Bethlehem by Karen Kelly ★★★☆☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

41150279Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Published: 9 Jul 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Page count: 304
My Format: eARC via NetGalley
Cover: Nice
Pacing: Slow
Ending: Resolved
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: Buy on Amazon

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Synopsis from Goodreads
A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed.

Inspired by the true titans of the steel-boom era, Bethlehem is a story of temptation and regret, a story of secrets and the cost of keeping them, a story of forgiveness. It is the story of two complex women—thrown together in the name of family—who, in coming to understand each other, come finally to understand themselves.

My Thoughts
This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but I liked it. Here are my pros and cons:


  1. The book was written very well – beautiful imagery, realistic conversations, believable plot.
  2. The feeling of regret was palpable throughout the book from just about every character. Sometimes I just wanted to scream at the characters for things they were doing and the secrets they were keeping from each other.
  3. The epilogue was heartbreaking.
  4. Susannah was a great character and she was the most well-developed in my opinion. Her story was the most emotional.
  5. I loved the dual timeline narrative.


  1. It actually took me quite a while to get into this book. It is a character-driven novel and it starts off super slow and occasionally it got a bit boring and drawn out for me. However, the ending picks up quite a bit when all the drama starts coming to its climax. I actually like character-driven books and I think the author did a great job overall at setting up a strong foundation for the characters, but I did feel like the author was padding some of the early story in an attempt to hit 300 pages. (It took me about 7 days to get through the first 60% of the book and about 2 hours to finish the last 40% once the story really picked up.)
  2. Some of the segues in the book felt erratic and disconnected and it was a bit distracting.
  3. There was a hint of “ghosts” and “haunting” in the book that never really materialized. I was kind of hoping for a bit of a Gothic slant to the story, but, alas, I did not get it.
  4. The issues between Joanna and her husband Frank seemed a bit contrived and unnecessary for the story.

This is a solid, emotional, family-saga novel about a singular event and how it impacted the lives of many people. It is full of temptation, regret, secrets, and heartache… but there is also love. This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it I did enjoy reading this. I would recommend it anyone that likes a slow-burn, character-driven story.

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

4 thoughts on “Bethlehem by Karen Kelly ★★★☆☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

  1. I also read this book this past week.I read it as part of the Netgalley Reviewathon. I agree with you kn rhe lack.of a supernatural subplot. Especially involving Baby Hayes. Susannah was definitely the character I was most interested in. I posted a full review on my blog, Mommy In Color,if you’re interested. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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