Heading West, pregnant widow Jenna Borland's life surely can't get any more complicated -- until fate throws Lee Carver across her path. She resents his help, but she needs him to drive her wagon over the Great Plains.
Lee can't fathom why this prickly woman gets under his skin. But as the journey brings these two outsiders together, he wonders if Jenna and her baby could be just what he needs to begin a new life with a brand-new family!
Very good book, with a different storyline than most. Jenna, her husband, and her stepdaughters are part of a wagon train on the Oregon trail. At the beginning of the book, her husband is shot and killed while trying to steal a horse, leaving Jenna to continue the journey.
Jenna hadn't wanted this journey in the first place and now she is really stuck. She is unprepared for the hardships, including her fear of the oxen and horses. The leader of the wagon train assigns someone to help her with her wagon - the man responsible for her husband's death. She's furious, but doesn't really have any choice.
I have to admit that Jenna irritated me at the beginning. I understood that the journey hadn't been her choice, but she seemed awfully whiny to me. She griped about her two older stepdaughters' attitudes, but hers wasn't much better. Her anger at Lee was logical, given the circumstances, but I felt she could have shown a bit more gratitude. She also considered herself an outsider once she was widowed, and seemed to spend a fair amount of time feeling sorry for herself. I grew to like her more as she faced the challenges ahead of her.
On the other hand, I liked Lee right from the start. He had every right to defend his property according to the rules of the times. He didn't have to volunteer to help her continue the journey, but he is a gentleman at heart and felt it was only right. He is treated as an outsider by most of the others because of his Southern background, while the others were all Northerners.
I loved seeing the relationship grow between them with the backdrop of the Trail and its hardships. The relationship was strained at first because of the circumstances, but forced into each other's company day after day they had to learn to get along. I loved Lee's protectiveness and his insistence on teaching them all the skills they needed. It was sweet to see the way that the youngest, Ruthie, took to Lee, and the effect it had on him. I also loved seeing him handle the two older girls. As the days and weeks went by, he and Jenna slowly began to get to know each other. They are able to share the pain and secrets of their pasts, without experiencing any judgment from the other. And though the attraction and feelings grow between them, there are still obstacles that keep them apart. Lee is bound for a more remote part of the state to build his horse breeding ranch. Jenna is determined to remain in town and find a way to make a living while making sure the girls get the schooling and upbringing they need. The concerns were real and believable and I ached for their inability to find their way for a future together. The ending was sweet as Lee comes through with the answers they need.
Even more than the romance, I enjoyed the journey itself. Outside of a brief mention in school history books, and the computer game my kids used to play, I had very little exposure to that part of the past. The descriptions were vivid enough that I frequently felt I was there, from the incredible heat of the trek across the Plains to the arduous trip over the mountains. The encounter with the Indians was nerve wracking, with an unexpected result, and the dangers of having a baby on the trail were excellently portrayed.