Belonging

( 18 )

Overview

In the high desert town of Frenchman?s Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community?s new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with.

Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his ...

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Belonging

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Overview

In the high desert town of Frenchman’s Bluff, Idaho, Felicia Kristoffersen has set out to create a future for herself that is better than her painful past. Alone in the world with only her faith to sustain her, she must prove herself as this tiny community’s new school teacher. She cannot, must not, fail. But, there are those who never wanted her there to begin with.

Five years after the death of his wife, local merchant Colin Murphy cares about just one thing: raising his daughter, Charity. Colin wants to give her the educational advantages he never had. The new schoolmarm’s inexperience doesn’t sit well with him, and if this teacher up and marries like the last one did, Charity’s heart will be broken once again.

A woman who hasn’t known love. A man who lost the love he had.

In the midst of the wide, sage-covered plains, each is about to discover that life’s bitterest circumstances truly can work together for good.

"Tender, evocative, and beautifully written, Belonging is a journey about love after loss, and about two hearts destined to become one—despite their stubbornness! Belonging is Robin Lee Hatcher at her best!"
—Tamera Alexander, bestselling author of Within My Heart and The Inheritance

"Belonging is vintage Robin Lee Hatcher: a touching, tender love story, filled with genuine conflict and characters that quietly build a nest in your heart. A skillful blend of description, emotion, and spiritual reflection, Belonging will sweep you away to late nineteenth-century Idaho, glad to have a seasoned novelist driving your buckboard wagon with a sure hand. By story's end you'll no doubt sigh with relief, smile with delight, and turn back to page one for a second visit with our determined Miss K. Loved it!"
— Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
New schoolteacher Felicia Kristoffersen needs to prove herself to the townspeople of Frenchman's Bluff, ID. Her inexperience has some concerned, namely widower Colin Murphy. His main priority is ensuring that his daughter Charity gets a good education. An unmarried schoolteacher who just might up and leave to wed does not bode well. VERDICT Featuring an eye for detail and a strong female heroine, this wholesome romance marks a good start to this new inspirational historical series by Christy and RITA award winner Hatcher (A Matter of Character). It is certain to appeal to fans of Lori Wick.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310258087
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 8/16/2011
  • Series: Where The Heart LivesSeries Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 313,315
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of 70 books. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin and her husband currently reside in Idaho. For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Belonging

Where the heart lives
By Robin Lee Hatcher

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2011 RobinSong, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-25808-7


Chapter One

Boise, Idaho, 1897

The journey by train from eastern Wyoming to western Idaho hadn't been a long one. Only a single night and a part of two days. Nonetheless, Felicia Brennan Kristoffersen felt bone weary by the time she stepped from the passenger car onto the platform, where a hot August breeze tugged at the skirt of her black dress. She longed for a cool drink of water. But first she had to find Mr. Swanson, the president of the Frenchman's Bluff school board. He'd stated in his letter that he would be at the depot to meet her.

Whatever would she do if she couldn't find him, if he hadn't come for her after all? Her heart fluttered at the thought, but she quickly pushed the rising fear away. She wouldn't give in to it. Not even for a moment. She'd allowed too much fear into her heart through the years. Never more so than in recent months. But no more. God had not given her a spirit of fear.

Tightening her grip on the valise, she walked toward the doors leading into the station. Just as her hand reached to open it, she heard someone speak her name.

"Miss Kristoffersen?"

Relieved, she turned to face a short, squat man with generous white muttonchops and a friendly smile. "Yes, that's me. Are you Mr. Swanson?"

"Indeed I am. Have you been waiting long?"

"No. I disembarked only a few moments ago."

"Good. Good. And your luggage? I assume there's more than what you carry."

"Yes. I have a trunk." One trunk that held everything she owned in this world, although there was no need to tell him that.

"Why don't I take you to the wagon, and then I'll get it for you."

She nodded. "That's very kind."

Wordlessly, he held out his hand for her valise. She gave it to him and then followed him to the end of the platform, down a few steps, and around the side of the depot, where a buckboard pulled by two black horses awaited. Once there, Mr. Swanson dropped her valise into the wagon bed before helping her up to the seat.

"Be back directly, miss."

After Mr. Swanson disappeared inside the station, Felicia felt herself relax. Her journey was almost at an end. No catastrophe had befallen her. Soon she would be settled in a home of her own and could begin making a new life for herself. All would be well.

She sat a little straighter on the wagon seat and looked about. The terrain was similar to the area in Wyoming where she'd spent the past sixteen years—sagebrush and sand-colored earth in abundance — except Boise City had come to life along a river at the base of a pine-topped mountain range. That river now watered farms throughout the valley via a system of canals and creeks, bringing a lush green to land that was otherwise baked brown by the late summer sun.

"Right over there."

She turned to see Mr. Swanson walking toward the buckboard. Behind him was a porter pushing a cart that held her trunk. Thank goodness, for the heat was becoming unbearable, especially in her black gown and bonnet. She prayed it wasn't a long journey to Frenchman's Bluff.

Within minutes, Mr. Swanson had joined her on the wagon seat and the horses were turned away from the depot. They traveled east, leaving the city of Boise behind them. The road they followed was filled with ruts, and more than once Felicia wondered if her bones would be jarred from their sockets before they reached their destination.

"Folks are mighty excited that we'll have ourselves a schoolteacher again," Mr. Swanson said after a long period of silence.

Not for the first time, Felicia wondered how many other teachers had applied for the position before it was awarded to her. The salary was small, to be sure. It couldn't possibly support a man with a family. Which meant most, if not all, applicants would have been unmarried women like herself. Why the school board had chosen Felicia was nothing short of a miracle. An answer to prayer, surely.

But what did it matter why they'd offered her the position? She had employment, and she was out on her own. She'd even been promised a house to live in rather than having to board with a different family each month. Such a luxury. She would no longer be dependent on the whims of others. She wouldn't be responsible to anyone but herself and her God. And more important, she wouldn't have to deal with another member of the Kristoffersen family ever again.

"Like I told you in my letter," Mr. Swanson continued, drawing her thoughts back to the present, "we've been without a teacher since Miss Lucas moved away. Some of our womenfolk took over the instruction of the children as best they could to finish out the session, but the school needs a trained teacher. Right glad we found you when we did."

She offered the man a smile and a nod, but inside, turmoil erupted, as it often had since receiving the letter from Mr. Swanson offering her the position. What if she failed as a teacher? It had been years since she'd completed her training. How would she support herself if she didn't succeed? For years she'd longed to leave the Kristoffersen homestead on the eastern plains of Wyoming, to experience a little bit of the world, but obligation had held her there. Now she had what she'd wanted, and she found herself scared half to death.

But could anything be worse than what I left behind?

She pictured Gunnar Kristoffersen, his face flushed. She heard his angry accusations and harsh demands. A shudder raced through her. No, it couldn't be worse. Whatever lay ahead of her had to be better than what she'd left behind.

* * *

From the doorway of the small cottage, Colin Murphy watched as his daughter, Charity, placed the vase of roses in the center of the kitchen table. She turned it this way and that, her mouth pursed and her eyes squinting, then adjusted it again and again.

Just like her mother used to do.

His heart pinched at the memory. And it hurt even more knowing that Charity hadn't learned it from her mother. His daughter had been only three when Margaret Murphy passed away. There'd been no time for her to learn the fine art of floral displays or her mother's mannerisms.

"Do you think the teacher'll like them, Papa?"

"Of course she will," he answered, moving a few steps into the kitchen. "All women seem to like roses."

His daughter turned her large brown eyes on him. "I hope she'll want to stay. Do you think Miss Kristoffersen will like it here? Enough to stay and keep teaching?"

He recognized her questions. It seemed his little girl had been eavesdropping on adult conversations again, something she'd been scolded for in the past. But Colin decided to let it go this time. He didn't want to spoil her excitement. He just wished he felt a degree of the same enthusiasm.

Colin checked his pocket watch. If the train had arrived on time, Walter Swanson should show up with the new schoolmarm any moment now. "Come on, Charity. I need to get back to the store."

His daughter was quick to obey, rushing on ahead of him while he closed the door of the cottage. Before she disappeared around the corner of the mercantile, she called back to him, "I'm gonna wait on the porch."

Colin shook his head. Charity never did anything by halves. She was prepared to love Miss Kristoffersen, sight unseen, and she would be devastated if the teacher didn't return those feelings.

He'd been against hiring another single female, especially one without actual teaching experience. Yes, she'd completed her teacher preparedness education at the State Normal School in Laramie, Wyoming, almost a decade earlier. Yes, she had all the appropriate credentials. But she'd never been employed as a teacher.

What if she wasn't capable? What if the children suffered because of her inabilities? What if Charity suffered because of her inabilities? And more important, what if she didn't last any longer than Miss Lucas or her predecessor? Just because Felicia Kristoffersen was willing to teach for the smaller fixed salary they'd offered didn't mean they should have given her the position.

Hadn't the board learned anything from their last two choices? As far as Colin could tell, all female teachers were more interested in gaining husbands than they were in the welfare of the children. A schoolmaster might have cost the town two or three hundred dollars more per year, but it would have saved them a world of grief in the end.

Now he could only hope the parents of Frenchman's Bluff wouldn't come to regret the board's choice once again. With luck, Miss Kristoffersen would surprise him for the better. He would welcome a pleasant surprise.

He gave his head another slow shake as he walked through the storeroom of the mercantile, his gaze taking in the shelves on both sides of him, noting which ones were full and which ones needed to be restocked.

It had been a good year for Murphy's Mercantile. The previous winter had been mild, and the weather this summer had been perfect. Just enough rain, just enough sun. Barring any natural disasters—God forbid—the ranchers and farmers in the area surrounding Frenchman's Bluff would enjoy good profits. And when the ranchers and farmers did well, Colin's business did well too.

When he entered the store a few moments later, Jimmy Bryant, his clerk, was adding the cost of several purchases for Kathleen Summerville. The young man glanced up, nodded, then went right back to his calculations. Kathleen, on the other hand, turned her full attention in Colin's direction.

"Good day, Mr. Murphy."

"Mrs. Summerville. How are you?"

"Very well, thank you. But my girls are anxious to meet their new teacher. They're on your home's front porch, watching for Mr. Swanson's wagon to appear around the bend. I saw Charity join them a few moments ago."

With a nod, Colin moved toward the large window at the front of the mercantile.

Kathleen came to stand beside him, holding her basket of supplies against her chest. "Things will be different this time. I just know they will."

Colin decided to keep his reservations to himself. Kathleen Summerville must have heard what they were anyway.

"You know,"—her right hand alighted on the back of his wrist—"I'll miss helping with the children's instruction."

He kept his eyes focused on the view outside the window, knowing full well Kathleen wanted him to look at her, wanted him to acknowledge her as something more than a customer in his store. He couldn't do it. While there was much to admire about this widowed mother of two daughters, that didn't make him want to marry again.

Thankfully, Walter Swanson drove his buckboard into view just then, giving Colin an excuse to step away, out from under her touch. "Here they are." He opened the front door, then waited for Kathleen to move outside before him.

"Hellooo!" Walter reined in the team of horses in front of the mercantile. "I said I would bring her back safely, and so I did."

"So you did." Colin shaded his eyes against the sun that rode low in the western sky, trying to see the new schoolmarm's face. He couldn't. Not yet.

Walter hopped down from the seat and hurried around to the other side, where he offered a hand to his passenger. Dressed all in black, from her hat to her shoes and stockings—which Colin glimpsed as she stepped onto the hub of the wheel—she was slender but with pleasing feminine curves.

He blinked and drew in a quick breath, annoyed at the direction his thoughts had taken.

"Thank you, Mr. Swanson," the teacher said as one foot alighted on the ground.

Walter drew her toward the boardwalk. "This here's Mr. Murphy. Owns the little house you'll be livin' in. It's right behind the mercantile. Looks out on First Street. And this here's Mrs. Summerville."

Felicia Kristoffersen's gaze turned to Colin. And a lovely gaze it was. He could see that now, the sun no longer intruding on his view. She had large eyes, the color of the bluebells that grew wild in the high country of Idaho. And she was attractive—one might even say striking—though not in the conventional way; her face had too many sharp angles for that. Her complexion was pale, as if she'd been shut up in a dark room for quite some time, a look exacerbated by the uninterrupted black of her attire.

There'd been a death in her family. Colin remembered something about it in her application. Her parents? That's what he seemed to recall.

It was Kathleen who broke the momentary silence. "Welcome to Frenchman's Bluff, Miss Kristoffersen. We're so glad you've come to teach the children."

"Mrs. Summerville. Mr. Murphy." Felicia Kristoffersen had a soft, melodic voice. It fit her somehow. "The pleasure is mine. I'm glad to be here at last."

Having left the front porch, the three girls arrived on the boardwalk in front of the mercantile, giggling and smiling, eager and shy at the same time. Charity joined Colin, slipping her small hand into his, tugging on him.

"Miss Kristoffersen, this is my daughter, Charity. One of your students."

"How do you do, Charity?" Felicia smiled, and the weariness he'd seen earlier vanished.

"Good, thanks."

Kathleen drew her own daughters forward. "These are my girls, Suzanne and Phoebe."

Felicia nodded, still smiling. "Are you looking forward to the start of school?"

"Yes, ma'am," Suzanne answered with enthusiasm.

"I am too." Felicia's gaze returned to Colin, and the smile faded, replaced once again by an expression of fatigue. "If you might be so kind as to show me to my living quarters."

"Of course." He glanced at Walter.

"You go on ahead," the man said. "I'll bring her trunk around in the wagon."

Colin nodded, then motioned with his head. "Just follow me, miss."

"Thank you."

Charity released his hand and fell back to walk beside the new schoolmistress while he led the way around the east side of the mercantile. "We got new readers for the school," his daughter said. "They came this summer. Did Mr. Swanson tell you that?"

"No, he didn't mention it."

"Well, we did. A big box of new McGuffey's. We didn't use to have enough for everybody, but now we do."

"How wonderful. Every student should have their own reader."

"I like the stories in 'em, but I think reading's hard."

Colin tensed. His daughter's struggle with reading was a sore point—perhaps because he was unable to help her as he wished he could—but also because of Miss Lucas's harsh assessment of Charity's learning abilities.

"It can be," Felicia answered. "But we can find ways to make it easier for you."

He released a breath he hadn't known he held, and the tension eased from his shoulders.

"I like history best," Charity continued.

"Do you? That's good. It's very important to know history. It helps us understand the present better if we know and understand the past."

"Ask me something, Miss Kristoffersen. See if I know it. Go on, ask me."

"Charity," Colin warned softly.

He heard his daughter sigh.

They arrived at the cottage, and he opened the door, then stepped back to allow the schoolteacher and his daughter to enter first. But it wasn't merely because he was acting the gentleman, doing the polite thing. The truth was, he always needed an extra moment to steel himself before he passed through this doorway. The small house held bittersweet memories for him.

He'd built the home for Margaret. His wife hadn't wanted to continue residing in the other half of the mercantile building. So he'd built this cottage for her, exactly as she'd wanted, with the parlor and the larger bedroom facing First Street, giving a view of the mountains to the north, and a porch that wrapped around from the front to one side where another door opened into the kitchen. He'd hoped it would bring her some happiness, hoped it would bring them closer together. Only she'd died before they could move into it.

"This is where I'm to live?"

Felicia's question pulled Colin's attention to the present.

"I hadn't anticipated anything so lovely as this," she said, looking at him.

The new schoolteacher was past the age at which most members of the fair sex married. In fact, his late wife had given birth once and miscarried three times before she was as old as Miss Kristoffersen. Colin had buried Margaret on her twenty-sixth birthday, which, according to the information the school board received, was the present age of the new teacher. Some would call Miss Kristoffersen an old maid, but that would be an unjust description of someone with such a smile. A smile that would draw single men to her as surely as bees are drawn to honey.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher Copyright © 2011 by RobinSong, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Engaging Story! Could not put it down!

    Following the death of her parents, Felicia Kristoffersen chooses to embrace the opportunity she had to sacrifice in order to help the aging couple who once took her into their family. She starts over as the new schoolmarm in Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho. She's determined to make an impression upon those who didn't want her as the schoolmarm--especially Colin Murphy.
    Colin Murphy voted against Miss Kristofferesen as the new schoolmarm. After all, the other single schoolmarms up and left after finding a husband and marrying, leaving behind school children who felt that loss--including his own daughter, Charity. He doesn't want to see his daughter hurt when this schoolmarm does the same thing. As he gets to know Felicia, he realizes he just may be wrong about her motives for taking the position . . .and his own feelings toward her start to change. . .so much so that he can no longer avoid the very thing he was once against . . .taking away the town's schoolmarm.

    Belonging will keep you hanging on every word. I couldn't put it down. This novel is filled with sophisticated prose and writing, as well as outstanding characters and a compelling plot.

    I have to admit the writing style and tone in this novel appears to be different from any of Robin Lee Hatcher's previous works--which is both enjoyable and refreshing. While I've enjoyed Robin Lee Hatcher's other stories, I took to the style of writing, and the story itself, more than her others.

    I loved seeing the use of historical idiomatic phrases this story. If you aren't familiar with historical idiomatic phrases, some of them might have you scratching your head for half-a-second, but most--if not all--are fairly easy to figure out.

    I wish the trouble maker in this story had been a little more fleshed out, as far as motive goes. While I can understand what drove her despicable actions, I'm not sure what drove the motive for her actions. The one given to us didn't seem entirely too realistic. With that said, this trouble maker accomplished getting under my skin. I even found myself wishing she weren't a fictional character so I could give her a piece of my own mind.

    All in all, this has to be one of my favorites by Robin Lee Hatcher. I definitely recommend it. Fans of schoolmarm stories, will absolutely love Belonging.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Publishers, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    I always enjoy books that combine history, love  and  Christian

    I always enjoy books that combine history, love  and  Christian relations. This book is amazing and will grip you from page one. I will continue this series and add Robin to my list of favorite authors. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Belonging is a tale of three siblings from Chicago who,upon thei

    Belonging is a tale of three siblings from Chicago who,upon their mothers death,were sent to a Dr.'s orphanage to be placed in homes out west. Though thethree siblings tried to stay together, each was sent a different direction.This is a story about a now grown Felicia, the middle child of the dying mother.She finally, at age 26, receives her desire to become a school teacher.She makes friends, becomes a strong influence in students lives, but her successand relationships suffer a change which will change her life.I won this through a Clean Author site! It is definitely a keeper and one to re-read and share with others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    As a girl, Felicia had asked God why her adoptive parents couldn

    As a girl, Felicia had asked God why her adoptive parents couldn't love her. Why had they taken her into their home if they hadn't really wanted her? She would never know the answer to that question, not in her lifetime anyway. But it was time to let go of the wound it had left on her heart. Now as Felicia Brennan Kristoffersen prepares to leave one life behind and begin another, she knows God will be by her side the whole way.

    Boise, Idaho - 1887

    Felicia's newest venture in life after leaving behind the life of caring for her adoptive parents, Britta and Lars Kristofferson who died hours within each other in their older years, is moving to Wyoming and taking on the job as the new school teacher for Frenchman's Bluff. It hadn't been an easy decision to make ever since learning that the only reason the Kristofferson's adopted her was because they had been childless, in their 60's and were looking for an older girl to help Britta in the kitchen with chores and to be a comfort to them in their old age.

    After Felicia's mother died when she was a young girl and their father left them, she and her younger sister and older brother were placed in Dr. Clay's Asylum for Little Wanderers until they were each adopted and went their own separate ways. Now with the Kristofferson's deaths, Felicia is finally able to begin a path in her own life that doesn't have anyone telling her what to do. Her only desire is to pour forth her passion into teaching and forget all about love and romance.

    Colin Murphy, proprietor of Murphy's Mercantile in Frenchman's Bluff isn't looking forward to the towns new teacher. He was one of two that voted against hiring Felicia Kristofferson and instead wanted a man to come and teach. The past teachers had been more concerned with finding husbands that they were in the welfare of the children they were teaching. Now he finds just caring for his young daughter, Charity and running the store will keep him from ever searching for love again. His wife Margaret died at an early age of 26 when Charity was only 3, so she really never knew her mother, but Colin couldn't forget her. But will God have different plans for Colin and Felicia?

    In the novel Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher, the reader is taken back to a simple time back in the 1800's and the story is here is one of belonging. For Felicia, it's trying to find not only her siblings that have been long separated through adoption, but also trying to find her own place in the world. For Colin, it's trying to find out what God's calling is in his own life, he faces being a single father that is often frowned upon by the wealthy Summerville family, who sees that Charity can use a mother's influence in her tom-boy like ways and they have the perfect person picked out for him, their own daughter, Kathleen, who also is widowed with two young girls.

    As the story builds, you can see the town's people coming together in a variety of different ways and even using Felicia's own experience being adopted to help two boys that are being adopted by the Carpenter family that are being difficult at trying to fit in as well. Through it all, God's love always comes shining through and soon the town will see that each person is needed to make a body complete. This novel is part of the Where The Heart Lives Series and one I received compliments of Zondervan Publishers and Net Galley for my honest opinion. I absolutely LOVED this one and rate it a happily ever after, 5 out of 5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    Really enjoyed

    I love reading Robin Hatcher's books and this was no exception. The descriptions and prose in this book transport me to another time and place. The character development was wonderful and I like getting to know more than just the main characters. Felicia and Colin faced struggles and emotional situations, just like we do in life. I really enjoyed entering Frenchman's Bluff and reading this story. Thanks for another great read Robin!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Charming Read

    Robin Hatcher Lee does it again with another fabulous novel in Belonging, book number one in her new "Where the Heart Lives" series. When I was offered the chance to review this novel I jumped on it, as Robin Hatcher Lee is one of my favorite historical Christian fiction writers. Her characters are charming and honest, drawing you into their stories as her gracefully written narrative transports you to another time and place. In Belonging we are taken to 19th century Idaho on a journey filled with emotional and spiritual revelations that speak to God's promise to work all things together for his good purposes.


    The story revolves around Felicia Kristofferson, a teacher looking for a fresh start in the dusty desert town of Frenchman's Bluff. Orphaned as a child and separated from her brother and sister, Felicia has not had the influence of love and family in her life. Still, her faith is sure, and she believes God has sent her to Idaho so that she may provide the children with a strong education. Felicia just has to win over the widowed general store owner, Colin Murphy, who is certain she has come only to find a husband, not to be the teacher his daughter Charity so desperately needs. As their relationship grows over a mutual concern for Charity, the merchant owner finds that he is the one who is falling for the teacher.



    This is such a sweet book, I loved reading every word of it. Belonging is a wholesome love story that speaks biblical truths and paints a bright hope and future for its characters. The subtle layering of story lines keeps the plot moving along and provides some wonderfully surprising elements. Robin Hatcher Lee creates the world of Frenchman's Bluff with charm and ingenuity. From the school house to the townspeople, everything is written with an emotional validity that goes straight to the heart. I especially enjoyed Felicia's back story of being separated from her siblings on the orphan train and look forward to exploring that connection in future novels from this series. Hopefully they will be arriving soon!

    Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 1, 2014

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    Posted January 26, 2014

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  • Posted December 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an hone

    Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!!)

    Review: At ten, Felicia Brennan Kristofferson was orphaned; at twenty-six, she was orphaned for the second time. The deaths of her adoptive parents leaves her completely independent—save the malicious &quot;cousin&quot; who wants her to marry into the Kristofferson family to face the fate of inevitable domestic houselife—so the teaching job that brings her to Frenchman's Bluff, Idaho, is a haven—a godsend. 

    The small, close-knit town welcomes Felicia with open arms, but there are a few who underestimate and actually disapprove of her position. Their suspicions are not without reason, however; the previous two schoolteachers each stayed less than one year each, before marrying off and ditching the children completely, so some parents are concerned she just may be taking advantage of the job, as the others did.

    Felicia's incredible dedication to her career, her students, and to God, however, proves that she only has one motive to be in Frenchman's Bluff, and that is to serve the Lord and the children. Her heart contains nothing pureness, and maybe a few nostalgic bruises; she is determined to take this fresh start and make it right. I was amazed at how well and how deeply her character is explored. All of the characters are remarkably well-developed, secondary characters included. I loved the good guys and hated the bad; Hatcher makes it very easy to tap into the minds of each cast member, from the main character, to the antagonist, which I know is not an easy feat in and of itself.

    The plot is tasteful and well-crafted, incorporating bits of Christian values smoothly. The storyline is not terribly exciting, but it's planned perfectly, and mighty clever. The development of Felicia's relationships with all the townspeople, as well as with Colin and Charity, is a real treat. While I did like how the inspirational messages weren't forced, I did feel sometimes the book was unreasonably preachy. Felicia silently prays or makes a plea to God at every ill thought and every remote turn in plan; not only is this slightly annoying, but it's also unnecessary. As a character, she's irritatingly sensitive; she tears up at every reminder of her past. I know it's sad, and I know she's a fragile woman, but that kind of behavior is girly (in a bad way) and weak. I would have liked to have seen more strength from Felicia—the kind of strength acquired over ten years, of overcoming the heartbreak of being torn apart from family at a young age. Colin's character is a bit more relatable; he too, has an upsetting past, but his safe, widowed, day-to-day life is his own way of recovery. His dedication to his daughter, especially, is incredibly real and hits close to home.

    Stylistically, Hatcher is a gem. Her words flow smoothly and beautifully. The procession of the story moves seamlessly; I didn't have to plod through it at all! One thing that did irk me was the curtness of the dialogue: lots of one-worded responses from not just one, but all of the characters. Maybe this was the norm in 1897, but to me, it just sounds unwelcoming. The deep probing of—the scars, fears, and secrets of—each of the characters' minds makes up for it, though. I really have no complaints on how Hatcher chose to portray her characters fully.

    I cannot confidently classify this as a romance novel. In the traditional sense, yes, it's a romance in that boy meets girl on the first page and boy gets girl by the last, but it's rather unorthodox. There is no attraction—in fact, there is unattraction—until about halfway throughout. Then small, totally non-sexual, tingly feelings rise in Colin and Felicia's stomachs whenever they see each other—more than a several times—and then they abruptly SPOILER get married and live happily ever after. I will say their relationship is complex, especially with Colin's initial reservations and Felicia's interaction with his young daughter, but it just didn't seem at all romantic to me. It bothered me that Colin's character is compromised when it is revealed that he never was in love with his wife. He loved her, of course, and is still grieving her death, but his marriage to her is described as &quot;practical.&quot; I feel this is uncharacteristic and was only included so that his relationship could further with Felicia. Again, this makes the so-called romance unrealistic and a bit stilted. For a content advisory, there isn't one; the romance is 100% chaste (absolutely no sex, absolutely no physical interaction except at the end—in hindsight, this may be why I didn't enjoy it as much) because it sticks to traditional 19th century Christian values.

    The power of staying faithful to God and leading life with a pure, wholesome outlook prove to be the key to happiness in Belonging. Through Felicia, readers understand and rejoice because, no matter what troubles and turmoils arise, God always saves and protects. Accidents will occur, plans will be ruined, and people will try to get in the way, but in the end, maintaining a loving, kind heart is what makes individuals truly belong.

    Pros: Amazing character development // Easy, smooth flow to story; book moves and finishes quickly // Well-penned writing style // Colin and Felicia have a strong rapport, though not necessarily a romance // Strong morals on family and love // Believable situations and characters // Not too dense with historical information; fictional town and setting actually quite charming

    Cons: Slightly preachy in religious message // Felicia is pathetic at times // Romance is poorly developed // Dialogue sometimes unrealistic and lacks emotion

    Love: Kathleen could scarcely believe those words had come out of her mouth ... She must be losing her mind.

    Or perhaps she was beginning to find it.

    Verdict: Belonging is a clean, gorgeously-crafted Christian historical that encompasses an absence—and a discovery—of belonging, a passion for God, and a huge misunderstanding, or rather: several small misunderstandings that constitute for one conflict of fate. By demonstrating the importance of determination, dedication, and faith, Belonging conveys the almighty power of love—for God, for family, and for oneself through one woman's search for a place to belong. The religious undertone is strong, and the characterization, stronger; Hatcher has succeeded in telling an inspirational, absorbing, and completely feel-good story. 

    8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended.

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