Where Trust Lies
This is the second in the authors’ Return to the Canadian West series. Like the first book in the series, it is low on romance and rich in the drama of daily life. I think that would have worked better if the book had not also had the tendency to veer towards a travelogue. The fairly high grade for the book comes from the author’s crisp, clear writing and detailed characterization. It would have been improved, however, by more romance and a plot more centered on making that romance possible.
Beth Thatcher has just returned home from working for almost a year in the Canadian Frontier. She is anxious to spend some quiet time with her family while waiting to hear if she has a teaching position in the coming year in the small town of Coal Valley. She had grown quite attached to the impoverished community when she was there – and even more attached to Canadian Mountie Jack “Jarrick” Thornton. He had sent her off on her journey home with a dozen roses and a promise to be in touch. She’s eager for him to keep that promise.
Which he does. Jarrick calls and has a candid conversation with Beth in which he explains he would be very interested in pursuing a courtship with her. His hope is that they will write and telephone throughout the summer and pursue a deeper relationship in person when she returns to Coal Valley. Beth hopes for this too but there is a hiccup in their scheme – her mother and sisters intend for her to accompany them on a long cruise along the Saint Lawrence River and the East Coast of the United States. Beth doesn’t really want to go – she would much rather be home resting – but her father is leaving for business in South America and the house will be closed up for the summer. She feels she must accompany her female relations on their vacation.
The lavish journey begins a bit roughly for Beth. She finds herself seasick although the pills given to her sister by a new acquaintance soon have her up and about. The jaunt is the opposite of what Beth experienced in the frontier – here all is luxury, beauty, ease and decadence. She tries to settle in and enjoy the fun but struggles with missing Jack and her concerns for her sister Julie. Julie has made friends with some girls from a different class – girls who seem solely interested in pleasure and who have slightly more modern values than those enjoyed by Beth and her family. Beth soon finds herself mired in family troubles and wondering just what God is trying to teach her on this sojourn.
The authors do a lovely job of capturing the magnificent scenery encountered on the voyage, the exciting new experiences of the travelers (such as swimming in the ocean, a thing not often done by ladies of quality) and the delights and drama that make up a family vacation. But these positives also worked as negatives for me – the book seemed to be a sort of “what I did on my summer vacation essay – the young teacher variation” as opposed to a novel. The few encounters with Jarrick also seemed to work more towards Beth’s mother’s opinion – that the two barely know each other – rather than towards a romance. The ending felt very rushed and almost unrealistic as a result.
Another minor quibble was that I found the theological message very confusing. At one point Beth is ardently discussing the virtues of honoring your parents, even when you are an adult. Yet at another point in the book, when tragedy strikes because her sister does not heed that advice, everyone is just as adamant that the girl not be blamed. While I certainly didn’t want the character bombarded with recriminations (I didn’t agree with the sentiment anyway) I did find it perplexing to have the subject categorically dismissed. It just didn’t make sense to me.
Overall I found the book easy to read with prose that was delightfully clear and descriptive and characters that were well drawn. Quibbles with the plotting and theology aside, I think fans of the authors will certainly like this book even if they won’t be putting it on their favorites shelf.