The description of The Hope of Azure Springs by debut author Rachel Fordham was appealing, so I decided to try it â and I'm so glad I did! The beginning pages quickly pulled me in, and I was immediately drawn to the heroine, Em. There's some suspense, but this is primarily a character-driven story, my favorite style to read. This is a heartwarming story of loss, love and resilience of spirit.
I confess to expecting this to be a typical prairie romance, but was pleasantly surprised to find it much more complex. The story combines elements of the orphan train project, going back to Em's experience seven years earlier, with life on the prairie. Em is a sympathetic character, realistically portrayed â resourceful and able to fend for herself; strong in one sense, yet vulnerable and caring.
Caleb, easily drawn by the outward beauty of ladies, wasn't my favorite character at first, but that soon changed. The best stories are about transformation, and I enjoyed seeing Caleb and Em steadily grow. I also loved how their romance grew from the solid foundation of friendship and mutual respect, rather than being filled with tension and misunderstandings.
The Hope of Azure Springs is a feel-good story that delivers on the hope promised in the title. I look forward to more stories by Rachel Fordham.
I received a copy of this book through Just Read Tours and Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
First of all, I enjoyed this book. That being said, I had hoped to enjoy it more.
The plot was interesting and unique, and the characters were compelling. My main struggle with this book was its lack of historical voice. If it were not for the first line on the prologue stating the setting of the story was âIowa, 1881,â I would have had little clue that it was set in the American frontier over 135 years ago. The dialogue and narrative took on little of the vocabulary and tone of that era, and as a historian reading a work of historical fiction I found the historical background scant.
All in all, this was a worth first effort by a new author and I look forward to reading her next work, as she deepens and hones her literary skills.
I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers. April 21, 2018.
The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham takes us back to 1881. Em Cooper has been shot and left for dead. She was lucky to be found and transported to Azure Springs, Iowa where the Howell family has taken her into their home. Sheriff Caleb Reynolds is responsible for keeping the law in Azure Springs and the surrounding area. He wants to catch whomever harmed Em and her guardian George. Em was taken in by George seven years prior when the orphan train came through the area. She has been living in a dilapidated barn and scrounging for food since then. Three men came to the farm and proceeded to tear it apart looking for something. When they did not find it, they shot George and Em. She can provide Caleb with a description and it matches that of men who recently robbed a stagecoach. While Caleb works the case, he finds himself drawn to Em with her kind nature and generous heart. Em is eager for the bandits to be captured so she can begin her search for her sister, Lucy. They became separated when Lucy was adopted, and Em has worried about her ever since. Em is grateful her prayers were answered, and she was freed from George, but she has yet to realize that she is the answer to others prayers.
The Hope of Azure Springs is well-written story with a gentle pace and a beautiful cover. I liked the main characters of Em and Caleb. The supporting characters of the Howell family and Margaret Anders (I like her attitude) helped enhance the story. Em has had a difficult life, but she does not let it get her down. She has a positive attitude and a grateful heart. Em has a different way of looking at things and she helps others with their grief. The romance was sweet, and it focused on the individual's character (what is inside the person) instead of their physical appearance (though Caleb is handsome). I like the Christian elements present throughout the story. The presence of God in our lives, having faith in God, God's grace and prayer. Other themes are hope, self-reliance but also knowing when to accept help from others, friendship, enduring love, and the value of self-worth. The road to a happy future is a bumpy one, and Em's journey will be an emotional one. I like how the story goes full circle. My rating for The Hope of Azure Springs is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I hope the author gives Eliza and Margaret their own books. I would like to see their stories play out. Readers who enjoy clean western romance novels will be delighted with The Hope of Azure Springs.