eye thing was overdone and annoyed me the most.  Lastly, while I love that they take everything to God - animal health, their relationship, their dreams, their fears - everything I don't feel like the story sets a realistic expectation of how prayer works.  Let's pray for the horse before we have to put him down and he's suddenly totally well and fine.  Every. Single. Prayer. Was answered in this book.  Everything works out perfectly.  Life, and prayer, doesn't work like that.  If that were the case there would be no death, no hardship, no disappointment. 

The book is a sweet love story.  Englisher man meets Amish woman and they fall in love.  He decides to take the leap to join the church, not just for her since it's been a thought of his apparently.  They have to work through a few things but it they make the hard choices and come through stronger in the end.  It's a sweet story.  I like to believe that love always wins.  This book has so much promise but it just needs a little help to get there.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by NetGalley.  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review. 

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Rachel's Dream (Hope Chest of Dreams)
About Lisa Jones Baker 
Lisa Jones Baker grew up near a small Amish town in Illinois that she frequented with her family on weekends. She's also a dog lover and a fan of Scottsdale, Arizona, where she spent nearly two decades. Lisa graduated from Illinois State University with a French major, has been on 5 out of 7 continents, and considers her parents the best in the world. Raised in a Christian home, Lisa has always been blessed with love and support.

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