I recently finished reading A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by this novel. If you have spent any significant length of time reading inspirational romance, you will know what I mean when I say this book was a little too cliche, and not in an endearing way. The story itself starts out interestingly enough, but the mystery element was underwhelming. Now, I am not Nancy Drew by any means, but with a little deductive reasoning and practically from the moment the mystery arc was introduced I guessed the ending and the culprits. There was potential there, granted, but it ultimately fell flat.
My other issue was with the characters and their dynamic. They all seemed one-dimensional to me and didn’t possess any of the life and passion I have felt from even some of Ladd’s other works. Annabelle seemed nice enough, but she ultimately felt artificial. There wasn’t anything I found to be relatable about her, and none of her thoughts or feelings felt genuine. She seemed to me merely a paper doll–lifeless and boring after a few minutes. Owen, I feel like I barely got to know (perhaps that is the issue with all these characters, who knows?). Every time I interacted with him, he was too busy worrying about poachers to reveal anything deeper than surface level issues with his late wife. That backstory could have used more explanation as well, as it was teased a little, but I ultimately wasn’t made to care very much for the situation at all.
I don’t know that I would call this a romance novel. The two main characters hardly interact with one another in any significant ways, and their relationship felt too convenient. Yes, he helps her out. But do they necessarily fall in love? I read the entire book, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you they did if they hadn’t said so at the end. Why should they love one another? It didn’t make sense to me, and it felt too tropey. There was no spark, and for me, I feel like this is more a story about the dangers of poaching than anything else. Perhaps, if you are into that, you will enjoy this book, but I feel like I wasted my time.
As far as the faith element, I’m not sure there was much of one. Prayers are mentioned by a few of the characters, but it didn’t seem like it was much of a priority. It was more like an afterthought. Annabelle’s journey to faith (I say journey very loosely) seemed more like a driveway that cut off too soon. I honestly cannot say that she even had a faith journey, frankly. Now granted, I don’t necessarily expect every character to have a miraculous faith experience by the end of one novel, but if your genre is faith-based fiction, you should use faith as more of a foundation than an addendum.
The main point I keep coming back to is that I did not connect with this book at all–not the story, the characters, or the writing. The long and the short of it is that it didn’t possess that je ne sais quoi. It was lifeless, flat, one-dimensional, and ultimately a let down. This may seem harsh considering it is “just a romance novel”, but to me, there is no such thing. Every piece of literature, no matter the target audience or genre, can build up a person, teach a lesson, and provide an escape to another world if only for a few hours. A Stranger at Fellsworth failed in this respect for me, and because of that, I’m afraid I cannot recommend it.
I received this book from the author, and I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.