The book started winning points with me right from the beginning, as it has an unusual setting – post Civil War New York. Don’t let the cover fool you – it calls to mind the plantation South, but in this case the returning soldier is a Yankee. Radford Grayson is returning home to Fredonia, New York after a prolonged absence. First he was serving in the war, and then he spent five years working for a railroad because he didn’t want to face his family or his home. Now he’s coming back with his young daughter Rebecca in tow, hoping to make a new start. Rebecca was rejected by her mother and abused by a nanny, and Radford is hoping that returning to his hometown and large family will help her heal. His family has long owned a saw mill, and he wants more than anything to become part of it again. As the oldest of four sons, he was raised to be in charge someday, but his younger brother Kyle has taken over in his absence and isn’t willing to step aside for a brother he feels he can no longer trust.
Rather than fulfilling his life’s dream and starting at the mill, Radford begins to help an old family friend at his livery stable. William Tucker was Radford’s friend and mentor during the war. He helped him survive, and Radford feels that he owes him everything. William has been physically unable to run the livery, so his daughter Evelyn has been doing all the work, and she’s finding it hard to keep up. Evelyn has always been a tomboy; she wears pants on every day but Sunday, and has worked at the livery her whole life. Still, it’s a two-person job, and Radford’s help is definitely needed – even if his heart still lies at the sawmill. Because William needs help getting around, Radford and Rebecca live with Evelyn and her father.
Evelyn finds herself attracted to Radford almost instantly. He’s older than she is, so when they were growing up she didn’t really know him that well. To him she was just the rag-tag girl who played with his brother Kyle. Now she’s an attractive woman who seems to be just what his daughter needs, and just what he needs as well. But there’s a problem – she’s already engaged to his brother Kyle. How can they possibly indulge their feelings for each other and risk hurting someone they both care for? And even if they figure out that problem, Radford still has horrible nightmares from his experiences in the war. Both characters have some soul-searching to do and huge obstacles to their mutual happiness.
Grade: A-Check Review