**I received a free copy via NetGalley for an honest review.**
I have always been an admirer of Karen Witemeyer's books, and this book is no exception. In fact, I would have to say this is her best to-date! It had a great backstory, romance, and mystery. I began reading it in the morning around 7am and finished in the evening around 10pm. I would have been done sooner, but work called!
The story begins with a young boy, Malachi Shaw, out in the cold, recently orphaned and looking for shelter. He find a barn and settles down for the night, only to be interrupted by a girl a few years younger than he, Emma Chandler. She literally gives him the clothes off her back (not all of them - this is a Christian romance, after all!) to keep him warm and some milk to sustain him through the night. When she leaves, he figures that will be the end of that, but then she runs back in and says she's keeping him! From there we fast forward 12 years - Malachi is a working on a railroad and Emma is running a women-only town that acts as a shelter for down-on-their-luck women. Someone is trying to run them out of their town, and that's when Emma sends a telegram, asking Malachi for help.
The relationship between Malachi and Emma was wonderful! I loved seeing the initial stages in the Prologue, when Emma is helping Malachi keep warm, and he is so stubborn in his shock that she's helping him at all. When the story becomes "present day" (1894), Malachi still holds fond memories of Emma and her strong spirit - his "angel", he calls her. Emma remembers Malachi as her girlhood crush, her white knight. And what a knight he is! Throughout the story, Malachi is caring towards Emma, always making sure she is safe and worrying that he's not right for her. She's wondering the same thing. But as they battle to save her town, they find that their love is another thing worth fighting for.
Given that this is a Christian romance, it is "clean" and has some lovely Bible verses throughout the story. It shows God's influence in people's lives, with particular attention given to the fact that He should never be forgotten in times of crisis. I found the references to God uplifting and fitting very well with the story. It wasn't something that overwhelmed the story but instead lightly touched the reader as he or she continues to read.
I would recommend Karen Witemeyer's books to everyone - Christian or otherwise! Her stories reach the hearts and souls of all readers alike, and everyone can relate to the characters and their struggles. Once again, she has written a story I want to come back to again and again. Well done!