I started this book after not finishing another, and I had hoped this one would be much better and kind of erase the other not-great book for me. And for the first part, it was. (So it did help!) However, as the story went on, things went downhill.
Characters: Both main characters, Elizabeth and Daniel, held so much promise in the first part of the book. I enjoyed that Elizabeth was older (thirty-two, I think) than most women in historical fiction. And she wasn’t even obsessed with getting married or not being married. Yay! Yes, she was very forward and sharp, but it worked. She seemed like the type of woman who was trying to be a good journalist and fighting against the odds of it all. And Daniel! I loved him at the beginning. His whole background was intriguing – Confederate soldier, sharpshooter, hunter, hermit-like kinda dude. And he had a dog, too! (Beau was adorable.) I loved Daniel and Elizabeth’s interactions at the beginning, and Daniel honestly seemed like a very good man. And then things just went sort of weird. (I’ll touch on this in a minute.) However, the characters seemed well-crafted. The other characters also were interesting – Josiah, the sheriff and his sister, and other townspeople. The next few books were definitely getting set up in this one!
Plot/Setting: The setting was absolutely beautiful! I enjoyed the descriptions of the mountains and the characters’ appreciation for God’s Creation. Timber Ridge was a nice little town without too many hard edges of Old West towns. (No shootouts on Main Street – at least in this one.) As mentioned above, the first part of the book moved a lot better than the latter parts. This may be due to my reading this book across a week or two, but the ending just dragged. It also felt like a lot of stuff started happening really quickly – so quickly I didn’t even care that much and wasn’t invested in it. I think the pacing could’ve been changed slightly, and maybe I would’ve enjoyed it better. And the climax? I liked how it tied things together, but it all came about too quickly, and I had kind of forgotten about the villain by then.
Romance: I’m adding this category today, because this is where things started getting weird. There were just too many instances of the characters lusting after one another. At one point, Daniel had to cut Elizabeth’s corset off because of a medical emergency, and despite the fact she was close to death, he had to think about how beautiful she was and all of this. And then he thinks back to that time throughout the book. Elizabeth also has these weird thoughts about Daniel when they sleep the night in a cave together. Nothing inappropriate occurs, but these instances and thought patterns were just kind of creepy to me. I don’t mind if the characters think the other character is good-looking, but I don’t want to know about their thoughts that are going places they shouldn’t – repeatedly. Give me the romance where they love each, not just because they’re physically attracted, but because they have good character and a love for the Lord.
Moral/Theme: I think the main moral of this was allowing God to shape your dreams. Elizabeth went out West to pursue her dream, but God changed her through her experiences and gave her a better and new objective. However, there was this whole vein of lying throughout the book. Elizabeth knew it was wrong, but she lied to a lot of people both in the town as well as her father. This was never fully addressed. Yes, she ended up telling the truth after a newspaper article was printed with her whole background in it. And we never heard about her telling her dad that everything she’d said to him was a lie. I wouldn’t have had a problem with this if it’d been resolved. She never asked the Lord for forgiveness for all of her lies – it just all kind of sorted itself out. I would’ve liked to see a strong teaching against lying since that was included in the plotline.
Overall, this was an okay read. The historical details about photography and the Battle of Franklin were interesting, and the author obviously did her research! This definitely isn’t my favorite book by Tamera Alexander, but I think I’ll try to read the next book in the series sometime.