Author: Margaret Brownley
Genre: Christian, Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Description/Synopsis: Molly Hatfield comes to Arizona Territory seeking stability and security. But living in Cactus Patch provides her with more than she ever dreamed of.
There is nothing Molly wouldn’t do for her teenaged brother, Donny. Blaming herself for the accident that left him wheel-chair bound, Molly has dedicated her life to his care. But in 1896, gainful employment for a woman is hard to come by. So when Molly learns that an eccentric rancher in Cactus Patch, Arizona, is looking for an heiress–someone to take over management of the ranch in exchange for future ownership–she jumps at the chance to provide a real home for her brother.
If she proves to have a knack for ranching and agrees to remain single for life, the ranch can be hers. Neither stipulation worries Molly. She’s resourceful and hardworking. And she gave up dreams of marriage long ago when she dedicated her life to her brother’s well-being.
However, Molly didn’t bank on meeting Dr. Caleb Fairbanks, the town’s handsome and charismatic young doctor. Caleb has a way with Molly that makes her nervous. But it’s how he is with her brother that really alarms her. Caleb sees past the wheelchair and genuinely likes Donny, but Molly fears he’s putting unrealistic ideas into her brother’s head. Falling in love with Caleb would threaten everything she’s worked for, even her brother’s future happiness.
But it could be the very reason God brought her to Last Chance Ranch.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
Let me start off by saying, this book was phenomenal. The writing was clear and easy to follow, the story was engaging, and I was utterly astounded by the knowledge of the author pertaining to the time period. 1896 was very nearly the turn of the century and things like light bulbs, the telegraph, and the first cars were just making their way into existence. It’s not a time I’ve seen a lot of historical writers delve into, and I found it fascinating. It was really great to see the character’s reactions to the new technology of the day, and the way everyone stared at the very first car like it was the most absurd thing they’d ever heard of. I couldn’t get enough.
The characters in this story were very believable. They had different motivations and ways of handling things that really added a sense of depth to each of them. I laughed at the cowboy’s nicknames, but at the same time I saw them as real people. So rarely do I see a book who’s characters were written so well. Donny and Molly had to be my favorite out of the bunch, but mostly, Donny. It’s strange to come across a story where my favorite character is not one of the main characters, but I think the author did a great job of building Donny as a character. Here was this 14 yr old kid stuck in a wheelchair in a time where being crippled pretty much made you an invalid. He was angry and demanding, and helpless, but as the story went along, he grew as a character and really pushed forward to overcome the limits he’d been given. I was cheering him on the whole story.
The romance also seemed to be handled in a really appropriate way, I thought. There seems to be this running trend in historical romance that the romances always have to be passionate and rule-breaking… but rather than go that direction, Ms. Brownley made Molly and Caleb’s romance what it should be. It was endearing, slow, and sweet. That’s how romance was in those days for the most part for propriety’s sake, and I think the author did a fantastic job on showing that, but at the same time, not shoving it off in a corner.
What struck me the most about this story, however, was the amazing detail. The author had a way of painting a scene with little bits of hidden information that you hardly noticed, but put together, made me feel like I was in book. I felt the heat of the Arizona desert and the dust in the air. I could smell the cowhide warming in the sun. The narrative was so fluid and seamless – just as any great narrative should be – that it virtually disappeared.
Another thing that stuck out at me, was the religious portion of this book. This was a Christian historical romance, and of course, the character’s faith was constantly mentioned. Not being a religious person, these kind of things often stick out at me more than most, and sometimes, outright bother me. I’ve read some christian romances where the author practically shoved their religious beliefs down my throat with page after page of quoting the bible. That didn’t happen here. The author did exactly what she should have done: she let the character’s beliefs and discovery of their spirituality speak for itself. Through the telling of the story, you got a firm, but not pushy understanding of how these characters were learning about their own beliefs, and I think it was an appropriate and beautiful way to tell that part of the story. It honestly didn’t bother me in the least, and I wouldn’t have any problem picking up another one of Ms. Brownley’s books.
Overall, I really liked the book. The only thing that bothered me even a little was the fact that Molly had to give up her place on the ranch in the end. I really would have liked to see the contract amended, but I guess in the end I understand. Molly wasn’t much of a cattle-lover, and it wouldn’t have been the best choice. I was just cheering for her anyway. I’d really recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for a good historical romance. Doesn’t matter if you’re religious at all or not. It was really well written, and an endearing romantic read.