Review: The Book Charmer (Book #1: Dove Pond Series) by Karen Hawkins

42202000. sy475 The residents of Dove Pond, North Carolina, know three things: they have the finest bar-b-que this side of Atlanta, their Apple Festival is the best that ever was, and the town has phenomenal good luck whenever the Dove family has seven daughters. Fortunately, that time is now, because Dove Pond desperately needs a miracle.  The seventh daughter, Sarah Dove, believes in all things magical. Books have whispered their secrets to her since she was a child. Now the town librarian, she makes sure every book finds the reader who most needs it. But recently the books have been whispering something different—that change is about to come to Dove Pond. Sarah is soon convinced that the legendary Dove Pond good luck has arrived in the form of new resident, Grace Wheeler. 

After the tragic death of her sister, Grace has moved to Dove Pond with her grieving young niece and ailing foster mother hoping to retrench financially and emotionally before returning to her fast-paced city life. But she soon learns that life in a not-so-sleepy town isn’t as quiet as she’d hoped. Despite her best efforts to focus on her family, she can’t avoid the townspeople, especially her next-door neighbors, the quirky and talkative Sarah Dove and cynical veteran Travis Parker. Grace’s situation grows more complicated when she assumes her duties as town clerk and discovers that Dove Pond is on the verge of financial ruin. 

Already overburdened by her own cares, Grace tries to stay aloof from the town’s issues, but she’s never been good at resisting a challenge. With Sarah’s encouragement, and inspired by the wise words of a special book, Grace decides to save her new town. And in her quest, she discovers the rich comfort of being a part of a loving community, the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the heartfelt power of finding just the right book.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Gallery Books          Rating: 5/5 stars

“Love can’t cure a broken heart, but it can hold the two sides together while they heal.”

Holy WOW, y’all!!  The Book Charmer is my first Karen Hawkins book and it is absolutely and without doubt not going to be my last!  What a read this was and from beginning to end, I was all in, totally invested, and ugly crying by the end. 

Sarah Dove (and her family!) is special.  If you believe, Sarah and her six sisters each have special gifts which often allow them to enhance the lives of those around with.  Sarah’s gift allows her to hear the wishes of the books she tends as town librarian.  Though she may not always understand why, when Sarah is told by a book whom it needs to go to, Sarah complies.  While not everyone believes in Sarah’s gift, all have learned not to turn away one of her books.  One of the oldest books in Sarah’s library, a town history written by one of Sarah’s ancestors, has long believed and often loudly informed Sarah that she will be involved in securing the fate of her beloved hometown, Dove Pond.

Sarah has spent her life in service to her town and while she knows the town is struggling, she has no idea how badly until Grace Wheeler comes to town.  As the new town clerk, Grace Wheeler has no intention of staying in Dove Pond any longer than is strictly necessary.  The move to Dove Pond is a last-ditch effort to help ease Grace’s foster mother into the throws of Alzheimer’s, to settle her into a place she is long-familiar with.  Additionally, Grace has also taken over the care of her niece, Daisy, a precocious and sassy eight-year-old reeling from the recent loss of her absentee mother.  With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Grace is angry and tired and feels she has no room or energy for friends, let alone saving a small town. 

Grace has never experienced small town life and isn’t at all prepared for what she finds.  Sarah Dove is the nicest person on earth and is bound and determined to bring Grace into the fold.  Because her books have told her so, Sarah firmly believes Grace is the way to Dove Pond’s salvation and if she can’t get Grace on board then there’s no hope at all.  Sarah’s plan is simple, make Grace see the beauty of Dove Pond, the power and grace of her people, and convince her to stay forever.  Shouldn’t be hard, right?  What the eternally optimistic Sarah does not at all understand is the stubbornness and anger in Grace as a result of her situation and circumstances.  To convince Grace to help and stay is going to take a monumental effort on everyone’s part.

The effort to keep Grace comes in the form of annual Apple Festival.  As town clerk, Grace is the head of the planning committee and is expected to pull off a miracle on a shoestring budget.  As Grace begins her research she discovers how desperately in trouble Dove Pond is and after a few shenanigans involving other committee members, Grace decides to dig her heals in and help the small town come back to life.  As Sarah (and many others) had hoped, Grace not only becomes invested in the festival, but in the town and her citizens as well.  The road to success isn’t at all smooth and without obstacles, both personal and professional, but it is the single most rewarding road Grace has ever travelled.  In fact, as she is working hard to save a small town, Grace finds her own salvation.

The Bottom Line: If I didn’t have to adult and be responsible daily, this book would have been completed in a single sitting!  The Book Charmer is everything I love in contemporary fiction: small town setting, wonderful characters with bright and full personalities, a bit of the mystical, and the full range of the feels.  What’s more, this book is beautifully written and deals gently though honestly with difficult topics that so many in the real world face every day.  There is an overall feeling of love, friendship, acceptance, loss, and community in this book and it appealed to me on every level.  Finally, as I began this review and looked up the book on Goodreads, I discovered this is just the first in a series and I am beyond excited to know more about the Dove sisters, their special gifts, and life in Dove Pond.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Paperback | Audible

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