on July 13, 2012 :
4 1/2 stars
Ida Meade has come to Oklahoma to fulfill her responsibilities as the wife of a missionary. The problem is she isn't married. Her wedding was postponed and fiancé, John Newcomb, detained due to his boss's illness, but John requested Ida go on without him.
Despite rumors of ghosts, Ida takes up residence in an abandoned farmhouse with plans to turn it into a school for the Indian children living nearby. Her companions, three dogs, keep her company as she mends fences, cleans the house, and waits for the Indian Agent who was supposed to meet her upon arrival some two weeks earlier.
Jeremiah Griggs was expecting a Mr. and Mrs. Newcomb, not an unmarried woman out of her element with a stubborn streak to boot. But Ida's determination, open-mindedness, people skills, and ability to play a mean fiddle quickly win the admiration of the townsfolk and the Indian community. So with the promise that her fiancé will soon be joining her, Jeremiah decides to let her stay on.
As the two work together, Ida discovers a deep respect and love for the Cherokee people. She also feels the same for Jeremiah, and though she tries to suppress it, she feels much more. Jeremiah appreciates her independence and intelligence. With him, Ida doesn't have to hide or pretend, but can be her true self. She wants that sort of honesty in her marriage, but how can she have it when John is nothing like Jeremiah? And if she doesn't marry John she won't be able to stay on this land or with the people she's come to love.
I'm normally not a huge fan of 19th Century romance. I don't have anything against it, it's just that usually it doesn't capture me. However, this book did. I think it's because Ms. Paul took great care in developing out the characters, and while on the surface the rugged cowboy and independent socialite seem typical, Ms. Paul found unique angles that gave the characters depth and individuality. Ida never comes across as a spoiled brat. Her independence is far more than lip-service. And while I won't say she's never a damsel in distress -- because every good story needs one of those moments -- she's certainly not a helpless one. Jeremiah, though rugged and tough, isn't over the top with his actions in handling the villain or the heroine. I tend to refer to that quality as sap, and I can whole-heartedly say that this story is sap free.
I also appreciated how the spiritual element was delivered through characters. It felt very organic; never artificial, preachy, or force-fed. It flowed in gently and with grace, which is something else I very much appreciated.
This book is really something any age can enjoy. There's nothing content wise that would be considered risqué. Nothing was avoided for the sake of keeping the story clean, the plot just never ventured that direction.
The story is character-driven. There's some action, but that's not the driving force. Readers who look for that might not enjoy it to the degree I did. For those who like mystery, there's an element of intrigue woven into the story with the ghosts. I really liked the angle the author took. Even though it's an historical, I think most readers, despite their genre preference, will find relatable elements that make this an entertaining read.
Reviewed in The Wordsmith Journal. http://www.thewordsmithjournalmagazine.com/index.html
(reviewed the day of purchase)