Hundreds of women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Civil War, some alongside husbands or brothers, others on their own. Connealy's new series takes a look at these women, reminding us of what they went through, and more importantly, how they picked up the pieces of their lives afterward. Soldiers were offered an exemption for homesteading - each year served in the war was one year off the 5-year period to prove up land. Since it was illegal for women to enlist, women were naturally not eligible for the exemption - even if they did fight in the war. But suppose a woman - or three - continued their charades as men and filed for a homestead? Connealy's exploration of this idea makes for a fun premise for the series.
Having fought as a young man in the Civil War along with her two older sisters, it didn't seem such a stretch for Kylie Wilde to fall in with her father's plans and take a homestead out west, posing once again as a man. The problem is, unlike her sisters, Kylie has always wanted to live as a woman back east, enjoying frilly dresses and tea parties. When Aaron Masterson, the land agent, checks up on the homesteads to make sure they are proving up, he isn't fooled by Kylie's britches or covered hair. As the land agent, he cannot allow Kylie to defraud the government, but when someone starts trying to run her off her land, Aaron's protective instincts flare up. Can he protect this soldier from the threat against her, or will she stand up and fight for herself?
While Kylie and Aaron both fought in the same war, even in some of the same battles, Kylie leaves the war behind her while Aaron comes out struggling with hate for what happened to his family. Though he runs from it, the bitterness follows. As Kylie points out, hate is something the bible unequivocally condemns - "Love your enemies, bless those that persecute you, do good to those who hate you" (Matt 5:44). I liked where the author went with it in the story - maybe I don't read analytically enough, but I was surprised by how Aaron must confront it in the end.
Full of Connealy's characteristic humor, this story reminded me of her Sophie's Daughters trilogy in the bond between these three tough but vulnerable sisters. They have the same tendency as siblings everywhere to rile and annoy each other, but they do not hesitate to love, defend, and be brutally honest with each other. I loved meeting Bailey and Shannon Wilde, and I can't wait to read their stories - even as I enjoyed reading about the girly Kylie, my mind was busy contemplating where the other two are going, and where they are coming from to make them the way they are. A fun read, and I look forward to the next!
Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
Wild at Heart
1. Tried & True
2. Now & Forever
3. Fire & Ice