Book Review: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson

August 5, 2017 Christian, historical, Jeanne M. Dickson, romance 18

about the book

In the midst of World War II, Ireland has declared herself neutral. Troops found on Irish soil must be reported and interned, no matter which side they are fighting for.

When midwife Nan O’Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she’s taking a huge risk by letting him in. Not only is she a widow living alone, but if caught harboring a combatant, she’ll face imprisonment.

Still, something compels Nan to take in “flyboy” Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare. While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection—and an unbreakable bond.

But Nan has another secret, one that has racked her with guilt since her husband’s death and made her question ever loving again. As Nan and Dutch plan his escape, can he help restore her faith?

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GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Waterfall Press
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2017
PAGES: 350

“We all despair; we all have regrets…That’s when we need our faith in God to bring us through.”

I feel like I need to review this book in two parts in order to properly explore it. (And once again I wish I could copy and paste Beckie’s review from By The Book.) On the one hand, I loved the history as well as the village women who rally to fight injustice. On the other hand, there were times I felt it bordered on crass and inappropriate.

Dickson has a talent for creating vibrant & colorful characters as well as weaving history into an intriguing story. Off the top of my head, I can’t readily think of another book I’ve read that shines a spotlight on Irish neutrality – and how that played out in reality – during WW2. She has vividly captured the political, religious, and ideological attitudes of the day in a way that makes me want to do my own research to learn more. The villain in Grounded Hearts was truly nasty and vulgar … but she was able to keep him from being cliche which is often difficult to avoid.

Another element I found interesting is the mix of ‘What-version-of-English-do-you-speak’ nationalities which seamlessly integrate into the plot. Our hero, Dutch Whitney, is a Canadian pilot for the British Royal Air Force. Dr. Mann (who is a woman lol) is American. And of course the British and Irish characters. This adds another touch of history that I want to further explore, as well as some humor (especially delightful for this ESOL teacher) and a dash or two of intrigue.

Yet, the frequent references to physical attributes (and I’m not talking about eyes or the cut of the jaw) left me unsettled about this book. If it had been just the ‘villain’ or an uncouth soldier or two, I could have tolerated it a little more. But it was the hero, the heroine, and just about every other character at one time or another. Additional innuendo throughout the book (such as making not-so-veiled jokes about a man’s ‘third leg’ … which the hero explains to the heroine by glancing down at his lap) was just too crude and too frequent for my preferences. Y’all know I love my KissingBooks and that I don’t mind some spice in my books… but what I found here involved mostly the physical with almost no emotional connection. As Carole from The Power of Words said, “It’s difficult to explain the difference, but a Christian novel can portray a certain level of intimacy…that is realistic and beautiful, while here it felt cheapened.

Something else that troubled me about Grounded Hearts was the portrayal of Irish Catholics. I am not personally Catholic, nor am I currently Irish (though it’s in my ancestry), and perhaps this is an accurate depiction of Irish Catholics during that time period. But I kept looking for even just one person who truly seemed to love Jesus and honor Him. Not a perfect character, but one who both understood grace and let it change their lives. Dutch came close, but something still seemed missing.

One final thing didn’t sit right with me, and unfortunately it’s a phrase that is repeated frequently throughout the novel. “God doesn’t bring you anything you can’t handle.” With respect to what I know the author intended to convey, this concept just isn’t true. We ARE given things we can’t handle. I’m walking through a season right now that I cannot handle. And some days it shows. But here’s the truth that encourages me: I can’t handle it… but God can. I believe He does allow things to come into our lives that we can’t handle on our own strength, and He allows them so we can discover that HIS strength is sufficient. (see Philippians 4:12-13, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, and Job 42:5)

Bottom Line: Grounded Hearts is equally parts fascinating and frustrating for me. I adored the feisty spirit of the women, particularly a couple of scenes toward the end. The setting and its place in history has me itching to learn more and the intrigue/suspense kept me turning the pages. Especially when the innuendos and sensuality got a bit much for me. I needed some deeper emotional ties between characters, and I ached to find one ‘religious’ person in the story who truly seemed to love and honor my Jesus. Still, Grounded Hearts has gotten high marks from reviewers I trust – and it’s also gotten low marks from other reviewers I trust – so this seems to be a book on which you will need to decide for yourself!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 3 stars / Mixed feelings

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about the author

Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four brothers. She credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother with her love of storytelling. Perfecting her craft, she attends many writer’s conferences and over the years, she has won and finaled in numerous RWA romance writing awards including the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Maggie Award, The Molly, The Tara, and she was the overall contest winner of Launching A Star. Today she lives in Coastal San Diego with her fabulous husband, her two wonderful girls, and a dozen disobedient rose bushes.

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What about you? What’s a book you’ve had mixed feelings about?


18 Responses to “Book Review: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson”

  1. Yvette

    I’ve been curious about this book, but not enough to pick it up. Now that you have me both intrigued and repelled, I’m wavering between “maybe” and “highly likely” about adding this to the long list of “must read” books that I credit/blame you for ;D

  2. Kav

    Really appreciate this review, Carrie. It’s one I had been anxious to read given the Irish and Canadian influence. Plus I remember some intriguing tales about the internment camps during the war. How the locals would meet together with the soldiers for a picnic on Sunday afternoons. So far removed from the harsh reality of the war waging elsewhere.

    As someone who comes from a long line of Irish Catholics (on my mother’s side at least) I can definitely tell you that Jesus is front and center. References to “Our Lord” were constant and reverence for the Savior was a given among my relatives.

    Amen to your remarks on ‘God not giving us anything we can’t handle” — if he did that, we wouldn’t need him! And having just come out of a pity party where I swore up and down I couldn’t handle ‘it’, I only know I can because He is walking along side of me. It feels dismissive when someone gives me that line — like what I’m going through isn’t of consequence or as hard as I think it is or…well, it’s just not a comforting thing to say. I’d rather hear “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    And finally — you have me really curious about the suggestiveness you’ve mentioned. I tend to lean toward conservative that way — though, like you, I love a good kissing book — but I want my toes to curl over more than the physical aspects of love. 🙂

    • Carrie

      i would love to hear your thoughts once you’ve had the chance to read this one, Kav! Jesus was in the book, to be sure, and it’s very religious. But I don’t think anyone besides Dutch really had a relationship with Him – and they all came across as winking at sin and not really taking the church seriously, maybe? It just made me sad.

      And yes! Amen! You expressed the ‘can’t handle’ frustration very well.

  3. Beckie B.

    Thanks for the shout out, Carrie. I didn’t recommend this book, but I’m willing to give the author another chance. Her writing is really that good!

  4. Chautona Havig

    I really appreciate your review. I think you just ensured that I don’t read it, which is good. Because then I likely would have felt obligated to review for my readers, and my readers probably wouldn’t like it. I don’t appreciate the crass side repeated much. Introduced as a fact of life–well, if it’s not over done, sure. But realistic or not, I avoid it in real life, so why would I embrace it in fiction under the banner of embracing a “realistic” plot?

    Still… man, I wish it wasn’t there because the book sounds fabulous.

    • Carrie

      I know!!! That’s exactly how I felt too! The basic storyline is fantastic

  5. Iola

    I read and enjoyed Grounded Hearts. But even as I was reading, I was thinking about the content which stepped outside the Christian fiction norm, and wondering how other reviewers would react. It’s ironic, in that I wouldn’t have picked it up if it had been from a general market publisher, but it might have been better aligned with some general market Irish authors.

  6. Katie Donovan

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I agree with everything you said here, and. And thanks for the links to those other reviews. I had read Beckie’s, but not Carol’s.

  7. Amy

    Your review mirrored exactly how I felt about this book. I, too, thought there were a few crass phrases/actions that caught me off guard. As well, as the heavy Catholic overtones and sins kind of ‘winked’ at with the consolation of confessing them to a priest later. The nail-biting suspense was a nerve wrecking fun ride, so I do look forward to reading other books by this author.

    Thank you for your honest review that was done in a kind and tactful way without being entirely negative. I know authors pour ‘blood, sweat and tears’ in writing each book and even though they can’t please everyone, it’s good to remain sensitive when offering opinions.

    • Amy

      Ooops! Forgot to mention I look forward to seeing you on Saturday at CFRR. I’ve been much in prayer for you, Annie & Bonnie as well as the entire event and can’t wait to hear/see how God has answered.

    • Carrie

      yes exactly! I am looking forward to more books from her too.

      And thank you for your words about the review itself. Reviews for books I didn’t care for are always difficult to write but I try to remain kind. Because you’re exactly right -authors pour themselves into each book and I want to honor that as much as possible. 🙂

  8. Paula S.

    Thanks for your honest review! I think I’ll pass on this one. I have soooooo many books I need to read right now!

    • Carrie

      I’m looking forward to more from her, but this one just didn’t do it for me 🙁

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