When readers first met Virginia, protagonist of Oke's Prairie Legacy series, she was fourteen and struggling with peer pressure. It is now four years later, and Virginia is a high school graduate preparing to leave for college. Her sweetheart Jamison is already a quarterback for the college team and Virginia looks forward to her role as his girlfriend. Family obligations, however, intervene. A sickly elder sister who has difficulty recovering from childbirth requires that Virginia postpone her plans. After initial resistance, Virginia embraces small town life-her new nephew, her job in the post office, the comfort of her church. When Jamison's faith is challenged and he breaks up with her, Virginia is brokenhearted but able to cope due to her strong faith and family ties. She continues to try to find her place in the universe while helping her family and neighbors. As with the first in the series, The Tender Years (Bethany, 1997/VOYA February 1998), the elements for a "wholesome" read are here: strong family values, the natural integration of Christianity into the story line, and a plot that is easy to follow. The content is dialogue driven, with minimal action. There are loose ends (a possible suitor for Virginia, an obviously ill-fated marriage for Jenny, the wayward best friend, and so on), indicating that there will be a third entry in the series. The setting continues to be nebulous-there really is no sense of time or place other than references to small towns and trains as the basic mode of transportation. A few more details putting the setting into a historical context would be helpful. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Oke (The Tender Years, LJ 9/1/97) continues the story of the grandchildren of the characters that appeared in her highly popular "Love Comes Softly" series. Virginia Simpson is about to graduate from high school and continue her education at college when a family crisis derails her plans. Virginia soon discovers that the rest of the world is moving on without her. Her best friend, Jenny, discovers the freedom of college, and Virginia's boyfriend begins to grow away from God and then away from Virginia. As usual for Oke, this is a tender and touching novel. However, it is also surprisingly slow and lacks enough plot to make it one of Oke's best. Of course, the author's many fans won't mind this one bit, so libraries will still need to purchase this lesser work of one of Christian fiction's great writers.