Author: Jennifer Erin Valent
Review by Grace Olson
Well folks, maybe I’ll finally get some sleep and complete some long delayed projects now that I’ve finished the Calloway Summers Series. I have enjoyed this series so much, and I’ve had a hard time putting each of the three books down. It was a delight to read well-crafted fiction that caused me to think instead of just being entertained. Valent once again rose to the occasion, and I was not disappointed. I don’t think you will be either.
Now a young woman of nineteen, Jessilyn is hoping that Luke will finally notice her for the young woman she is. As the summer of 1938 progresses, those dreams seem closer to their realization than ever, and the growing love Jessie has had for Luke ever since she first met him seems to be finally reciprocated. This romance, however, is interrupted by Tal Pritchett, a young African-American doctor who seems to have captured Jessie’s best friend, Gemma’s, heart. This young man unintentionally stirs up the racial prejudice of the community and hatred from the Ku Klux Klan. In most of the community’s opinion, a colored boy could never be a doctor, and it’s pretty uppity of him to claim that title. When Miss Cleta, a white woman, accepts treatment from Tal, the community is brought to the boiling point, and the violence that results shakes Jessie’s world.
As she is driven by her desire for vengeance, the hate in Jessie’s own heart apalls her and might just drive her away from the people she loves most.
As someone who has also written books, I can identify somewhat in the challenge Valent had to overcome in continuing the story as the characters grew and changed. She handled the characters’ emotions well without seeming stereo-typical or cliché.
Though Valent did an excellent job with the story’s plot and setting, these two points are secondary compared to the characters. Certainly, all of these areas must be well-developed to create a good or even great story, but Valent has a gift in creating characters with whom the reader can identify; characters that can draw out a laugh, a tear, a sigh from the reader, which they did for me. Each character in the series is so real, so natural, that the reader can look into his or her own heart and find similarities there.
The romance between Luke and Jessie is sweet and what the reader (and Jessie!) have been hoping for since almost the beginning of the series, at least in my case. This romance does not dominate the book which I found refreshing. Their love story was not unrealistic in that the couple faced real issues and strains on their relationship.
The human heart is an ugly thing, and Valent sheds light on the depravity of a person without Christ. The spiritual element in Catching Moondrops was the strongest and, I would argue, the most powerful in comparison to the other two books in this series. As Jessilyn struggles with the hate in her own heart and the light she sees in her parents, Gemma, and Luke, she must decide whether she will accept the forgiveness being offered to her. As the battle rages on in Jessie’s soul, readers cannot help but look at their own heart and identify with her struggle.
About the Author
Valent resides in Virginia, where she works as a nanny. Fireflies in December, her first novel in the Calloway Summers series, won the 2007 Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild as well as the 2010 Christy Award. All three books in the Calloway Summers series, Fireflies in December, Cottonwood Whispers and Catching Moondrops, are available for check out, download, or paper copy.
Reaching the end of a great series always leaves me with mixed emotions. If the story carries well to the end, I’m happy that the story ended well, that all the loose ends were tied up. At the same time it is bittersweet. I have just vicariously lived this person’s life, or at least shared in it, and I am reluctant to be finished. This is magnified by an exceptionally good story, which is what the Calloway Summers Series is. When I finished reading Catching Moondrops, I was satisfied by how it ended, glad for the characters, yet at the same time not wanting the story to be over. Valent did an excellent job bringing to a close this series, charged with just as much tension and emotion as her two previous books. I would highly recommend the entire series, especially to the lover of historical fiction. If that’s you, I strongly urge you to check this series out!