First of her new series on the Dangerous Darlyns, about four sisters of rather terrifying talents, Kelly Eileen Hake focuses on the eldest, the sharp-shooting Beatrix Darlyn. Practical Bea has taken care of her father and sisters ever since her mother died over a decade ago, and she is used to being passed over for her gorgeous sisters. When the banker threatens to foreclose on the farm, Bea has to find a way to save it - and God provides Greyson Wilder, a man haunted by the past who makes his living collecting and selling buffalo bones. Somehow an offer for supper turns into a hefty business proposal that has a chance to set them up nicely, unless the disreputable banker has more tricks up his sleeve.
While skeletons are rarely the main focus of fiction (at least, christian fiction), they play a surprisingly different role in this book - not exactly morbid, though for sure a little disconcerting. Anyone who has studied the Great Plains even a little has heard about the great buffalo hunts, that men would ride the trains as they chugged across newly laid rails across the country, and decimate populations of bison as they went, the corpses wasted, rotting in the sun, to no good purpose. But what happened after the bones were picked clean? And this is where I learned something new - the bison bones came in great demand by factories in the East for rendering into bone china, fertilizer, and glue. Who'd have thought old bones could be a significant source of income?
Though the girls certainly have unconventional talents, they also have a good understanding of Victorian-era propriety and know that common knowledge of their talents could lead to ostracism. Bea's sharpshooting and Jodie's trick riding seem almost normal compared to Ariel's archery and Cassia's knife throwing. I like that the author is able to take such an unconventional premise for the series and find a way to use it in a believable manner.
It's funny how it can be easier to forgive someone else than oneself; Grey's inability to forgive himself - part of his survivor's guilt - is a prime example, which many can relate to. While the book does not lack for humor, there is more depth than in previous works, and Hake's maturity as an author is showing through. My only complaint is that it ends rather abruptly - a few threads are not completely finished off, but since this is the first of series, hopefully it will be addressed swiftly in the next book.
1. Trails & Targets
2. Slings & Arrows (2015)
3. Fire & Knives (2015? 2016?)