I was so excited when I saw Karen Witemeyer’s second book in her Hangar’s Horsemen series on the new book display at my public library. However, like I always say, “too many books and too little time.” I wasn’t able to snatch the book up right then and there (though I was tempted to).
The Heart’s Charge was worth the wait, however. Like the first book in the series, this was a departure for Witemeyer in that it had a male protagonist rather than a female protagonist. Or rather two male protagonists. Jonah and Mark, featured in the first book, are the leading characters of this story. They are not your stereotypical cowboy heroes. Each has a unique personality that shines through.
The book opens dramatically with a desperate pregnant widow threatening to shoot the two men. They manage to talk her down from committing violence against them and Mark ends up delivering the baby. If you’re expecting a romance to develop here, you’re only partly right. Mark does fall in love, but not with the desperate widow. He falls hard for the tiny baby he delivers, and my heart melted for Mark right away. This surprised me after Mark came across as a bit flirty and egotistical in the first book. However, this second book reveals why Mark puts on that facade.
The widow in question is severely depressed and has no interest in caring for the baby, so Mark and Jonah take the baby to a nearby orphanage. It’s run by Kate, a former flame of Mark’s, and Eliza. Kate and Eliza’s friendship was another lovely part of the book. These two women were bound and determined to be spinsters running the orphanage - and then these two cowboys show up on their doorstep with a baby.
The women have every intention of sending these men packing, but Hanger’s Horsemen have taken an oath to stand up and fight for those in need of justice. When they find out that orphaned children are being kidnapped, they decide to stay and protect the women and the children in their care. Whether Kate and Eliza think they need it or not.
In the first book, I appreciated Witemeyer’s honest portrayal of the massacre at Wounded Knee and the way that Matthew, Jonah, and Preach were haunted by it. In a similar way, this book tackles the issues of racial inequality in a sensitive and historically accurate way. Eliza, whose father was her mother’s white slave owner, has a storyline that is especially poignant and heart-wrenching. Witemeyer told her story of being rejected by both sides of her lineage in such a heartbreaking way that it brought tears to my eyes. It was also heartbreaking when Jonah feels unworthy of the children’s hero worship when they discover he was a Buffalo Soldier. He hesitates to tell Eliza, whom he is falling for, that he was a part of Wounded Knee.
So many Christian fiction books gloss over the ugly parts of life in the “wild west,” but this book faces them head on. However it never comes across as a Sunday school lesson. Instead, the characters have depth and their stories feel real. I truly think this is one of Witemeyer’s best!
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.