This book began in an exciting way that immediately had me leaning forward and wanting to never put it down! Karen Witemeyer has a gift of creating characters who feel real and comfortable, and I thought this book did a fantastic job of bringing the stark truth of the time period (the inhumane treatment of the Native American population and the racism against African American people) to a story that showed that humanity was not all lost. We get two romance stories in one here, with a whopping four POVs, which at times felt difficult to follow. I usually have a max of two POVs before my brain has some trouble keeping everyone straight. Particularly for the purposes of reviewing. However, I was so glad we got to see both couples get their happily ever after, and I only wish Eliza and Jonah had their own book, so we could see even more detail in how they fell in love.
Mark Wallace never expected to hold a baby in his arms, at least not this way. Returning home after delivering a horse, he and his partner, Jonah Brooks, come across a woman in distress. She is about to have a baby, and she is in no condition to take care of things on her own. After successfully delivering the baby, the mother isn't able to take care of her properly, and so they must take the baby to a nearby foundling home. Upon arrival, Mark sees Katherine Palmer for the first time in ten years, the woman he proposed to and who in turn rejected him, pushing him to join the army and leave home for good. Katherine is both elated and devastated to see Mark again. They have so much past between them, and her life has taken a path away from marriage with assisting her friend, Eliza Southerland, with the home for unwanted children. Marriage is not in her plans, but God has His own plan that sets in motion a journey for the four people suddenly thrown together by fate.
Mark was genuinely one of the nicest men I have seen written in a while. Essentially without flaws, I found him almost too good to believe. He was a kind young man when he knew Katherine when they were children, and he grew to love her as they spent more time together. Unfortunately, Katherine didn't see past the flirtations the other girls in town flung at Mark, and she got herself in a predicament that ultimately led to them being separated. It was wonderful to see them get their second chance at love, even if Katherine was resistant at first. Jonah Brooks was the other hero of the story, though his romance was not the primary one of the book. He was a black man with walls sky high, partially from how he was treated due to his skin color but also because of his emotional scars after being a sharpshooter. Wounded Knee affected him deeply, and so that's why it was even more romantic to see his romance with Eliza Southerland, the illegitimate daughter of a slave woman who was eventually freed by Eliza's father. Eliza was hardened yet kind, and I loved her character so much. I found her and Jonah to be the more interesting couple, mainly because of their hardships and backstories. I so admired how much good they had done despite the bad done to them. Woven into the story was a mystery plot of disappearing children, and I liked seeing Mark and Jonah take the lead in finding the children, even at their own peril. They had such strength of character and were very admirable men throughout the book.
I always love reading Karen Witemeyer and look forward to what comes next!
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**