Dear Mrs. Hake,
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d get when I impulsively picked this book at the bookstore. I had vaguely heard of Bethany House and thought it publishes inspirational literature. I am religious and a Christian but don’t care to be preached at, if you know what I mean. Happily, I found that there is a well written story here though it might not appeal to everyone. Religion is a large part of the story and I found it easier to read about since this is a time in American history when expression of deep faith didn’t bring the divisiveness that it seems to do today.
Ruth Caldwell is a young woman whose impulsive and open nature has always lead to trouble in all the fancy Schools for Young Ladies to which her mother has sent her. When Ruth arrives home after her latest debacle, she finds her mother in far worse health than she thought. It isn’t long before Ruth’s mother has passed on and Ruth is on her way out west to California. Expecting to finally meet her long estranged father, Ruth is devastated to learn of his death over two years ago. But her arrival is no less shocking to Josh McCain.
Josh had no idea that the man from whom he and his father had bought a run down ranch had a daughter. Now Ruth’s arrival has thrown into question the ownership of the land. While they wait for a court date to settle the issue, Ruth comes to live at the Broken P Ranch. She quickly comes to love not only the place but the McCain family, especially Laney whom she comes to think of as a sister. If only she and Josh got on better but their interactions always seem to lead to confrontations and feather ruffling. At first the freak accidents that begin to happen to Ruth are dismissed by her as her own clumsiness but soon Josh starts to worry that someone means Ruth harm.
You’ve obviously done your homework for the background of the story. And for the most part, it’s nicely woven into the story. There are a few clumsy facts dropped here and there. For instance, I doubt most people would refer to the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express over and over by it’s full name instead of just calling it the Pony Express. But the information about food preservation, animal husbandry and dress making were smoothly handled. I like that you made the time come alive without making it too gritty. ;)
Where I did have some problems was in the heavy handedness about the villain. Not his actions, though, I think you did a good job working those into the story and leading to the final revelation (no pun intended) . But rather with the fact that he’s the only non-practicing Christian and because he’s fallen from the Lord’s way he therefore has to be the bad guy. It was like being bashed over the head with a heavy huge family Bible to make sure I “got it.” I do appreciate that you didn’t make Josh try to turn Ruth into a subservient Stepford Bible wife but kept her an exuberant person. I had gotten a bit worried when reading a post about another book from this publisher in which the poster delighted in the fact that that heroine had submitted her will to the Lord and to her husband. I guess I’m just too much of a 21st century woman to rejoice in the later. But all the women in this story were strong, independent and had dignity but still acted like 19th century people instead of transplanted 21st century females in hoop skirts.
I don’t know if I’d buy any more Bethany House books but I don’t regret getting or reading this one. B- for you.