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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

Review: Love in Disguise by Penny Zeller

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

Stars: 3.5

Synopsis: When Emilie Crawford Wheeler loses her brand-new hat thanks to a stranger bumping into her, her life takes an unexpected turn. That distracted stranger turns out to be a handsome young ranch hand who offers to buy her another hat and take her out for dinner...again, and again, and again...until Emilie has fallen in love with Thad Alexander. Sounds like happily ever after, right? But here’s the catch: both of them are lying to each other, and their true identities might not be all they’d hoped for.

Coming into Love in Disguise, I wasn't a huge fan of the overall premise, because the lying-about-one's-identity trope can be cliché and messy sometimes. Not to mention the plot got kinda convoluted and rushed toward the end with the addition of a lot of new characters and plotlines...

I think, had the fourth of the story focused more on Emilie and Thad's relationship and growth instead of all the extra, the story would’ve flowed smoother and been a bit more enjoyable.

Otherwise, y’all know it’s a given that I didn’t like Emilie. I have the hardest time connecting with heroines, and Emilie was no different. At least she wasn't annoying or obnoxious like a lot of heroines are! Definitely a mark in her favor!

As for Thad...he needed a little more personality...but he was (for the most part) a perfect gentleman and so sweet!

Let’s face it. The best characters were the secondary characters. Vera and Morris were adorable (unrealistic, but adorable). Emilie’s parents? GOLD. I laughed so hard. They were hilarious, and I loved how we got to watch them grow over the course of the last part of the story! And I already love Aunt Jane. She’s fabulous.

That said, Donald W. Smith III and Catherine were so poorly developed and written. They were like cardboard cutouts with labels on them that said Shallow Ex-Fiancee and Annoying Unwanted Suitor. They could have really excelled and added something to the story, but I felt like they were simply thrown for the heck of it.

I love the themes of truth and honesty—which is the only reason I stick around for these types of stories—but I feel like they could’ve been handled a little better. Of course, it’s obvious to the reader that lying is wrong, deception has consequences, honesty is the best policy, and the truth shall set you free, and several characters (Pete and Vera) emphasis this...but no one else does. Thad just keeps on sinning and pushing back his conviction, which is not Christlike behavior, nor is it admirable, nor is it something he sought forgiveness from the Lord for.

And Emilie? After she got saved, her faith arc just fizzled out. I would’ve loved to see her get to the nitty-gritty about honesty and forgiveness and kindness and love...and there was so much potential for a beautiful faith arc, but alas. She just kinda went with the flow too.

As for the writing...some moments, the prose was fine, but others, it was telling and stilted. I wish there had been more of the lovely descriptions!

In the end, Love in Disguise has its redeeming qualities (like hilarious parents, a happy-ever-after epilogue, and present faith content), but it also fell flat in a lot of areas that mean a lot to me. Had we just tweaked the plot a wee bit and defined the characters some more, it would’ve been lovely! (Editor brain wants to write out in-depth analyses

That said, if you’re looking for a quick read that’ll make you laugh out loud and leave you with a happy ending...then you’ll probably love Love in Disguise! I may just give Penny Zeller’s work another try—this time with a story I know I’ll enjoy more!

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley and CelebrateLit Publicity. All opinions expressed are my own.


about the book

Who knew concealing one’s true identity could be so disastrous?

Who knew asserting one’s independence would cause such embarrassment? If only Almira “Emilie” Crawford Wheeler hadn’t insisted upon carrying her own stack of parcels, she wouldn’t have landed in an unladylike heap on the boardwalk. And what about the half-truth she told the handsome stranger who came to her aid? The stranger she never expected to see again?

Thad Alexander Evanson should have been paying closer attention to the boardwalk, rather than the newfangled automobile motoring down the street. Had he been more astute, a collision with the beautiful parcel-laden stranger might never have happened. And if it never had happened, he wouldn’t have told a partial-truth he figured wouldn’t matter.

Before long, Emilie and Thad are arranging to meet for a noonday meal each weekend in Missoula under the guise of different names. But what happens when their true identities are revealed? When half-truths are exposed? Could God have a plan even in the midst of a tangled web of lies?


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about the author

Penny Zeller is known for her heartfelt stories of faith and her passion to impact lives for Christ through fiction. While she has had a love for writing since childhood, she began her adult writing career penning articles for national and regional publications on a wide variety of topics.

Today Penny is a multi-published author of several inspirational books. She is also a homeschool mom and a fitness instructor.

When Penny is not dreaming up new characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, hiking, canoeing, reading, running, cycling, gardening, and playing volleyball.

She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and loves to hear from her readers at her website and her blog, random thoughts from a day in the life of a wife, mom, and author, at


a word from the author

In Love in Disguise, the two main characters, Emilie and Thad, are both fond of pie a la mode. It plays a prominent part in the book, especially during Emilie and Thad’s courtship. My inspiration behind the dessert? My aunt’s famous, old-fashioned pie a la mode recipe, which is a family favorite.


the tour

Mary Hake, June 14

Bizwings Blog, June 19


I don't know about y'all, but I'm hungry for apple pie and ice cream now! Unfortunately, I'm fresh out...but I've got the next best thing: an epic giveaway, where you can enter for the chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card AND a signed copy of Love in Disguise!

That's almost as good as dessert, huh?

Y'all just click the button below to enter, and don't forget to comment on all the blog stops for extra entries!

Now, I'm off to see what's in the kitchen! Y'all have fun following the tour!

yours in spirit and script,


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