Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Accidental Guardian ~ a Bethany House book review

Bethany House book reviews, historical fiction, cowboy romances, Lake Tahoe books

Trace Riley has spent ten long, lean, tough years carving out a ranch for himself in the Sierra Nevada mountains. But have his toil and struggles prepared him for the upheaval that ensues when he find the survivors of a wagon train massacre on his way home from his first cattle drive to Sacramento?

Thus begins the story of The Accidental Guardian, the first book in Mary Connealy’s new High Sierra Sweethearts series from Bethany House. Fans of Connealy’s other cowboy themed books will enjoy this look into the life of cowboys and wagon train pioneers set near Lake Tahoe, Nevada in the late fall of 1867.

Deb and Gwen Harkness are the only adult survivors of the wagon train massacre wrought by spineless outlaws who try to blame the attack on the local Paiute Indians.  They left false evidence at the attack site before they set the wagons and dead bodies on fire. 

Deb and Gwen only survived because they were caring for two young children, Maddie Sue and Ronnie in exchange for a place in the wagon train that was headed for California. They had left their home after their father died, leaving them a struggling newspaper and a lot of debt. Having sold everything to cover the debts, they had bartered their passage for the care of three year old Maddie Sue and toddler Ronnie so that the Mrs. Scott could drive their own wagon, while Mr. Scott scouted for the wagon train. Deb and Gwen, at 20 and 18, had taken the children into the tall grass just moments before the wagon train was attacked because Maddie Sue had awakened then saying she “had to go.”

When Trace saw the women running out of the tall grass and shouting at him for help he knew he had to take them back to his ranch, as it was the closest shelter around - only 20 miles away. The land was harsh, and winter could break loose and snow the passes shut at any time. His ranch hands Adam and Utah were surprised at the new arrivals, but quickly set to work building a better cabin to house the women and children for the winter. Their appreciation of the women grows after they eat a real, delicious meal that Deb and Gwen cook instead of their usual hardly-edible self-cooked fare.

The outlaws who attacked the wagon train had no idea that there had been any survivors until many days later when Trace takes Deb along with him to the local settlements to pass on word of the attack to the local authorities. Trace also knows he needed to warn any late wagon trains of the danger of outlaws waiting in the passes preparing for an ambush. One of the outlaws almost runs into Deb as she is exiting a store and overhs Trace and Deb’s conversation about Deb being startled.

The story that follows includes many twists and turns as Deb has to come to grips with the reality that not all men are as heartless and selfish as her and Gwen’s father had been. Trace’s world is changed as he accepts responsibility for these helpless travelers, but is not quite sure how to relate to them because he has never had  women around, and is a bit afraid of the children. Trace had grown up with his Pa and Grandpa, and after ten years of forging his way in this mountain wilderness, most of it alone, he is more comfortable talking to his horse and his wolf-dog than to people.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Interwoven in the plot are the themes of mercy, justice, and forgiveness. The characters are learning to communicate with others, instead of just having they own inner dialogue in their heads and assuming others will understand what they want. Is this not something many of us struggle with? How to communicate well in situations that are new to us.

Mary Connealy does a superb job of including the thoughts and growth of her side characters as well as those of her main characters throughout the book. The descriptions of the people, scenery and settings are thorough without being tedious. Readers will want to saddle up and join in the adventure. Once again the story comes to a satisfying conclusion while still having a closing scene left open to lead into the sequel. A great read to take along on your next road trip or simply enjoy from the comfort of your front porch. It will make you want to linger and enjoy the sunset just a bit more!

You can purchase The Accidental Guardian from Bethany House’s website or your local bookstore. It is available in both paperback and E-book forms.

Connect with Mary Connealy

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

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