Saturday, June 11, 2011

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

by Anita Mae Draper

Book Review: To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer, Bethany House, May 2011

Karen Witemeyer’s suburb story skills shine in this second-chances tale that caught my attention at the first paragraph and kept me enthralled until the very end. Little details on every page gripped my heart and drew me into the lives of a man seeking a new life and a woman trying to shed her old one. I agonized between writing my own story and reading To Win Her Heart which I kept close so I could snatch a peek at every chance.

I believe Karen Witemeyer reached new heights with her choice of strong, yet vulnerable characters - social opposites who believe past errors have ruined their chance for a family of their own.

Eden Spencer is only in her late twenties, but in 1887 she’s considered a spinster. She lives with a small staff - people who’ve known her forever, and opens her personal library to the town. Church, good works for orphans and reading at her weekly children’s story hour fills her with joy, but it’s not enough to satisfy the emptiness for babies of her own. She needs a husband for that, except her mistrust in men is almost as strong as her need to keep her reputation spotless.

Levi Grant is a huge blacksmith who’s been in prison for accidently killing a man in a boxing match. Newly released, he heads to Spencer, Texas where the local preacher is the only one who knows his past, but is keeping it a secret because the town is desperate for a smithy. All Levi wants is to wrap himself in his new-found faith and do his ironwork without bringing attention to himself.

Two people from different social circles, neither needing a hint of scandal, yet they share a love of books. Never mind that Levi looks out-of-place in Eden’s library. It’s what’s inside him that counts. And here's where it gets interesting because Karen Witemeyer has given Levi a character trait he’s ashamed to show in public. As a child faced with ridicule, Levi fought back the only way he knew how - with his fists. And now that he’s out of prison, he’s sworn off fighting and has found a way to overcome his ‘defect’. Or has he? Perhaps it’s just hidden and waiting for an inopportune moment to make itself known. How I empathized with Levi because every day was a struggle of suppression, especially when he met Eden and his guarded emotions slipped away and revealed the real Levi Grant.

By that time I’d accepted him as a strong, yet vulnerable hero. I knew him. I knew his regrets. I knew he was an honorable man intent only on following God’s path. I knew his heart. And I was ready to do battle for him if he wasn’t going to defend himself.

Eden thinks she’s falling in love with a peaceful, reputable man. A pacifist who won’t allow herself to be linked with anyone with a hint of dishonesty or violence to their name, she’d rather live alone than let another man make a fool of her. If she isn’t careful, she’ll be the fool for not seeing Levi as God’s gift to her.

I hope you can tell home much I loved this book. The morning after I finished reading it, I awoke with Levi and Eden on my mind – and they stayed with me throughout the day and week. Truly a wonderful, heart-touching story with tears and laughter and finally, relief that yes, there is a happy ending after all. But oh, what a beautiful romantic tale of God’s hand on their lives.

If you'd like to know more about Karen Witemeyer and her books, go to her website at and take a look around. You might even want to try your hand at her Fan Fiction contest where you get to let her know how you think a book should end.


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. In 2005, Anita Mae decided to return to writing and make it a priority in her life. She writes old west stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Her characters are strong because the land demands it. Anita Mae likes to write characters who sit up and notice when that special person God’s chosen just for them walks by. The story is all about the courtship between the two main characters. But it won’t be an easy path. And if they don’t know about God at the beginning of the book, they will by the end. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. She’s currently waiting to hear the phone ring and have someone say they want to buy Emma’s Outlaw. Meanwhile, she’s working on another story and trying to keep her imagination in check. A pathological picture taker, she usually has a photo or two of her western world on her blog at


  1. Really nice review, Anita. I like how the author was able to develop her characters in a way that became personal for you!

  2. I guess that's what it was, Cheryl. It hit that level where I became 'involved' in their lives, perhaps like some people do with a TV show like Lost. I just had to tune in to the next episode/chapter.

    This book was so worth my time.

    Thanks, Cheryl.

    Anita Mae.

  3. Great review, Anita. This sounds like exactly the type of historical I want to read on a rainy day. Oh. I guess that would be today. I still have her first book in my TBR stack. Well, on my TBR nook list, I mean. Would that be my "virtual TBR stack"? I love the gorgeous dress the heroine is wearing on the cover.

  4. Hey Suzie, any day would be perfect to read this book! And although I thoroughly enjoyed her first novel, A Tailor Made Bride, I don't believe it can compare to the emotion and excitement of this novel.

    I mean, I finished the book a week ago and still think about it every day.

    I read Christine Lindsay's blog today about Edgy Christian Fiction (and commented on it at Goodreads) and although I don't know what all edgy fiction entails, I can say that this book of Karen's is not a light read if you factor in the violence level alone.

  5. Thanks for the review, Anita Mae. I've heard good things about this book and I've been wanting to read it, and your recommendation whet my appetite.

    I like the cover. I know we can't judge books by them, but I think it's lovely.

    "TBR nook." Me too, Suzie!

    Thanks, Anita Mae!

  6. In this case, Susie, the cover pretty much sums up the story of working man vs society girl. Well, as much as their can be a society in the small western town the story is set in. Except Levi should be larger and more muscular than the cover shows.

    You're welcome, Susie and thanks for stopping by.

  7. Anita Mae. My dream is to have you like my book enough to write a review like this for me. I might as well dream big. I believe you because I've heard so much about it but I also think you're an incredible salesman

    Oh duh of course we all know I don't have a book published yet but I'm working on it.

    The reference to violence intrigues me and makes me curious what you'll think of mine.

  8. Deb, I think that's about the highest compliment I could ever receive when it comes to a book recommendation. :D

    And since you brought it up - and I surely can't past up this opportunity - I'll tell you what I think IF YOU EVER SEND IT TO ME!!!

    There, got that oughtta my system.

    You've heard so much about this book? That's something like what Susie said.

    I wouldn't know because I never read reviews. Wait - I read them when I need info for interviews, etc. But I don't read reviews if I'm going to review it myself. Does that make sense?

  9. Great review! I read this book and loved it! I can't wait for Karen's next release!

  10. Thanks, Faye. :)

    I'm with you on that. I checked her website in hopes of finding info about her next book. I found some some fascinating research tidbits, but nothing about an upcoming book. I hear patience is good for you. :D

    Thanks for stopping in, Faye. I value your opinion.

    Anita Mae.


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