I received Michelle Griep’s “The Innkeeper’s Daughter,” on my Kindle as part of a Goodreads.com giveaway. In my review on the site, I gave this novel a 4-star review. I eventually became engaged with the characters and plot, but I struggled at the beginning. Something Judge Judith Sheindlin says came to my mind today when I finished reading. In her courtroom Judge Judy often tells people not to take her down “tributaries” — those rivers and streams that merge into the main body of water. She wants people to stay the course on the main topic. Even though I did want to know what happened to main characters, Johanna Langley and Alexander Moore, I felt led down “tributaries” and in the process felt like the plot was buried. I felt beholden to the author since I received her book for free so I kept on reading. I wish now that I was an advance reader instead because I did figure out why I couldn’t engage with the story.
I thought the book probably needed this title instead: “The Blue Hedge Inn.” It’s the central part of the story; in fact, it’s a character in itself. Many of the actions occur at this inn in Dover and is on the minds of seemingly every character as well. At least two characters jump out of its windows, which is pretty comical. The next idea I had was that the opening chapter needed to switch places with chapter 2. The beginning brings the reader into main character Johanna Langley’s world. She is plunged into trouble, key in grabbing a reader, but when I read the next chapter, I thought officer, Alexander Moore, and his mission given to him by the magistrate was a better start. That way Moore could bring along the reader as he’s introduced to the Langleys and their world at the inn.
All said and done though, I will say the overall plot was wonderful. Who doesn’t love mystery and romance? Griep leaves you guessing what characters are the true villains as you’re reading with so many twists and turns and final reveals. I won’t reveal spoilers, so no worries. You can see the amount of work she had to do before or during the writing as the architect of this tale fraught with danger, poverty, pain, faith, grace, mercy, and romance. I enjoyed several quotes from the book I highlighted because they spoke to me from a spiritual perspective, such as 1) “There is nothing more — nor less — than trusting in God. Therein surrender, and you will find rest.” — Alexander Moore.” And — 2) “…broken things are always the beginning of better things. A plant could not grow without first the ground being broken. The most plentiful yields come from a field ravaged by a plow.” — Eliza Langley, Johanna’s mother.
Toward the end, I felt Griep could have taken her time, whereas the plot’s beginnings needed less details. The descriptions, some metaphorical “tributaries,” were what held up the plot when a few words would have sufficed. “Left Behind” author, Jerry B. Jenkins said, the theater of the mind of a reader just needs engaged. It’s true that I come up with my own casting while I read. Having characters gaze at one another and assess how they look isn’t necessary. I started to notice that certain verbs should have been changed like “growled,” a sound coming from several characters, used 20 times, “speared” used 9, “quirked” used 14, and “jerked” used 19 times. Like I said, give me a job as an advance reader! I would love it.
While set in the Regency period, Griep reminded me of Charles Dickens. I’m used to reading his many descriptions and he did write for publication so each word was dear. I did wonder if that was why this novel reads similarly. The kooky characters like Mr. Lucius Nuthouse and Mr. Quail, along with the grotesque warden in the jail would make Dickens happy I am certain.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy faith-based historical fiction and a great mystery novel as well. To purchase this title, you will find it on Amazon at: goo.gl/saADqE.
Note: I learned some things about my new Kindle Fire and about Goodreads in the process. I took notes as I read and highlighted passages to remember. When I logged into Goodreads.com, I saw the passages that have been highlighted in the novel either by me or others. Those show up on Goodreads and you can choose to make them visible or invisible to other readers.