The story of a far-gone city girl traveling to a new place–and discovering redemption, and herself, along the way–is by no means an original one. However, such a plot-line deserves some repetition. It’s satisfying, sweet, and serves as a more tangible example of the search for self that we all strive towards. So, knowing that the book Between Lost and Found (whose heroine, Janelle Marshall, finds love and closure while searching for her missing grandfather in a little South Dakota town called Mammoth Falls) would involve said plot-line, I was excited and pleased to read the story. Shelly Stratton’s book, Between Lost and Found, has all the pleasurable cliches of a typical find-yourself-novel–but none of the typical brattiness that also comes along with it.
Normally, the heroine is one who starts out as a successful but prissy businesswoman–aka a female protagonist who is charismatic, but not exactly likable. Stratton’s heroine, Janelle Marshall, is the opposite. I found myself very pleasantly surprised, just in the first few pages, by her calm and kind demeanor. She didn’t come into Mammoth Falls with bravado and bluster, and she didn’t barge in like a righteous whale entering a coral reef. She also didn’t make the decision to come find her missing grandfather lightly, which I also loved. Throughout the book, Stratton makes it clear that Janelle is a heroine who thinks her actions through. No impulsive affairs or temper tantrums for this fish-out-of water; instead, Janelle proves to be just as slow-burning and quietly appealing as her story itself.
When it comes to said story, Stratton provides far more depth than might be typically expected of a romantic drama. In a genre that could often be synonymous with “fluff”, Stratton has actually created a story with some real bite to it; the steak instead of the cheese soufflé, if you will. I admit, the book does lag at times; it’s probably a bit longer than it really needs to be. However, there are far more emotional and individual stories in Between Lost and Found than there are superficial, introduced-to-be-forgotten characters, which is a tremendous change from the normal standard of the genre. The book also switches perspectives often, which could be jarring but instead comes off as necessary; you want to know what each of these characters is going through, and Stratton helps provide that context.
Context is also a tremendous element in the backstory of Sam, the sheriff in Mammoth Falls and the man that Janelle finds herself increasingly attracted to (despite her successful quasi-fiancé back home–a character whose perspective might actually have been a great one for Stratton to have included). As a man with an ex-wife who was more than a little ‘baggage’, Sam’s past–and Janelle’s current romantic attachment–make them both very gun-shy, which is appropriately refreshing!
The different characters’ stories might get a little confusing at times, but not overwhelmingly so, and Stratton has a beautiful talent for descriptive writing. Overall, Between Lost and Found is definitely a book worth reading. If you allow yourself to soak in all of its characters and the unique backdrop of South Dakota, you might find yourself in an unexpected place.
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