As a final act of kindness by - and for - a dying soldier, nurse Abigail Stuart and Jeremiah Calhoun marry, leaving widowed Abigail to care for his sick sister and horse farm in exchange for a permanent home. After a couple months of throwing her all into helping her new family, Abigail is shocked to discover Jeremiah has come home. However, the Jeremiah Calhoun she married was missing an arm, while this one has all his limbs, and to her great surprise, his family claims him. Jeremiah has never seen her before, and he naturally suspects she is a hustler aiming to steal his home and business. Trying to get his life back on track, Jeremiah gets back to pursuing the woman he planned to marry, working the farm, and recovering from his wounds, but to do it, he finds himself relying on Abigail. Can she find a place with this family on which she has foisted herself?
The Civil War tore through the country, ripping apart families and communities. While no place was left untouched, some states felt the sting more harshly than others. In setting her story in Missouri, the author has chosen one of the most controversial areas in the country, there on the border between North and South, East and West. Her depiction of the war-torn community is heartbreaking, as neighbors refuse to help neighbors that sympathized with the other side, while raiders in the hills terrorize indiscriminately.
Jennings finds that perfect balance between humor and gravity to form a rich, meaty story that manages to both entertain and make one think. While horses, skunks, and local urchins provide a release of tension, the reality is that no one - not a single character - is without wounds. Abigail tries hard to hide hers, while Jeremiah and his sister's are more obvious; even the community in which they live has wounds that run deep. And some wounds take much longer to heal than others.
Though Jeremiah is gruff and occasionally slow to catch on, he is a loveable hero, just as Abigail makes for a relational heroine: she is practical without having lost her sense of wonder and fun. The secondary characters add both humor and depth to the story, helping form that excellent balance to the tale. A fun, engrossing read! 5 stars!
Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all my opinions are my own.
For a fun interview with the author and a peek at what is next to come, see Bethany House's Q&A with Regina Jennings
Ozark Mountain Romance
1. A Most Inconvenient Marriage
2. At Love's Bidding
2.5 "Her Dearly Unintended" from the novella collection With This Ring?
3. For the Record