Sunrise Over Texas
There are days when a short romance is the only book that gets a chance to be read, and that’s when I am glad that I can find books like Sunrise Over Texas. If, like in this case, the novel also proves a gripping read that I end up finishing in one sitting, all the better.
The novel starts off at a mostly abandoned military fort in the middle of nowhere in Texas. After the last of the soldiers succumbed to illness, the only inhabitants are the recently widowed Kit Barclay, her mother-in-law Agnes, and her sister-in-law Mary. It’s winter and they are low on food, yet they have no means to travel to San Felipe, Stephen Austin’s comparatively nearby settlement, and must stick to the vague hope someone will come by in the spring and rescue them. To keep up the illusion the fort is still manned, Kit fires the cannon every day. One day, a lone rider appears and falls off his horse outside the fort. Kit investigates, finds a man burning with fever, and drags him inside to give him shelter and care. At first she feels deeply suspicious of him and keeps the other women’s presence a secret, but she learns to trust him – only partly because she finds herself most thoroughly attracted to him.
Trace Barclay is from New Orleans and has been adrift since the death of his wife Angelina in childbed four months earlier, with vague plans to join a friend at the Austin settlement. He is aghast to find that the three women have been left behind, and determined to lead them to safety at San Felipe, where Kit has her late husband’s claim waiting for her. Trace is a lovely hero most of the time, caring and honorable and courageous, although he permits himself a serious slip rather late in the story.
Whether you enjoy this novel will partly depend on whether you can believe that two people who are recently widowed and who sincerely loved their partners can fall in lust and love again so quickly. They don’t forget their late partners, and they are torn by feelings of guilt, but in the end Kit and Trace go ahead with their new relationship. Now fortunately I have not been in this situation, but I have known people who did this – went into a new relationship very quickly after their partner died, and found happiness – so I am not one to judge this.
If this is no stumbling block for you, you will be rewarded with a very intense read. The isolation of the fort is evoked with dramatic effect, as is the deep distrust and fear that dominates Kit’s actions at the beginning. The relationship between these two wounded souls is very intense, as well.
I liked the way the author used the fact that Kit is widowed, and highlighted in which way her options differ from that of an unmarried girl. I also grew to like the secondary characters, who start out rather one-dimensional but reveal more facets with time.
What I was less happy with, was the ending. We find out this is an across-the-tracks romance, and I felt cheated this was not in any way explored earlier. Some issues remain unsolved that I would have liked to hear about. And I just missed the powerful images of the country.
Still Sunrise Over Texas is a book that I can recommend, especially if you are looking for a short but gripping read, and/or if you are fascinated by Texan history. I looked up some facts about the early settlements in Texas after reading it, so it even proved educational!