Enduring Light
Grade : B+

It’s easy to forget that just a scant hundred years ago people all over this country lived under rough, primitive conditions. That in 1910, the West was still being won. And it is painful to be reminded that for many centuries people of all kinds faced prejudices in this great melting pot of ours. Some of that prejudice was due to religion, one of the very things the founders of this country had hoped to avoid. Julia Darling and Paul Otto, the hero and heroine of this book, learn that it is only through enduring with grace that they can face down those bigoted against them and be a credit to themselves, their faith and the enduring nature of their love.

At the end of the first novel in this series, Borrowed Light, Julia Darling returned home to Salt Lake City to heal from the burns she had received during the fire that ravaged the Double Tipi, the ranch where she had been working. And where she had fallen in love with Paul Otto, the enigmatic owner. Now Brother Otto has returned to Wyoming to rebuild and Julia has to remain behind to recover. The two had planned to wed, but Julia is convinced that the scars she received while she fought for her life are far too disfiguring for any man to overlook, and sends Paul a letter releasing him from their engagement. She goes on about her life, a bit broken-hearted but knowing she has done the right thing.

It doesn’t take Paul Otto more than a week to come reason with his errant fiance. Silly Julia, to think that anything would make him want her any less! The two have a touching reunion, showing that everything that made them perfect for each other to begin with survived the fire. Having secured her love once more, Paul heads back to Wyoming to finish rebuilding while Julia throws herself into preparations for their wedding several months hence. She delights in shopping for everything, from the lovely cloth to make her gown to the furniture they will need in their new home. Paul’s love and the acceptance of her family and church give Julia the confidence she needs to forget her scars and start living her life once more. She and Paul have endured so much already, she knows their combined light will endure whatever the future throws at them as Mr. and Mrs.

It was delightful to spend the opening pages with Julia as she prepares for the wedding. While Paul only gets to appear in a few scenes in the early part of the novel, the love between him and Julia is present on every page. The way the two compliment each other’s strength and shore up each other’s weaknesses shows us they will be a formidable team. A particularly lovely sequence is the time spent with Paul’s Uncle Albert. His mother had been accidentally separated from her family at a young age and her family long wondered what happened to her. Meeting Paul was both pleasure and pain for Uncle Albert, who has harbored a secret about the fateful day his sister was lost. Albert’s meetings with Julia are sweet and healing, showing us her great depth of character and faith and highlighting just how much she loves her Mr. Otto. And as the book stresses, everyone loves a bride. Especially one as happy as Julia. As she bakes and sews and plans, all the while pining for her missing love (but in the happiest of ways) we can’t help but be excited with her. When she sees him over Christmas it feels like both reader and heroine receive a great gift. And when the big day finally arrives, the reader is happy to rejoice along with the bride as she celebrates her marriage. The story really does pull you in so you experience every little triumph and setback with her.

The joy of this beginning is needed to give us a happy base for what begins to happen after. Julia and Paul are tested at every turn as they find folks in Wyoming far less accepting of their faith than they had hoped. It is painful for them to be snubbed by people Paul called friend before his conversion and disconcerting to realize the affect this can have on their livelihood. They face a hard decision with Paul’s beloved adopted son James as enemies from the boy’s past draw ever closer. Their friends at the ranch and their church brethren in Cheyenne help them reach deep and endure as the hard times come.

This book is an inspirational, so it does have a lot about religion and God in it. It is a specific type of inspirational – Latter Day Saint – so that the Mormon religion is woven throughout the story. I am not Mormon and am (mostly) unfamiliar with their teachings, but I did not find the information distracting. Ms. Kelly doesn’t halt her story to explain it, but I felt the context it was used in was sufficient to give me the gist of what she was talking about. Personally, I find it very realistic that people of that time period would be wrapped up in their faith. It was not till the 1970’s in this country that people fell away from being actively involved in some kind of church, even if that was just attending on Sunday mornings. From a historical context, it was really interesting to me to see how the people of this fellowship worked to fit into the society of this nation. This is, for the people of the United States, a “home grown religion” in some ways, and their past is part of our past. I enjoyed looking at this aspect of history which I haven’t had much chance to learn about before.

Speaking of history, I loved how Kelly handled her time period. The settings were just handled beautifully and realistically, with enough detail to set us firmly in time and place but not so much that you felt you were in the middle of a lesson. There was a nice juxtaposition between the city life in Salt Lake City, with cars, electric lights, and indoor plumbing, and life on the ranch without any of that. We get to ride the trails and experience life cooking for roundup, as well as just the everyday life of cooking for hungry ranch hands.

There were so many touching things in this story. Paul and Julia are heart-warming characters. It is great when we see some of the kindness they had shown to others in Borrowed Light come back to them here. I also loved the passion between the hero and heroine – they had to work to save sex for after the wedding. Their anticipation and subsequent celebration at consummation was wonderful. Good things really do come to those who wait in this lovely tale.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Carla Kelly novels and to anyone who loves a good historical. I know there are people out there who can’t stand inspirationals or who would struggle with anything that had to do with the Mormon religion, which might preclude them from reading this book. That is unfortunate; you are denying yourself a chance to read a great book and learn something about a people who are very much a part of American history.

Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B+

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : January 18, 2012

Publication Date: 2012/01

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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