The reason you should never say never is because you’ll invariably end up doing it.
You can usually tell (sight unseen) a Hallmark production by the music and the fairytale romance following. I’m not the Hallmark watcher in this family—it’s the CE—and Netflix knows his Hallmark proclivity from the stats that apparently note his selections pretty closely. But this one caught my attention, too, and we’ve been binge-watching again. When I saw that it was originally a Canadian author’s western historical series, I had to go looking for it at my local library to see what they had. They had one audiobook (!!) as well as a number of ebooks and you know I will choose the audiobook. What I discovered was a TV Netflix series loosely based on a bestselling series originally written by author Janette Oke as western religious fiction.
When Calls the Heart is a Canadian-American television drama series, one of many we’ve watched and enjoyed lately. It was inspired by Janette Oke’s book from her Canadian West series. Developed by Michael Landon Jr, the series began on the Hallmark Channel in the US on January 11, 2014.
Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) is a young teacher from a wealthy family anxious to follow the calling of her heart to teach. She finds herself in a classroom in Coal Valley, a coal-mining town in Western Canada.
The life is tough enough without the mine-disaster that kills Abigail Stanton’s (Lori Loughlin) husband and her only son, along with 45 other miners in an explosion. Trying to get on with their lives, they rename the town Hope Valley. (As most know, Loughlin was involved in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal and sentenced to two months, her husband five. She was removed from the series in Season 6.)
Universally appealing, gorgeous costumes, themes of loss, love, and growth, redemption. Was supposed to be filmed in Colorado but moved instead to Vancouver, BC. The program creator, Michael Landon Jr does a superior job with his storytelling, pushing engagement.
The series became available internationally on Netflix in August 2017 but will be removed January 24, 2021.
Audiobook-Original Print Series
A Gown of Spanish Lace: Women of the West, Book 11 (Abridged)
Ariana loves her life as a schoolteacher in a little frontier town. But one evening after classes are done and she prepares to hurry home, her life changes in an instant when a band of rough outlaws abduct her and take her far away from all she has ever known. Trapped in a small shack, Ariana prays and waits, her emotions swinging between terror and boredom as days stretch into weeks. Still, the outlaws refuse to tell her why they’ve taken her or what they plan to do.
Then the boss’ son appears in the doorway of her cabin. He seems different from the others, but can she trust him? Will she ever again see her mother and father, the couple who lovingly adopted her and raised her as their own? Will she ever wear the beautiful wedding dress so carefully saved for her – her one remaining link to her birth parents?
First, I was unhappy the audiobook was an abridged version. Elizabeth is a schoolteacher in the northwestern territories and in a rather weak plot device to explain her kidnapping, is abducted and taken far away. She is treated as a hostage which gradually relaxes weeks later when the “boss’ son” suddenly takes over her care. In the backstory, it is explained she was adopted after her birth parents were killed in a wagon train raid. Her one remaining link to her birth mother—a wedding dress.
Okay, the son of outlaws—the one who “didn’t fit” (not a beautiful Canadian Monty, resplendent in his iconic uniform). Ariana is deeply religious, praying heavily first to live, then to see her adopted parents, home, and school again. She gradually appears to have feelings for Laramie as he tends to loosen the bonds.
Actually a pretty tame bunch of outlaws, almost caricatures (at least around Ariana—could have been MUCH worse) and having raised Laramie that he could be so different.
It could happen.
There was a heavily religious theme and that of Ariana gradually pulling Laramie into Christianity, amid themes of faith, trust, and forgiveness. Maybe because I had the abridged version, so much detail was missing. The plot line progressed at a nice pace (abridged…remember?), but there were elements of implausibility. Otherwise, very sweet, very clean. Not sure I could start back at Seasons of the Heart, Book 1 though.
Mercy! At least this one isn’t the shocker that Virgin River turned out to be for me. If anything, it swung in the reverse, a squeaky clean version of western frontier life. But I must vote for the Hallmark version. I love the Mounties (and Jack—why did he have to leave?) Oh…and Elizabeth. Actually, I much prefer the characters in the Hallmark version. Elizabeth (Ariana) is a level-headed intelligent woman extolling moral lessons on her students (Christian principles from the Oke published series without being preachy).
There are two or three “bad” guys who gradually turn to the “good” side. The mining town cleans up to become a lumber (sawmill) town, and as always, there are the busy-body citizens—who can sometimes do good as well.
The storyline is engaging and entertaining, although I’ve noticed a slight change from possible realistic period costumes and hairstyles to dresses of décolleté and hair worn down in curls. (Difficult without a curling iron.) It is a time of change, the turn of the Century, and the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps also a time of some societal confusion, women just beginning to become a force of nature, as well as nurture.
The first seven seasons on Netflix will go bye-bye in January. Season 8 debuts in February on…yeah, the Hallmark Channel. We’ll wait until it hits Netflix.
Genre: Western Religious Fiction, Religious Historical Fiction, Christian Westerns
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Print Length: 260 pages
Listening Length: 3 hrs 13 mins (Abridged version)
Narrator: Aimee Lilly
Audible Release: April 15, 2016
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: A Gown of Spanish Lace [Amazon]
The Author: Janette Oke (née Steeves) was born on February 18, 1935 to Fred and Amy Steeves in the family’s log house near Champion, Alberta. Janette Oke pioneered inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. She received the 1992 President’s Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her significant contribution to Christian fiction, and has been awarded the coveted Gold Medallion Award for fiction. Janette and her husband, Edward, have four grown children and nine grandchildren and make their home in Canada. Most lately she has collaborated on a series with her daughter Laurel Oke Logan. Bethany Fellowship Inc. (now Bethany House) has been Oke’s benefactor and says of Oke, “Oke’s pioneering influence on Christian historical fiction, and Christian fiction as a whole, has lifted her to near-legendary status.”
The Narrator: Aimee Lilly has narrated over 200 audiobooks in a wide variety of genres, most of them for Oasis Audio, including 100 books in the Boxcar Children series. An Earphones Award winner, she has also been nominated for an Audie Award, an Independent Audiobook Award, and a Voice Arts Award.
©2021 V Williams
Info sources: Wikipedia, Hallmark Channel