Laura and William have traveled from England to the prairie, making a home and trying to build a life in the as yet unclaimed Indian Territory. With no neighbors closer than the ramshackle town half a day away, no transport but the ox-puled cart, and nothing but backbreaking work, their lives are harsh by any standard. The relentless stresses and strains of surviving begin to show in the cracks that form between them, and Will’s increasing anger at a life with no respite.
When a new settler, James, arrives it is clear that the young man knows nothing about the life he has chosen. He hopes for help and advice from William, but it is Laura who reaches out in kindness to help the young man build his sod house and get set up. James had no idea that life would be this harsh, and even less idea what it would take to survive his first winter. But he has reasons of his own for hiding from the world, and soon his growing friendship with Laura keeps him tied to the spot.
As James and Laura’s attraction grows, William’s jealousy flares and his bullying and brutish nature comes to the fore. As secrets are revealed and emotions deepen Laura and James have to find a way to endure their situation.
This is a page turning historical romance that grabs your emotional attention and doesn’t let go. Laura is a woman who is literally working her fingers to the bone to try and keep her family together. Clearly from a slightly more refined background in England she is nevertheless doing everything she can to make life as good as she can for her husband and surviving children. James has come from a wealthy background, running from cruelty and heartbreak into a world that he will be lucky to survive. Both are struggling to make life bearable both physically and emotionally, and their bond is both instant and the basis of a tragedy waiting to happen.
The setting, the harshness and the natural disaster that brings the climax to the story are of biblical proportions, revealing a harrowing life not shown in the movies and TV shows. The energy sapping slog just to endure is almost overwhelming and becomes the only thing left as literally everything is stripped away.
Totally engrossing. Well written, deeply touching, well-drawn characters, and an evocative landscape that dominates the whole. This is my first Sarah Goodwin and will definitely not be my last. My only complaint is the feeling that there must be more… I want to know what happens next and am hoping she will give us a sequel to tie up all those loose ends.
(publisher review copy received)
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