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This past week I finished reading a unique historical romance. Jessica Nelson's Love on the Range features a strong yet haunted hero, a spunky, outspoken heroine, and a plot that keeps you guessing.
Set in 1918, the story takes place mostly on a remote ranch in the Oregon desert. Gracelyn Riley, a burgeoning news reporter, is sent away from her wealthy family in Boston to live with her uncle until the flu pandemic resides. While at the ranch, Gracie sees her stay as an opportunity for the story of a lifetime.
She's looking to interview Striker, an elusive hero who's responsible for the rescue of kidnapped women in white slave trafficking. She knows that if she gets an interview with him, she'll earn a respectable job at the Women's Liberator. Gracie also has a secret admiration for the mysterious Striker.
However, Gracie's efforts to find Striker are hindered by ranch worker Trevor Cruz, a strong, quiet man whose silent nature makes her curious about his background. He knows something about Striker, but he's not telling.
Trevor wants to keep his secret identity a secret and move on with his life, but the new city girl on his boss' ranch is making things difficult. As he's constantly dodging Gracie's questions and putting up with her liberal ways, the romantic tension builds. But he has to protect her from the dangers she doesn't see.
Overall, I found Love on the Range a refreshing change in the historical romance genre. It's the first romance I've read that takes into account World War I and the influenza pandemic that swept across America, leaving thousands dead. I enjoyed the suspense of the pandemic interlaced with the threat of slave traffickers running rampant in Oregon. It gives the reader a sense of place, of looking over your shoulder and, in the case of the flu, wanting to put a mask on.
My favorite character had to be Gracie. I loved how she never loses her independent streak, even in the face of her rigid, socialite mother. Despite the people in her life criticizing her liberal attempts to be her own woman, she exhibits compassion, kindness, and reflects the accepting heart of God in her words and deeds. Her balance proves that Christian women can have godly character and be who the Lord made them, even if it isn't society's norm.
Watching the hero Trevor change and grow was a delight. Many romances focus more on the heroine's growth, but Nelson touchingly captures his insecurities and reluctance to accept God as a loving Father.
I recommend this book for its fresh plot and setting, strong-willed characters, and sweet love story.
I received an advance copy of this book.
Do you prefer to read historicals that capture the events of the time, or those that keep the events behind the scenes?