The Sweetest Rain  -     By: Myra Johnson
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The Sweetest Rain

Franciscan Media / 2015 / Paperback

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As the drought of 1930 burns crops to a crisp, Bryony Linwood dreams of cooling winter snows and the life she would have had if Daddy hadn't been killed in the Great War and Mama hadn't moved Bryony and her sisters to their grandfather's struggling tenant farm in tiny Eden, Arkansas. Now Mama's gone, too, and as times grow tougher, Bryony will do whatever it takes to ensure her family's survival.

Michael Heath barely survived the war, and twelve years later all he wants to do is forget. A virtual recluse, his one passion is botanical illustration. Lost in the diversity of nature's beauty, he finds escape from a troubled past and from his wealthy father's continual pressure to take an interest in the family plantation.

When Bryony accepts employment at the Heath mansion, it's just a job at first, a means to ward off destitution until the drought ends and Grandpa's farm is prosperous again. But Bryony's forced optimism and dogged determination disguise a heart as dry and despairing as the scorched earth . . . until she discovers Michael Heath and his beautiful botanical illustrations. As their relationship deepens, friendship soon blossoms into healing for wounded souls and a love that can't be denied.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 272
Vendor: Franciscan Media
Publication Date: 2015
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 1616369817
ISBN-13: 9781616369811
Series: Flowers of Eden

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Author Bio

Though Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of North Carolina. Myra’s debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, was a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She has also written six novels for the Heartsong Presents line. Her 2009 release, Autumn Rains, won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, and she is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Most recently she has completed a three-book historical romance series, "Till We Meet Again," for Abingdon Press. The first book in the series, When the Clouds Roll By, won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Award. Book 2, Whisper Goodbye, and book 3, Every Tear a Memory, both received 4½-star reviews from Romantic Times. Myra and her husband, Jack, have two married daughters and seven grandchildren.

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  1. Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Enjoyed this book immensely!
    November 7, 2015
    BookLover
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The Sweetest Rain is the first book in Myra Johnson's newest series, Flowers of Eden, and the first of her books I've read. I'm not quite sure what first drew me to this story, but I'm very glad for the opportunity to read it. I think the cover first caught my attention, then the unique time period. I've not read many (if any) books set during The Great Depression. It's something I've read about in history books, but Myra brings it to life in a way I'd never experienced. I could almost feel the desperation of the time, the fear of not making it another day, another week, another year. I was so thoroughly engrossed in this story that I read it in less than a day and could barely force myself to put it down.

    I loved Myra's writing style and how she brought everything to life. It's not something I can specifically pinpoint, but I noticed a difference, something that sets her apart from other authors. I enjoyed the details and descriptions, the elements she choose to incorporate and the ones she left to the imagination. Her writing pulled me in from the very first page and carried me back in time, to a place where hope was scarce and food even more so. The emotions that come through on every page bring a depth to this book that touched my heart and had me mourning for the characters and those that lived through that time. I always said I couldn't imagine, but this book caused me too. It deals with several difficult topics, from the drought and fear, to loss of hope and prejudice. This definitely isn't what I would call a "light read" and at times it was almost as though I experienced it with them. I loved seeing it through the eyes of these unique characters, the ones forced to be strong, who wouldn't give up regardless of the cost.

    Bryony Linwood is one of those such characters. The oldest of three sisters, she does her best to care for everyone, to be strong and make sure they'll be okay. She's their champion, the one who stands behind them, urging them to follow their dreams. I fell in love with her almost at once. Her heart for her family and friends comes through on every page. There is a failing in her selflessness, though, as admirable as it is. She spends so much time caring for others, that her needs and desires are constantly pushed away. Throughout the story she learns to find a balance between caring for others and also taking care of herself.

    Michael Heath is an equally interesting character and not the type I would normally expect for a hero. He isn't particularly strong and he isn't overly brave, when we first meet him. But I think that's what makes this book so unique. He isn't typical. In fact, he's something of the underdog, battling his past and his fear. But, when he forces himself out of isolation and begins to stand up for what he believes in, he comes alive. I loved seeing the transformation in him, slow though it seemed at times. He's the character I found myself constantly rooting for. Seeing him become his own man again, putting others first, and digging deep for strength, that was definitely one of the highlights of this story for me.

    Though this is mainly Bryony and Michael's story, I enjoyed that fact that Myra included several other characters' view points throughout. It wasn't constant, but she carefully wove them in, adding layers and depth to the story, while also introducing us to characters that I hope will be back for the next books. I think they also added the opportunity to step away from the emotionally charged scenes and kind of get a less biased view of the goings on.

    Honestly, the only reason I'm not giving this book 5 stars, is because I was slightly disappointed in the spiritual side of the story. While God is an integral part of the story and many comments are made regarding prayer and Jesus' command to "love your neighbor as yourself," it sometimes felt a bit lacking. Also, I felt Michael's spiritual journey was left unfinished. As far as I could tell, he never really returned to God. He makes a couple comments about prayer, considers going to church, and believes Bryony is a blessing, but it doesn't seem to go further than that. On the other side of the argument, though, I can honestly say that if he had suddenly had a "come to Jesus" moment, it would have felt forced, or rushed. I can see the wisdom in the author leaving it at that. I am really hoping that Myra continues that part of his story in the next book, so we can see him continue to grow.

    Overall, I fell in love with this book and the characters therein and am definitely excited to read the next one!

    I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
  2. NW Ohio
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    The love story of Bryony and Michael
    October 29, 2015
    Cher
    NW Ohio
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    This first book in the series Flowers of Eden is an excellent Christian/Romance. Myra Johnson's style of writing easily flows throughout the whole book, no bogging down anywhere. The descriptive way of telling each person's life and feelings plus all the details of the surroundings in their lives is excellent, guess I like that word.

    It's the 1930's in Eden, Arkansas and a drought has hit the land. The whole family of Bryonys' work together to keep their tenant farm going and not lose it. The three girls and their grandpa go out and pick the sparse cotton by hand. It has gotten so bad that Bryony goes to the head of the Heath Family to try and bargain something, anything, to keep the farm from being taken from them because of not keeping up the payments. Bryony ends up working/cleaning at the big house.

    Michael Heath had come back home to the plantation after recuperating from being gassed during the war. Michael is a beaten down lost soul that speaks to Bryony's heart, and she to him. Between them they begin to heal and become alive and want their own lives again also.

    I really enjoyed reading this book. I have ties that went through these years in Oklahoma and have heard what it was really like to live during that period of time. I would recommend this book to all who love Christian romance.
  3. Gender: Female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    wonderful story
    October 26, 2015
    Vera
    Gender: Female
    Quality: 0
    Value: 0
    Meets Expectations: 0
    This book is set in Eden Arkansas during a time period of great poverty and desperation. The country had survived the First World War, the stock market crash of 1929, and now Arkansas's tenant farmers were faced with the the worst drought in its history. Two families are featured and intermeshed in this book; one is rich and entitled, the other poor, desperate, and giving. The author created a story of love, lies, expectations, and secrets as the Senior Heath rules from his mansion. We watch as unrestricted power, prejudice, and inequity in the hands of the Heath patriarch ruins not only his family but others. His son Michael will be the saving grace of the family with his gentle caring soul and artistic nature; he battles PTSD, depression, the physical effect of mustard gas, and a father that wants him to be something he is not.

    Grandpa George Rigby and his 3 granddaughters, each named for a flower, live as tenants on Heath land during a time of crop devastation. There is almost no food, no money, and crops are failing. The eldest, Bryony, will sacrifice her future for her family. In order to send her sister, to Teachers College, feed Grandpa and her other sister, she will work for the rich Heaths as a house maid; after toiling all day she will return to the farm to care for her family and chores. At the Heaths she will confront a dysfunctional family; an angry domineering unfeeling senior Heath, Mrs. Heath in the beginning stages of a progressing Alzheimer disease, servants that resent her, family secrets, and Michael Heath with his wounded spirit and body that has a talent for creating beautiful botanical drawings that touch Bryony's heart. Bryony's belief in God and her life values enable her to love and help Michael to reach his potential and begin to live again.

    This is a wonderful story of two families that live life in two different life styles and with two different sets of values; one values the material, the other values family and love. Mrs. Johnson did a great job of bringing the two family stories to resolution. The character development was wonderful as we watch each character grow, but this road was long and rocky as they battle and struggle though life to reach happy ever after. Though I would classify this as Christian romance fiction, it is not preachy not does it have extensive religious commentary. It is a clean story of love and family values as Bryony and Michael fall in love and resolve family issues as secrets are revealed.

    I highly recommend this book and look forward to book 2.

    I received this book from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  4. Victorville, CA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    This heartwarming series begins with a novel that you will NOT be able to put down!
    September 29, 2015
    Heart2Heart
    Victorville, CA
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    For me, historical novels don't have to be a perfect match to something that has happened in history. I am not one of those fact checkers who are more concerned with the accuracy of the novel that the story itself. For me, if I can get so lost in the novel that I forget about time or that I feel like I can really see this happening in my mind, for me, that is a successful author and novel. In this case, that honor goes to Myra Johnson in her novel The Sweetest Rain. I am so thrilled I got the opportunity to review this one because as I have read in my history books quite a bit about the Great Depression but also the Dust Bowl. Living in California and suffering under some of the effects of the drought, it made me really want to know what a family might endure in the 1930's dealing with the effects of both of these issues.

    In The Sweetest Rain, the first in the Flowers of Eden Series, we meet Bryony Linwood, who is struggling to help her grandfather and two younger sisters, Rose and Larkspur, to bring in what remains of their cotton crop. Like most tenant farmers, they are responsible to pay for the right to farm the land with a portion or share of their crops to the plantation owners, in this case, the Heath family. After another horrible year with dealing with the drought in Eden, Arkansas, it looks as if they will have to find another source of income if they want to keep food on the table. Bryony insists in pleading her case before Mr. Heath in hopes that he might give them more time to pay their rent. But another opportunity presents itself, when the plantation has need for another maid and if Bryony is obliged to work for the Heath's, he will deduct her earnings from what her grandfather owes him.

    She just didn't expect to find love within the confines of the Heath plantation. Michael Heath is still recovering from the effects of mustard gas he was exposed to while fighting in the war as well as PTSD, or shell shock as it was known then. He finds solace in the botanical sketches he has been doing in his sketchbook and shares them with his mother, who is suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's. It's the caring concern that Bryony shows for his mother by reading to her from one of the many books in the home, to taking walks in the garden that helps ease some of her symptoms but one thing is certain, that the love that is developing between the two is one thing his father will not tolerate or stand for. He has already cast out his daughter when she fell in love with the hired help and wound up pregnant. There is nothing Mr. Heath will not let stand in his way, even if it means doing the same to Bryony and her family as well.

    I received The Sweetest Rain by Myra Johnson compliments of Franciscan Media for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review, aside from a free copy of the book, the opinions contained here are strictly my own personal ones. I love how well this message of redemption and hope comes across in this novel. It highlights how some families would have to band together in tough times to make ends meet. It also shows what keeps families together and what drives them apart as well as what each of them has to do to survive during the most difficult of circumstances. I can't wait to read more about this amazing and resilient Linwood family in the very near future. For me, this one rates a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  5. Canada
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Compelling Read
    September 16, 2015
    KavR
    Canada
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 0
    I have to admit to a fascination with stories set during the Depression era and there just aren't enough of them out there. In The Sweetest Rain, drought-stricken Arkansas takes on a personality all its own. It makes for a gritty read at times, but also for an awe-inspiring one. And that's because these characters are more than survivors. Somehow they find a way to flourish in the midst of impossible odds.

    Take Bryony. She's endured so many losses in her life. Dealing with a failing farm in the middle of the worst drought in history is almost more than she can cope with. Feelings of responsibility towards

    her grandfather and her sisters keep her from surrendering to despair. She faces the impossible every day -- and wins by sheer grit and determination.

    At a glance you might think Michael is the pampered son of a wealthy man. After all he's still living under his parents' roof. But take a closer look and you'll see a wounded soldier who can't quite shake the horrors of war. Shell shock is what they called it back then and Michael's coping strategy is seclusion...until Bryony.

    And here's the incredible strength to their love story -- they both have what the other wants most. Bryony hungers for life-sustaining basics like food and security. The lack of both is constantly gnawing at her. Michael has a less tangible hunger -- he yearns for love and family. Acceptance and support. The way Johnson meshes these needs, merges their worlds and brings them together is truly astounding.

    Compelling secondary characters flesh out the story, bringing depth and no shortage of surprises to the plot. A complicated, emotional read about learning how to let go of the past in order to grab hold of the future.
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