Reviewed by Sophia C.

When the first page of a novel begins with an old wise woman having a premonition about a young man finding a wife, the reader can safely assume that the ensuing pages will be in service of that prediction. Such is the case for Karl Van der Vort, twin and co-owner of the town forge and livery. He meets his match in Taylor Bestman, the town’s newest arrival. Does Cathy Marie Hake make sparks fly as she couples these two main characters in the fourth novel set in late nineteenth century Gooding, Texas?

The story does begin with a ‘certain spark’ which eases into a slow simmer throughout. Twins Enoch and Taylor Bestman are the eagerly-awaited veterinarian and doctor the small town has sent for from Chicago. An oversight and ambiguous first name leaves the town taken aback and divided when the new doctor, Taylor, turns out to be a woman. She arrives just in time to perform a dramatic surgery to save Karl’s life and limb from an injury at the smithy.

The story slows as Taylor and Karl settle into a bickering but deep friendship–akin to Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing –facilitated by his convalescence and chauffeuring her by buggy on house visits. The only obstacle to their love turns out to be themselves, as Hart doesn’t interject any competing love interests or socioeconomic considerations in their way. Initially shocked about the propriety of a female doctor, Karl develops an overprotective position around Taylor, for whom others in the town are still causing trouble.

If you enjoy the literary equivalent of hot apple cider, That Certain Spark will appeal to your love of wholesome characters who get together with a PG-13 rating. Taylor is a strong female character: principled, caring, intelligent and religious. Hart’s background as a nurse informs Taylor’s medical practice. Karl is a stubborn, but ultimately loving, respectful, and protective man. The rest of the town provides a charming backdrop for the main plot. (If you want more of Gooding, you can read Hart’s previous novels set in the town–Fancy Pants, Forevermore, Whirlwind –but they are not necessary prior reading.) However, if you are looking for sparks to fly, profound character development or social commentary, you’ll be missing the warmth of this historical Christian romance.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.