Review: Raspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer

Raspberries and Vinegar cover artRaspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2013)

What happens when three 20-something single Christian women buy a farm in northern Idaho and set out to demonstrate their beliefs about sustainable living?

The farm is called Green Acres, but unlike Lisa from the classic TV show, Jo Shaw and her friends Claire and Sierra have done their research and are up to the task.

Mostly up to the task. There’s the small matter of a mouse infestation in their temporary dwelling, but Jo’s sure they can handle it.

She’s not so sure she can handle their attractive neighbour, Zach. He’s only home to care for his parents’ farm until his father’s health improves, and he can’t wait to get back to the city. The girls see all the pluses of rural living, but he sees only minuses. They eat ethically-sourced food; he’ll hit the drive-thru any chance he gets. Jo doesn’t think she stands a chance with him anyway, against her friend Sierra’s charms.

Jo, at 25, is only beginning to see the world’s not as black and white as she thinks. And she knows her subject so thoroughly, she forgets the average person doesn’t share her knowledge. When she remembers, she tries to fully educate the person on the spot.

Author Valerie Comer does a great job making Jo a likable character instead of the opinionated shrew she could have been. Jo’s just like any of us: passionate about something that matters to her. And like us, she sometimes reacts first and regrets later. She’s a vulnerable character, despite her spunk.

As a boy, Zach loved the farm but hated the low income level. He’s a newly-qualified veterinarian, looking for a lucrative city post with civilized hours and no cows. Somewhere along the way, his faith has been pushed to the side. Coming home may get him thinking about it again.

Something about these characters connected with me. Maybe it’s Jo’s second-guessing herself, or how she’s so quick to compare herself to others (always to her loss). Maybe it’s Zach’s trying to be an honourable man in his own strength. Maybe it’s both of them, carrying loads they were never intended to shoulder alone.

Like Zach, I don’t know much about “walking gently on the earth,” and I found lots to think about in this book. The information flows organically (couldn’t resist that pun) as the story unfolds, and it doesn’t stop the forward motion of the plot.

The novel’s humour offsets Jo’s serious nature, and there are some heart-tugging moments too. This is a longer romance than you’d see from Love Inspired, so the author had more room to explore her characters and readers can get to know them on a deeper level. Definitely a plus, in my view.

My favourite line (said to Jo by Zach’s grandmother):

“God loves your zeal, I’m sure, but He wants your heart.” [Kindle Location 3528]

Jo does love God, but—like many of us—she has a few control issues. So does Zach, for that matter, and one of the novel’s threads is how they’re each confronted with the need to let go of control and let God be God.

Canadian author Valerie Comer is quietly passionate about food, faith and fiction. Raspberries and Vinegar is the first in a three-novel farm lit series called “A Farm Fresh Romance.” She also has a geo-caching romance novella in the collection, Rainbow’s End. For more, visit Valerie Comer’s website. Or click to read a sample from Raspberries and Vinegar.

This week only, buy a print copy of Raspberries and Vinegar and get bonus material:

Book blast details: Raspberries and Vinegar

[Review copy provided by the author.]

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