Review: Snow Angel

Snow Angel Snow Angel by Davalynn Spencer.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 3 hrs 1 min.

Snow Angel by Davalynn Spencer is a sweet, American historical romance with a sprinkling of Christmas magic.

Lena's story begins in Colorado, 1864, when she suffers an accident as a four-year-old which impacts her life forever. When we meet Lena again two decades later, the frostbite that claimed the three farthest fingers of her left hand has made its mark on more than just her extremeties. Convinced that no man could want a disfigured wife, she resigns herself to a future helping her brother nurse his patients back to health. When Dr Carver brings home an injured cowboy, Lena begins to imagine a different destiny, and dares to hope for one more Christmas miracle.
Audible Summary: "As a child, she lost something precious at Christmas. Twenty years later, she's about to lose her heart. 

Lena Carver works as her physician brother’s medical assistant, housekeeper, and cook despite her disfigurement from a childhood accident. Each year, the Christmas holidays come with contradictions - cherished memories of a mysterious encounter and painful recollections of a great loss. Lena lives with the belief that she is beyond love’s reach, until a dark-eyed cowboy arrives broken, bruised, and bent on changing her mind. 

Wil Bergman wakes in a stranger’s home with a busted leg, a bullet-creased scalp, and no horse. Trail-weary, robbed, and penniless, his dreams and plans for a future are suddenly unattainable. Forced to recuperate in the home of a country doctor, he finds himself at the mercy of a surgeon whose sister’s healing touch has power to stitch up his lonely heart and open his eyes to the impossible.

©2018 Davalynn Spencer (P)2019 Davalynn Spencer."

Snow Angel is very sweet, and quite 'old-fashioned' in a way that has nothing to do with the period in which it is set. It is a novella filled with traditional, goodly people, all in search of a happy ending. Its heroine, Lena, is capable but very innocent, blushing profusely at the idea of exposing 'hidden flesh' even while undertaking her nursing duties. The hero, Will, is a cookie-cutter strong and silent rancher, with broad shoulders and stubborn pride. Lena's brother, Tay, is a compassionste, devoted, physician who cares for the poorest members of his community with the same attentiveness he shows his sister.

Despite this naive style it has been nicely written, with obvious thought given to the phrasing and descriptions. Lena's story flows smoothly, and whilst I would have preferred the resolution to have had a less 'miraculous' bent, I could tell from its tone that this audiobook was always going to be a Hallmark-movie tale. Alongside the seasonal magic, it is underpinned by a strong Christian message, and Lena's strict temperance ensures that the only spirits of which she approves are those of Christmas itself.

After enjoying Bless Thine Inheritance so much recently, I was pleased to see another historical heroine with a disability in this story. Spencer does a good job of portraying the ways in which Lena has adapted to the loss of function without ever making her seem like an invalid; even if she is convinced that society sees her that way. Though she still experiences nerve pain in the cold weather, Lena does not let her lack of digits hold her back from day to day tasks. I liked hearing how Lena manages activities that require dexterity, such as knitting, making yarn-dolls, cutting hair, and baking cookies. Though her grip is not strong enough to help her brother realign a man's leg, she replaces any self-pity with creative alternatives.

It is a shame that Lena feels the need to hide her hand from others by concealing it in her skirts, but even now people can be uncomfortable with disability, and I imagine that the judgement from the community in those days would only have been harsher. Will's acceptance eventually shows her that she is not as repulsive as she has convinced herself that she must be, but I was glad that the majority of her fortitude came from her own, innate, determination to be independent. Whilst there was no worry that her fingers might magically grow back, I was pleased to note that her pain did not inexplicably vanish once she found true love. Will accepted Lena as she was, and did not seek to change or 'fix' her. Because this was a fairytale-style Christmas story I was concerned about that happening as the story progressed, but it was handled fairly well throughout and remained realistic, on that score at least.

The narrator, Lee Ann Howlett, has a pleasant voice that felt very much like she was reading a gentle bedtime story. I think it might have benefitted from a narrator with a more Southern accent, given the colloquial nature of the writing and quirks of local dialect, but Howlett was enjoyable to listen to and her lilting voice kept the story feeling hopeful.

This audiobook is a nice, lightweight listen which suited its format well. Novellas and short stories are notoriously tricky to balance, but this one does it well, painting a clear enough picture of the characters that we care about their fates without overreaching and leaving too much undone. It was a little on the sugary side for my tastes, and I would have preferred the 'magic' to be less mystical, but I'm bumping its 3.5 stars up to a four because I especially enjoyed the way it gave such a generous text-allowance over to giving Lena's disability some context and dimension, which was a brave choice in such a short book.

I would recommend Snow Angel to those who enjoy sweet romances and are looking for a seasonal treat. If you wait all year for the TV channel showing non-stop Christmas movies to return then you'll love this audiobook, too.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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