Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Unlikely Blessing by Judy Baer

B Squared's Review:
Welcome to the Hilltop Township of Grassy Valley, North Dakota.  Judy Baer sets the scene for her Forever Hilltop series in the first installation, An Unlikely Blessing.  The novel introduces readers to Alex Armstrong, a new pastor who moves from the big city to a rural farming community in the open plains of North Dakota.  From the minute Alex drives into Grassy Valley he witnesses the unique flavor of life in an agricultural town.  Nothing can say “welcome to the country” quite like a traffic jam created by an overturned truck and an escaped pig named Twinkle Toes.  As Alex settles into his new life, he faces an array of obstacles, ranging from driving on gravel roads, to learning names and family histories, to helping his parishioners overcome daunting challenges.  Alex discovers an abundance of unexpected complexities, but he also learns that his new home offers unexpected blessings and friendships. 

Alex’s story is not concluded in An Unlikely Blessing; there are questions that are left unanswered and problems that are not completely resolved. I generally prefer each novel in a series to have more definite and complete conflict resolutions, but the loose ends are reminiscent of real life, which is not neatly contained in 263 pages.     

I do not doubt that many readers will greatly enjoy this novel.  Baer paints a vivid and beautiful picture of North Dakota.  The story’s unhurried pace captures the charms and challenges of small-town life.  As a reader, it is easy to empathize with Alex’s struggle to find his place in a township where citizens’ roots are several generations deep.  Likewise, I related to Alex’s concern over remembering the names of his parishioners and other people in the township.  I often had difficulty recalling the significance of certain characters.  The main characters are likeable, and the charming quirks that define some of the townspeople will engage readers.  An Unlikely Blessing lays out the Hilltop welcome mat, and readers who enjoyed their first visit will eagerly await their second to finish old chapters and open new chapters in Alex’s life.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
About the Book:
An Unlikely Blessing is a heartfelt story about a new pastor and life-long city dweller Alex Armstrong, who reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a two-point parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose—lovely and prickly all at once, much like the people who live there.

Alex quickly finds that this lovely place is in quiet peril. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet: Jonas Owens, a faithful member of Hilltop parish, is on the brink of losing the farm. Alex believes that part of why God called him to Hilltop was to help turn things around, and steps in with ideas for saving the Owens' land. But can even God's minister help save this rural community?

There are a lot of firsts for the new pastor—the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), King Oscar's fish balls, and the melody of the musical saw. And the new, single pastor creates remarkable excitement among the unmarried women in the community. If you could die of hot dish overdose, Alex would be a dead man. Whether performing weddings, counseling his flock, or herding cattle by snowmobile, Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him as he will teach them. Day by day, he falls more in love with the people of Hilltop Church. People may leave Hilltop, but Hilltop never leaves them.

Buy the Book:

About Judy:
Judy Baer is the author of over seventy-five books for adults and teens. She has won the Romance Writer of America Bronze Medallion and has been a RITA finalist twice. She lives in Elk River, Minnesota with her husband. Follow the Hilltop characters on Judy’s blog and find out more about Judy and her books at

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