The Hidden Heart
I was all set to enjoy the The Hidden Heart because of its interesting story and characters, but ultimately I was a bit put off by what I considered too much preaching. Yes, I know this is an inspirational but still there is a fine line between being inspiring and proselytizing and this book stepped over that line.
Elizabeth Cameron and her mother and sister are kidnapped by the Comanches. Elizabeth’s mother and sister are killed, but she is spared by what seems to be divine intervention. She is able to speak the Comanche language just as they are about to kill her. Elizabeth is adopted into the tribe and makes a friend of a young woman named Sunflower. Sunflower’s husband, Eyes Like the Sun wants Elizabeth to marry him and when she refuses he rapes her and she becomes pregnant. The soldiers come to the camp and kill many of the Indians including Sunflower. They rescue Elizabeth, but her preacher father is not happy to see her pregnant with an Indian child and takes a whip to her.
Five years later, Elizabeth’s father has died and she and her son Joseph are off to join a religious group, the Sanctificationists. This is an all-woman group who are sworn to celibacy and financial independence. On the way, Elizabeth and Joseph meet Caleb Martin. Caleb is a former robber and gun fighter who is the deputy to Elizabeth’s brother. Caleb is working for a pardon, and has been sent to guard Elizabeth and Joseph.
Most of the book traces the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Caleb. Both of them have secrets in their past – secrets that they are deeply ashamed of. As they grow closer, they fear that their secrets will cost them each other’s love.
Elizabeth starts as a prim and prissy woman but thaws under the influence of Caleb and Anna, a woman who is deeply religious and very kind. Caleb is a tortured man, who has robbed and killed in his youth but finally becomes aware of the forgiveness of God. He is kind to Joseph and the lonely little boy blooms under his affection.
While parts of The Hidden Heart seem to require for a great deal of suspension of disbelief and a high tolerance for preaching, at its heart is a well told message tale of redemption and love. The relationship between Elizabeth and Caleb, and Caleb and Joseph, are very well done indeed. They are hampered, unfortunately, by a melodramatic ending. While I deplore the lack of recognition given to religion in a lot of American popular culture, this book just had too much of it. If the preaching could have been toned down, I know I would have liked this book much better.