Book Review (+ Giveaway): Grounded Hearts

21 Jul

In the midst of World War II, Ireland has declared herself neutral. Troops found on Irish soil must be reported and interned, no matter which side they are fighting for. When midwife Nan O’Neil finds a wounded young Canadian pilot at her door, she knows she’s taking a huge risk by letting him in. Not only is she a widow living alone, but if caught harboring a combatant, she’ll face imprisonment.

Still, something compels Nan to take in “flyboy” Dutch Whitney, an RAF pilot whose bomber has just crashed over County Clare. While she tends to his wounds and gives him a secret place of refuge, the two begin to form a mutual affection—and an unbreakable bond.

But Nan has another secret, one that has racked her with guilt since her husband’s death and made her question ever loving again. As Nan and Dutch plan his escape, can he help restore her faith?


Jeanne M. Dickson was born into an Irish American family, the only girl surrounded by four brothers. She credits her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother with her love of storytelling. Perfecting her craft, she attends many writer’s conferences and over the years, she has won and finaled in numerous RWA romance writing awards including the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Maggie Award, The Molly, The Tara, and she was the overall contest winner of Launching A Star. Today she lives in Coastal San Diego with her fabulous husband, her two wonderful girls, and a dozen disobedient rose bushes.

Find out more about Jeanne M. at

My Impressions:

I finished Grounded Hearts by Jeanne Dickson a few days ago. Usually I write a review immediately so I can get down all the things that I love, like, or sometimes dislike about a book. I read a lot of books, so this is essential in capturing my thoughts before moving on to the next book. But I’ve waited on writing this review because I needed to take time to fully explore what I did indeed like about it and to articulate those things I didn’t. The premise of this book intrigued me. I knew little about Ireland’s stance during WWII other than the fact that it was neutral. How does a nation remain neutral in such a big conflict with more than disputed territories at stake? So, I was intrigued and eager to read a novel featuring a downed RAF pilot aided by a local woman with lots to lose. A touch of romance added to the suspense and adventure was okay with me. So far, so good. However, there were elements of the book that made me uncomfortable and others that made me a bit angry. Grounded Hearts was indeed a thought-provoking read, but perhaps not in ways that the author intended.

Nan O’Neill is a midwife in a small Irish village during WWII. Life has dealt her a harsh blow and she wrestles with guilt and what-ifs. RAF pilot Dutch Whitney knows his purpose is to save the world, one bombing run at a time. But his goals become out of reach as he parachutes into the bog in neutral Ireland. The two join forces in getting Dutch to Northern Ireland and back to the war. But of course there are many obstacles to that, including the growing romantic feelings between them.

First let me say that Dickson is a great storyteller. In the about the author section of the book she credits a long line of storytelling women that influenced her. Her writing is very good, setting a believable stage for the reader. As said above the story itself is intriguing and made me want to read it. She gave credible insight into the attitudes and politics of the time. But the book soon got bogged down in the many references to the two main characters’ physical attributes. Not only do they have impure thoughts (Nan is Catholic after all), supporting characters often give open voice to them as well. Perhaps not a problem in general market fiction, but Grounded Hearts is termed inspirational. I’m no prude and often like an edgy book, but the constant references seemed to be more for titillation than advancing the plot. If the references had moved from physical admiration to a deeper attraction, I could have overlooked them, but Nan and Dutch’s relationship just never seemed to mature. With all that said, I had much more trouble with the stereotypical portrayal of Catholics and men. A book set in Ireland in the 1940s is going to have a large share of Catholic characters, but they are portrayed as winking at sin, as long as it is eventually confessed. Kind of the it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission philosophy. I know that this attitude exists, but I would have liked if the entire parish of Ballyhaven had not behaved that way. Then there is the portrayal of men. They are either bullies or buffoons, or both. The women are the real thinkers and doers, while the men spend time gossiping and drinking at the pub. Strong women are a wonderful edition, but not at the expense of every man (including Dutch) in the novel.

There are strong themes of guilt and forgiveness in Grounded Hearts. And the message that one can become free by the grace of God is on point. This truth is hinted at throughout the book and is finally accepted by Nan. I would have liked for this element to have had a bigger role in character and plot development.

I know that this review is rather harsh, but I wanted not to shy away from stating what I truly thought. Grounded Hearts could have been a great novel; it had all the elements. Wonderful writing, unique premise, interesting setting and characters. But its reliance on things that I would rather not see in inspirational fiction put me off. Please note that I am in the minority among other reviewers. It has an overall 4-star rating on Amazon, with over 50% of reviewers giving it 5-stars. Please make sure to read their reviews to make your own judgment.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to LitFuse for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



Join Jeanne in celebrating the release of her new book by entering to win the Celtic Knots Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking HERE, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 31. The winner will be announced August 1 on the Litfuse blog.

16 Responses to “Book Review (+ Giveaway): Grounded Hearts”

  1. hopeinbrazil July 22, 2017 at 6:55 am #

    I appreciated this well-written review. I don’t go for romances in general, but still enjoyed your thoughtful perspective on this one.

    • rbclibrary July 22, 2017 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks. It was a difficult review to write. I wanted to love this one, but the things I mentioned took me out of the story so often that I couldn’t ignore them.

  2. Carol July 22, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    I thought you articulated your thoughts well. I always find it hard to be even-handed when there are elements you both love & dislike in a book and I’ve found this to be especially difficult with this particular genre.

    • rbclibrary July 23, 2017 at 9:07 am #

      Thanks, Carol, for the encouragement! Have a great week!

  3. Kristin July 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    Very good review. I felt this book would have been better suited as a mostly clean secular book. The language and innuendo was outside the norm for the genre.

    • rbclibrary July 23, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks Kristin. The sexual content was surprising. The book is published by Waterfall Press, not a “traditional” CF publisher, but an Amazon imprint. That may be one explanation. It may also explain the negative treatment of Catholics as well, something I found even more distasteful. I am not Catholic, but a member of an evangelical church. But I would hate for an author to take the stereotypes of my faith tradition and present them as how all act.

      • Kristin July 23, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

        Yes, I wondered if the publishing had something to do with it. However, LF is for Christian Lit specifically which makes me think that this book is considered Christian Fiction

      • rbclibrary July 23, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

        I guess there are different criteria among publishers. Thomas Nelson has been criticized lately for some of their “edgier” novels. I don’t mind edgy, but I just couldn’t let this one go.

      • Kristin July 23, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

        I’ve had some problems with Thomas Nelson that wasn’t remotely Christian at all. The winds of change may just be blowing and Christian Lit as we’ve previously known it may be taking a more secular feel to it.

  4. pattymh2000 July 23, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    I appreciate the honest review! It seem to me like some reviewers like every book they read, and in my mind that is just not possible.
    I think some just highlight what they like and gloss over what they don’t like. But I appreciate an honest review.

    • rbclibrary July 23, 2017 at 5:35 pm #


  5. Fiction Aficionado July 23, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    Well said. As you know, I shared a lot of the same concerns. 🙂

    • rbclibrary July 23, 2017 at 5:35 pm #


  6. thepowerofwords2016 July 24, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

    Beckie, I just now posted my review, then came here to see what you thought. Again, we think alike! In scanning over other reviews on Goodreads, I have to wonder if we read the same book.

    • rbclibrary July 25, 2017 at 6:48 am #

      I know what you mean, Carole. I wondered if it was just me, until I got feedback from other reviewers/readers. I read your review this morning. Once again we seem to be on the same wavelength. 🙂


  1. Book Review: Grounded Hearts by Jeanne M. Dickson - Reading Is My SuperPower - August 5, 2017

    […] to properly explore it. (And once again I wish I could copy and paste Beckie’s review from By The Book.) On the one hand, I loved the history as well as the village women who rally to fight injustice. […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: