By Stephanie Grace Whitson
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2010, Bethany House
Paperback, 350 pages
Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.I had a hard time getting into this book as the number of characters created chaos in the plot and point-of-view for the first few chapters. I could not keep track of who I was supposed to be following, and I felt like I needed a chart to keep them all straight in my head as I read. I kept wanting to ask the author, "Are 16 women really necessary?"
Luckily, that number was cut by more than half when the train stops in Plum Grove, Nebraska, leaving behind the important characters and sending the expendible ones away - how convenient. This is where I feel that the plot actually begins, as the women carve out lives for themselves, even as they experience character growth and rejuvenation. The men are also introduced at this point, and I found them to be more imaginative and unique than the females in the book. The dynamics between Michael Ransom and Lucas Gray, cousins, are very interesting, as Whitson only reveals a bit at a time about their relationship with each other. I wished that more had been written about Jeb Cooper, as the paradox that he lives daily was very entertaining to read.
The background information and historical details were interesting, as I knew little before reading this book about frontier towns and the founding and running of a homestead. I find it ironic that although all of the women are strongly opposed to being hitched to a man again, given that they all claim to be widows, romance seems to be necessary to each of their character developments. The romance was the most predictable aspect of the novel, with almost every woman gravitating noticeably to a man.
The idea that war widows were shipped out to the frontier as prospective brides made for excellent novel potential, but I felt the idea fell a bit short, as the man responsible in the book for these sixteen women was not followed in point-of-view passed his departure from Plum Grove. Neither was much said about the other women that went on to Cayote with him. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall at those women's proposals from strangers and hear their rationale behind making such a choice to be delivered and bid on like so many heads of cattle.
The Cover: I like this cover as it gives me an idea of the time period from the fashion, plus the outfits match the descriptions of several of the ladies that eventually take centerstage in the plot.
First Line: As the carriage pulled away from Union Station, Caroline Jamison almost panicked and called out to the driver, "Wait! Don't go! I've changed by mind! Take me home!"
This is certainly an intriguing beginning to this book, more than enough to keep me reading.
Favorite Quote: "Job convinced me that losing my hand wasn’t punishment for something I’d done. It also convinced me that I’ll never- this side of eternity- have answers to all my questions, but that God doesn’t mind my asking them...”
Read For: Pages Read Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*