Clark and Marty Davis have missed their daughter, Missie, and her husband, Willie, terribly. Now that the LaHayes have been living in the West for several years, the rail line has finally been expanded to run through a town not far from their ranch. Clark and Marty are ecstatic that they'll finally get to visit and meet their grandchildren. The journey is long and arduous, but the joyful reunion at the end makes the trip more than worth it. Clark and Marty enjoy getting reacquainted with their kids, meeting all their new friends, and seeing the prosperous ranch they've built.
One day, while out for a ride with his grandson, Clark is approached by a hysterical boy. Upon getting the youth to calm down, he discovers that the boy's friend and brother were both caught in the collapse of an old abandoned mine shaft, which they were exploring. Clark doesn't hesitate to go to their aid, but in the process of getting one of the boys out, there is another cave-in. When additional help from the ranch arrives, they are able to get Clark out, but his leg has been crushed beyond repair. With no known doctor anywhere nearby, Marty and her family pray for a miracle, but the real miracle may come about in all the lives that are unexpectedly changed for the better as a result of the accident.
Love's Abiding Joy is another lovely addition to the Love Comes Softly series, but unlike the first three books in the series, this one is pretty much pure inspirational, historical fiction. There's really no romance to speak of. The story is primarily a continuation of Clark and Marty's relationship as they face more trials and joys with a side helping of Willie and Missie. There are no new budding romances, and even these two married couples don't so much as share a kiss on the lips, only extremely chaste pecks on the cheek or forehead. This was a tad disappointing, because the first three books had just enough romance for me to be comfortable categorizing them as such. However, it was still a wonderful book that is every bit as good as the Little House on the Prairie series, which it resembles, and fans of frontier stories are sure to enjoy it.
In the last book of the series, Love's Long Journey, Missie and Willie headed west in a covered wagon to settle on the frontier and build a cattle ranch. They are now prospering in their new home, but Clark and Marty dearly miss their oldest daughter. With a new rail line now running through a town not far from Missie and Willie's ranch, Clark and Marty are finally able to go visit them. Although this part of the story moved a little slowly for me, I did find it interesting. Compared to modern-day travel, their week-long journey by stagecoach and train seemed downright primitive, but in many ways, Clark and Marty felt like they were traveling in luxury. Although it was still exhausting for them, I suppose when you consider the alternative of traveling overland by covered wagon it was luxurious. The accommodations in their departure city were as well, but from there on, not so much, which makes me very thankful for our modern hotels and travel conveniences.
When Clark and Marty finally arrive, they couldn't be more thrilled to finally see Missie and Willie again and be introduced to the grandchildren they've never met. After a rocky beginning, Missie has settled into her life on the frontier very nicely, and they have built a wonderful group of people around them as a support system. Missie now loves life on the ranch every bit as much as Willie always did, and their two boys are as cute as a button. Clark and Marty only plan on staying for two weeks before heading back to the family they left behind, but a tragic accident, extends their stay for much longer.
Just like the first two books of the series, a large part of this book is in Marty's perspective, but a decent chunk of it is from Clark's POV, which was a refreshing change. I've always adored Clark for his patience and gentleness, and I loved the way he teases Marty. He has always been the perfect foil for Marty's bluntness and impatience. We see a touch of that here, but it's mostly about her strength and resilience which I admire. What I've always admired more though, is Clark's quiet faith and optimism. When tragedy strikes, he does get upset to some extent, but only for a short time, and he doesn't allow himself to dwell on it too much. That's because he believes wholeheartedly that everything that happens to him, good or bad, has a purpose. He also believes everything will be OK no matter what, because God is watching out for us and wants the best for us. With that in mind, he also puts his sharp mind to work figuring out ways to overcome these new obstacles with which he is faced. The other thing I've always loved about Clark is how he quietly lives out his faith in a way that is easy for others to see but non-threatening. That's because he never tries to shove his religion down anyone's throat, but instead, is a good friend and gentle teacher to everyone, no matter where they are in their walk with God. In this way, he is able to reach many people in a positive and often life-changing way. Clark is such an easy man to fall in love with even when the book technically isn't a romance.
Overall, Love's Abiding Joy was a very pleasant and heartwarming read. I love that the faith message is a more gentle one, and not preachy, like many inspirational books nowadays. It also paints a vivid picture of life on the frontier and many of the difficulties inherent in living so far from civilization. I very much enjoyed my time reading Love's Abiding Joy. It has earned a spot on my keeper shelf next to its predecessors, and I look forward to continuing the series.
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