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Back in October, author Ellen Gable contacted me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing her new novel A Subtle GraceSince I love books, free things and offering opinions — solicited and unsolicited — I said “sign me up!” The came to Bret’s office direct from the publisher and I brought it along with us on our trip to Europe.

Initially, I put off starting the book. For some reason or another, I was worried that if I got going that it would require a lot of quiet time to pay close attention. Happily, I was completely incorrect. A Subtle Grace is a great vacation read — just deep enough to hold your interest but light and fluffy enough to be read in snippets on the subway.

Ms. Gable has a knack for setting the scene. You can tell that she has meticulously researched the time period in which the book is set. Everything from the way priests interacted with parishioners to the way old guns operate, A Subtle Grace‘s setting in the later 1890s is vibrant and interesting.

One of my favorite aspects of A Subtle Grace is the fact that Ms. Gable took the time to craft story lines for all her characters — not just the ones central to the romance. Beyond Kathleen and Luke, we get the opportunity to check in with Caroline and David as well as learn more about Will, John and various other folks. Having those other story lines was key to it’s readability as I, quite frankly, found the relationship between Luke and Kathleen to be a little lackluster.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching their (very traditional, very 1890s) romance unfold, but I almost feel that so much attention was paid to Kathleen’s inner turmoil and relationship with God and the Church that we didn’t learn enough about Luke. Sure, we know that he’s a better guy than Karl, but there wasn’t a whole lot shown of Luke and Kathleen’s relationship prior to their betrothal and subsequent marriage.

In short, if you’re already into romance novels, you’ll like this book. If you’re already Catholic, you’ll probably like this book. If you’re on the fence about either, you may not like this book. Either way, I think A Subtle Grace is worth reading, if only because the vivid setting and descriptions make for the ultimate vacation read.

Side note: I understand the style we’re going for here, but the cover made me think of old school ghost stories. …this lady is looking out the window for all eternity. No? Just me? Okay.

Disclaimer: I received my copy of A Subtle Grace for free from Ms. Gable and her publisher. However, I was not compensated in any way or my opinion and all opinions stated above are wholly my own.