Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.
Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?
More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer begins with a prologue. Some readers enjoy prologues. Some find them annoying and will skip them, especially if they don’t think that what’s in it will be pertinent to the story. This prologue is not one to be skipped. It captured my attention and my heart and made the rest of the story all the more beautiful and meaningful. By the end of it, I was fully invested in this group of ragtag characters and ready to hear the rest of their story. (Side note-You might want to be prepared with a tissue or two before you sit down to read it.)
Evangeline is full of hope and optimism, sunshine and roses. And that might normally get on my nerves a bit in a character (I tend to be a little more on the cynical side sometimes), if she wasn’t so genuine in it. She hasn’t come by those traits easily. Life has handed her some pretty tough blows and she’s had a struggle to get there. Her buoyant personality is not some façade that she puts on, but is truly sincere and simply showcases her hard-won joy and hope. I came to see what some might call naiveté in her character as simply looking for the best in people and in the situations of life rather than dwelling on the negative. I saw it as her choosing hope. Evangeline’s joy comes from trusting in the Lord and from not allowing bitterness to fester when hurts come along in her life. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t struggle with it, but she works through it. She has a pure trust in the wisdom of the Lord, but isn’t perfect and doesn’t claim to be. She has a heart for those who are hurting because she knows what that’s like and she wants to see hurting people made whole. While Evangeline is optimistic, pure in heart, and at times maybe a bit naive to some, she is also intelligent and full of sass. Evangeline is endearing and her joy and delight in life come from a true and genuine wellspring which made me really enjoy her character.
“No matter how many people reject or betray you, if you have even one person in your life you can count on—really, truly count on—you can overcome any obstacle.” Evangeline Hamilton
I love Ms. Witemeyer’s way with writing heroes. Not a one of them fits the typical mold and each is unique in his own way. Logan is no exception. As the book starts, he feels a little bit like a villain, but as it progresses we get to see glimpses of the vulnerable goodness hidden inside beneath his gruff exterior. Where tragedy has softened Evangeline’s heart and made her more aware of others and their hurts and has brought her to a place of choosing joy, Logan’s heart has been hardened. Bitterness has fueled a thirst for vengeance (or what he calls justice) in his heart and he’s made himself calloused to hope. Evangeline and her genuine joy and hope even though she’s been hurt are just what Logan needs to help him see that the misguided path he’s on won’t bring the peace he desires. Ms. Witemeyer does an excellent job of letting us in on Logan’s internal battle as he comes face to face with the impact of what his plans for revenge will mean and what it reveals about his own heart.
I loved Logan and Evangeline together—their banter and wit and the match they make for each other. She’s the sunshine to his cloudy sky and the optimism to his pessimism.
“A man’s plans don’t always work out the way he expects. Sometimes God throws a fork in the road at just the right time.” -Logan Fowler
A Patchwork Family
More Than Meets the Eye has some other wonderful characters who round out this Patchwork Family that I loved. The dynamic of this group of people who don’t have to be family, but choose to be is precious to see. Not a one of them is perfect, but they they love each other anyway. They don’t give up on each other even when they mess up. As Ms. Witemeyer states in the book with words that spoke to my heart, when one of them is down, they give each other a “lending of strength until [they] could recover [their] own.” “They shore up [each other’s] broken places with their love and support.” She paints a picture of these supporting characters that makes me crave their stories and I can’t wait to get to know them better in any future books in this series.
“I can’t let my fear of losing her keep me from doing the right thing. Secrets create distance . . . I care about her too much not to be honest with her about everything.” Seth Hamilton
The Rest of the Story
Beyond the great characters, the book sports an intriguing mystery that I must say surprised me as it was introduced. There also several humorous moments that had me chuckling to myself. And then there’s the setting. To most, the setting won’t mean much, but to me it was exciting to read about. I actually grew up in the area where the book was set, and in fact, I don’t live too far from there now. I lived in Cooper as a child, finished my growing up years in Sulphur Springs, hung out in Greenville, went to college in Commerce, and shopped in Longview so it was very neat to me to see all those towns mentioned in a book.
“He needed my fist in his face.” -Zacharias Hamilton (There’s a lot more to Zach Hamilton than this quote, but it was one of my favorite quotes out of the book, so I just had to share it.)
Spoiler Alert! The following paragraph contains a spoiler.
A minor pet peeve of mine:
There is a small theme in the book of how important it is not to keep secrets from each other, especially if you want a relationship to work. For instance, there’s a scene where Logan is grazed by a bullet and tries not to let on that he’s been hurt. Evangeline won’t have it. She tells Logan, “No more secrets.” Later in the book, Evangeline and Christie come up with a scheme to help their men as they are trying to go after the villain. They decide not to tell the men what they are doing because they don’t want to have an argument about it. I found this to be a bit of a double standard and that bothered me. If Evangeline doesn’t want Logan to keep things from her, she should not have been so willing to act deceptively in that situation. It just seemed like it was brushed off as no big deal for her to do it or that it was somehow justified for her to do so and I just didn’t like that.
End Spoiler Alert.
One other small pet peeve:
I get a little frustrated with books that portray men as pigheaded, stubborn, overzealous protectors. Not all men are “overzealous” in their efforts to protect like that, but are reasonable in their desire to protect. And even the ones that might be a little more fervent about it, I believe, are often acting on an instinct God has created in them to protect, to watch over. I dislike seeing it talked about in such a way that seems belittling to me.
By far all the great things of this book greatly outweigh those two small pet peeves of mine. I loved this book with all it’s beauty of choosing hope and forgiveness and demonstrating real love even in the face of each other’s imperfections. In my opinion, More Than Meets the Eye is truly heartwarming, Hallmark movie material (In a good way, not the annoyingly sappy way. There goes my somewhat more cynical side again.) Definitely worth the read!
If you enjoy interacting with the authors of the books you read on social media, you should check out Ms. Witemeyer’s The Posse on Facebook! They’re a fun group to be a part of! I believe it’s a closed group, so you may have to ask to join, but it will be worth it!
**I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers and have chosen to review it. My opinions are my own.