Author: Rachel Fordham
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman
When an injured, dirty, malnourished young woman arrives in Azure Springs, Iowa, in 1881, nobody knows who she is or how she got there. They just know that they have to take care of her and then figure out how to help her. The Howell family, owner of the local mercantile, volunteers to take her in and nurse her back to health. After suffering the loss of their sons to the fever, they have their own hurts to heal. Sheriff Caleb Reynolds is tasked with finding out who this young woman is and why she has mysteriously appeared in his town. As he gets to know the young woman, known as Em, he learns that her past is connected to some serious trouble. Em learns to trust again as she slowly lets the Howell family, and Caleb, into her heart. Out comes her horrible story of being shipped on an orphan train from New York to Iowa and of losing her sister along the way. Feeling unwanted and unworthy are the lesser pains of her previous life as she lived with an unsavory man in his barn. Despite being a plain girl with unremarkable features, Em is able to capture the heart of the town and of the town’s most eligible bachelor.
Written from a perspective of several people, The Hope of Azure Springs explores the past and how its fingers grab onto the present. Em is trying to deal with the horrible feelings of loss, guilt, and rejection from childhood as she loses both parents and then later her sister. She experiences additional hurt when all the other children on the orphan train are chosen and she is not; eventually, she is chosen last minute and is immediately sorry as the man who takes her in neglects her and leaves her to fend for herself. Caleb, one of several boys, feels rejection and inadequacy. It seems as though his parents don’t see him after his older brothers are killed in the war, and he is always living in their shadow. Not being expressive people to begin with, he doesn’t know how they feel about him and tries to earn their love and appreciation. Abigail Howell, the matriarch of the Howell family, has her own loss to deal with as she tries to move on after her sons die from the fever. She dotes on her older daughter Eliza to the point of creating a spoiled brat who has no empathy towards others. Thankfully, she realizes it before it is too late for Eliza and her younger girls. Throughout the story, all of the characters face their troubled pasts and look forward to the future with optimism and hope.
There is some violence in the book that is mild by today’s standards. Overall, however, The Hope of Azure Springs does not have much objectionable in it. Adults and mature teens should be fine reading it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.