With her debut novel "Colorado Promise," the first of the Front Range series, Charlene Whitman is sure to become a favorite among fans of historical romantic fiction. Well-drawn characters, a solid plot and just the right mix of action and romance makes this story set in Greeley, Colorado a page-turner. Readers that enjoy tales of strong men with a touch of compassion and women who know their own minds will love this inspirational story about life near the Rocky Mountains in the late 1800s.
Emma Bradshaw is all ready to get out from under her parents' stifling obligations and attend Vassar to study botany and art when her world comes crashing down around her. Her father tells the entire family they are leaving their high society life in New York City and moving to Greeley, Colorado. Being only 18 and still under her father's control, Emma has no choice but to pack up and move to a place she has never heard of in the rough and tumble world of "the West."
Lucas Rawlings is a veterinarian living on a horse ranch owned and run by Sarah and her two sons, Eli and LeRoy. Sarah is Cheyenne and the cattle ranchers on the Front Range are eager to get their hands on her prime piece of property. Lucas lives in a cabin on Sarah's property and assists her and her two sons in running the ranch, but he has more than horses and outlaw cattle ranchers to deal with. He is still trying to get over his experiences as a young boy serving in the Confederate Army, as well as the death of his wife and infant son.
While it's clear from the very first introduction of these two characters that they will likely end up together, what happens to them in the pages of "Colorado Promise" is worthy of learning more about their story. There are a few moments that are typical of all romantic fiction - hearts race, palms get sweaty, people stumble over their words as they realize their attraction for one another - but there are also moments of superb writing that allow the reader to feel the hail raining down on Emma and to smell the scent of Lucas' woolen coat as he wraps it around Emma's shoulders. To learn more about how these characters will change and grow as they learn what God has known from the beginning of time, that some things are just meant to be.
An adequate writer of historical fiction will include minor bits and pieces about the setting of their story. A good writer will do a bit of research to make sure there are historical facts included in the pages of their novel. A superb writer will create characters that could have actually lived during the time in which the story takes place and allows them to act as people in that time period would have really acted. Charlene Whitman is a superb writer. She had this reader wanting to learn more about Greeley, Colorado, the Transcontinental Railroad, the range wars between ranchers and cattlemen and the basic facts about what the Colorado Territory was like just ten years after the Civil War ended.
For those who read Christian fiction because of its propensity for being "cleaner" and less-filled with bodice-ripping episodes between unmarried people, there are a few times when the writing tends to include the thoughts of Lucas and Emma that get a tad bit out of control. There are no vulgar words and the thoughts are those that anyone who is falling in love would think. However, they are also ones that many would have to stop themselves from thinking and acting upon before committing something they would need to seek repentance for. Neither character acts upon those thoughts and the worst sin committed is drunkenness. There are mentions of murder but none of it actually takes place in the story. Some may also be uncomfortable with Sarah's use of Cheyenne methods and practices, but they are not ones shared by anyone outside of her immediate family.
While it isn't clear from the ending of "Colorado Promise" if Emma and Lucas' story will continue in future books in the Front Range series or if readers will be introduced to other characters entirely, it doesn't really matter. Whatever story is told in future books in the series, they will be worth reading. Charlene Whitman is an author to watch for future interesting Christian fiction.
"Colorado Promise" by Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press, Oct. 2013
List Price: $13.08 (paperback) $3.99 (Kindle)
The Christian Fiction Examiner received a copy of this book from the author.