The Land of the Lone Star Series
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This fantastic western series is set in Texas during a time period not often explored in historical fiction: reconstruction immediately following the Civil War. This series really opened my eyes to how difficult that period was and how raw emotions were after such a divisive, bloody conflict. The idea of brother against brother really came to light as characters in this series were on opposite sides of war. The author does not simplify the two sides or make things perfectly black and white, which I loved.
In the first book, Chasing the Sun, William Barnett comes home from the war to discover that his ranch has been seized by the state and sold to someone else because he fought for the Union. Hannah Dandridge is trying to run the ranch after her father never returned from searching for family survivors in war-ravaged Mississippi. These two obviously start out as enemies. For one, they both lay claim to the same ranch, and second, their families fought on different sides of a terrible war. Yet William may be the answer to Hannah's prayers as she struggles to run the ranch, care for her young siblings, and fend off the marriage proposal of an unwanted suitor. The book also explores the tenuous relationship between the white ranchers and the Comanche living nearby. When Hannah's faith and compassion compel her to help her Comanche neighbors, William finds himself struggling to both keep her safe and guard his heart from falling for her. This book was so complex in its historical depictions as well as being a thrilling, edge of your seat story. The romantic tension between these two very different people made it an even more intriguing tale.
The second book, Touching the Sky, has only one minor character in common from the first book, but it was still an amazing story in a similar Texas setting. Laura Maurquart is the eldest daughter of an abolitionist, union-sympathizing Texas family. Despite their eye-raising political beliefs, the family is part of high society in their Texas town. Brandon Reid, a Union officer over colored troops (I don't use that term to be offensive, it was the term used at the time the story is set), shares Laura's views on racial equality and justice. As Laura attempts to navigate the tenuous peace of her town and the distrust of her neighbors, she forms a bond with Brandon.
Meanwhile, her sister Carissa marries a confederate beau despite Laura's concerns about his character. At their wedding, Laura overhears Carissa's groom plotting a terrorist attack against union troops. Laura confides in Brandon and soon finds herself acting as a kind of spy against her new brother-in-law. Brandon tries to prevent himself from putting Laura in danger as he wrestles with his growing feelings for her.
This book had me an emotional wreck, but I mean that in the best way! It ended up being my favorite book in this series. Brandon is so noble and heroic, first of all, that you can't help falling for him right along with Laura. The Maurquart sisters are polar opposites. Laura is a serious, level-headed brunette who is pretty in a gentle, modest way. Carissa, on the other hand is flighty, a little shallow, and a blonde beauty who draws men like flies to honey. Both, however, are naive and sheltered by their father. Their naivety simply manifests itself in different ways. Carissa rushes into a marriage with a man she barely knows with silly, romantic notions about marriage. Though you want to dislike Carissa in the beginning, the horrific marriage she finds herself trapped in is so disturbing and sickening, that you'll quickly feel heartbroken for her. Laura is naive in a different way. Though guarded when it comes to suitors, politically, she is so oblivious, I found myself groaning as I read. Seriously, Laura? You just told a roomful of confederates that you're teaching black people how to read? Do you have a death wish? Thank God for Brandon, is all I'll say! For both Marquart sisters! Thankfully, their noble Texas knights come to the rescue just in the nick of time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Which brings me to the third book in the series: Taming the Wind. It was a fantastic ending to this series, mostly because I loved that we got to see the couples from the first two books in this final installment - I missed Hannah and William in book two. Being on their ranch again for the majority of the action was one of my favorite things.
This third book ties the series all together and finally gives Laura's sister Carissa a happy ending. Carissa's little girl (whom she had with her horrible husband in book one) was absolutely adorable, and the way the little girl and Texas cowboy Tyler bonded melted my heart. Show me a big, tough guy with a soft spot for kids who makes an excellent father, and I'm a goner.
*** Spoilers ahead! *** Why book three was my least favorite:
The only reason I didn't like this third book as much as the other two was because the main couple, Tyler and Carissa, spent the bulk of the book apart. Hannah and William had a slow burn with lots of moments for you to believe in and invest in their relationship. With Laura and Brandon, there was immediate attraction, but it grew in a believable way as the book went on. I couldn't say the same for Tyler and Carissa. The cattle drive was exciting, but I could have used less of it just so I could see the main couple together more. Then as soon as Tyler returns, Carissa has been kidnapped. That seemed a tad unnecessary, especially considering all poor Carissa already went through in book two. I honestly didn't need to see the villain from book one escape from jail and come back. Carissa's trust issues from her abusive first marriage provided plenty of conflict without throwing in a kidnapping. Plus there was Laura's early delivery of her baby and the fear that one or both of them wouldn't live. I liked that plot point - I stayed up reading to make sure Laura was okay, and it seemed a believable struggle to face for the time period. So, yeah, I didn't need a kidnapping too. Plus, it got resolved so quickly, I kind of wondered what the point of it was except to just add more drama. Nevertheless, the entire book was fantastic and Peterson weaves such an amazing picture with her words. I can clearly see 1870s Texas in my mind's eye as I read.
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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.