“Maybe he wouldn’t leave her when he found out the truth. Maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay.”
I should start out by admitting that I’m a fan of Shelley Shepard Gray and her Amish novels. I’ve even made the trek to Sarasota, Florida for one of her book talks and signings at The Der Dutchman Restaurant. But this is the first historical novel I’ve read from her, and let me say this, she is an amazing author! Like an actor who can portray more than one type of character, Shelley Gray is one of those authors who can tell a captivating story, no matter whether it’s Amish, contemporary romance, or Christian, western, and historical!
This novel takes place in the late 1800s and has three elements that interested me immediately: Christian, western, historical. It’s the first book in Shelley Gray’s The Heart of a Hero series, and I will definitely make time to read the other books in the series.
I love the plot of this novel. Clayton Proffitt is an honorable man who is willing to risk his steady ranch work for Vanessa Grant, who is the victim of her stepfather’s advances. With friendship as their base connection, they get married, put their trust in God, and leave the ranch for a future together. During their journey from Texas to Colorado, Clayton struggles with his feelings for Vanessa. He feels honorbound to protect her, and because of what she went through with her stepfather, Clayton is hesitant to act on his attraction.
Even though this story is set in the 1800s and is a Christian western historical, the characters still felt real and relevant to me. The tough ranch hand and the young girl running away from her abusive family could have been set in any time period. He is dealing with his past as a soldier during the Civil War, and she is getting over her mistrust toward her family, who should have been there to watch out for her.
“Clayton watched Vanessa enter the house, then waited a full minute after the door closed, just in case she needed something, before turning to his friend.”
Love this! When I first started dating my now-husband, I would enter my house, peek out the window, and wave at him. He’d still be there! Making sure I was okay.
At the heart of this story, it’s strangely comforting for me to think that love is timeless. She starts the book a victim and endsit a strong woman. He starts the book looking to do a good deed, and he ends up falling in love. It happens slowly and the author does a fabulous job of adding small gestures into the narrative that make the reader – me – really connect with the characters.
Now, as someone who rarely reads historical novels, I certainly didn’t start reading this book expecting to get a briefing on life back in the 1800s, but this novel did an amazing job of capturing bits and pieces of the time period. One major piece that caught my attention was time. Things took longer back then. Traveling by horseback slowed down journeys.
“By sundown, Clayton estimated that they’d reached his goal of covering forty miles.” Forty miles. For one day. I know people who bike forty miles in several hours. But traveling distance wasn’t the only thing that time affected back then.
Relationships developed at a slower pace. I love how the author captured the patience and values associated with relationships. She wove in Christian themes and values, and that added to the believability of the earnest attraction that developed between Clayton and Vanessa.
Even though the book was packed with suspense, it was the romance that kept me engaged. But the uncertainty of the times, the danger of being on the run and being followed, the uncomfortable travel situation… all these elements merged into one amazing story of loss and redemption.
So what about you? Do you read Christian novels? Romance? Historical? Western? Thanks for all the great recommendations that keep coming my way! I think I saw a couple of science fiction and a cookbook in my growing list! As always, thanks for your time!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: www.marisacleveland.com or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.