About the book:
"Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles...but real freedom is sweeter."
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, " "Kate Winter's dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she'll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.
Ben Hanby, Otterbein College's musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing-and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage-and her voice-if she is to sing a new song for their future.
"Sweeter than Birdsong" is a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events.
Sweeter than Birdsong had it's enjoyable moments, and there were even a few times when I was downright enthralled and didn't want to do anything but read this book. On the flip side, there were a few spots where I found myself skimming, but overall I thought the book was well-written and inspiring. I even liked it enough to put the first book in the series on my "hope to read" list, which is something I don't do often. I loved Ben's character and the adventure his family had as part of their ministry to the Underground Railroad and abolition movement.
What spoke to my heart most in this novel was the passion that the characters had for abolition and the desire to put their own welfare at risk to save someone else. A few times I was afraid right along with them as they tried to help slaves escape to freedom, and that scene with Frank when he cried over his wife broke my heart. The description was so well-done I could hear his grief. I had a hard time liking Kate's family at all, but they did find a place in my heart at the end. Ben's family was great all along and such an encouragement to him. They seemed to be the kind of family most people wished they had.
The romantic elements in the story were interesting. I liked how Kate was portrayed as extremely shy, which makes her overcoming the fear of speaking more powerful when it finally happens. At first I could not see the appeal of why Ben would continue to pursue Kate even though they bonded during that one risky mission. But she avoided him in obedience to her mother's wishes. I wanted to say, "scrap what your mother wants and do what you want, you're an adult" but then realized the constraints at the time made that difficult to do. I understood her mother's motivation to keep her from marrying what she perceived as the "wrong man" for her future.
The one thing that struck me about this story was how even the littlest of touches, like a quick brush of the hands, could be sensual if that was the only contact you had with the opposite sex that you happened to be very attracted to. Simple things took on a lot more meaning. That was well done. I thought the author did a great job trying to build the romantic tension. The letters really added to the story. All in all, a good read. I enjoyed this author's style and will probably read her books again.
Sweeter Than Birdsong was published by Thomas Nelson and released 2-7-12.