Release Date: May 2013
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 160 pages
Series: O'Malley Series Prequel
Source: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley. The busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, and meeting Tom Peterson, and falling in love, is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce him to her family - she's the youngest of seven - and thinking about marriage.
She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested in a way she didn't expect, and the results will soon transform her entire family.
Thoughts on Jennifer
Back in high school, I discovered a series of books called the O'Malley series and fell in love. It follows a group of adults who meet as children in an orphanage and then adopt a new last name and form their own family. Each sibling has a public service type job - paramedic, hostage negotiator, forensic analyst, counselor, U.S. Marshal, etc.
There were a number of things I really loved about the series. Family was a huge focus, and the romance/relationships that developed were so memorable. Because of the nature of their jobs, each book had a thriller/mystery feel to it that made the books completely addicting. There was typically a key event in the beginning that propelled the investigation and action of the book. The books are Christian fiction, so faith also played a role. None of the siblings were believers, but the series showed them each wrestling with some of the big faith issues. I thought the faith aspect was very well-done (since Christian fiction can sometimes be really clunky when it tries to work issues of faith into a larger story).
Each sibling got their own book with one exception - Jennifer. Dee Henderson's new book, Jennifer, attempts to tell Jennifer's love story in a novella format. If you've already read the O'Malley series, readers will go into Jennifer already knowing what happens in her life and the role she plays in the family's journey to faith. When I first started, I was really interested to see how Henderson would fit Jennifer's story into a novella.
The book bills itself as Jennifer's love story, but I really didn't feel like it was fully fleshed out. Compared to the romance of the other books, this one just falls flat. I just kept coming back to the feeling that the story was hampered by the fact that it's a novella. It could have been so much more, and that's what left me feeling a little underwhelmed with Jennifer. To be honest, it really doesn't give you that much insight her as a character. I feel like I learned more about her from her cameos and interactions with her siblings throughout the series that I did in this short story dedicated to her.
I think what I liked about the novella was mostly based on my love for the series as a whole. Sadly, I don't now that I would be compelled to continue reading the O'Malley series if I picked up this book first. If you haven't read the O'Malley series, I don't feel like it's really necessary to read Jennifer (even though it's considered a prequel). If you've read and loved the O'Malley series, like me, I have a feeling you'll want to read this just for the sake of loving the characters and wanting to know more about this sister.
I'm incredibly torn on my feelings for the book. I loved seeing a little bit more of Jennifer because I love the O'Malleys, not because I actually loved this novella. I think the length really left me ambivalent about the story because things weren't fully developed. While I love the idea of a short story about a beloved character, the book just didn't have Henderson's typical spark to it.
One final thing that really bothers me - the novella's prince. It's $9 for an ebook, and $13 as a small-sized hardcover. I have to be honest and say that I would not buy this novella for that price because I don't think it's worth it. Why would I pay the exact same price for a novella as I would for a full-length novel? It just doesn't make sense to me, especially since I found the story lacking overall.
I'd highly recommend the O'Malley series, but I think I'd tell most people to pass on this prequel. At the end of the day, I didn't really feel like it brought anything special, necessary or new to the series. And if you've already read and loved the series, I have a feeling you'll want to read this book regardless of what I say about it.
"To me it feels... it feels like being in the sun after you've been stuck in gray, damp shade forever. Just being with you makes me content and so richly happy. I figured out some time ago that it was because you loved me and were pouring it out in my direction.
*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.