The parallel stories of rescue, love, and burgeoning self-reliance, 150 years apart, of two refined 16-year-old white English girls whose lives are changed in the American West by young, rugged, sensitive pioneers/cowboys with secrets.
In the present-day (and in the third person), Hope Cooper and her mother travel to a Montana ranch for research, lodging with the Crows, Caleb and his hardworking, handsome 19-year-old son, Cal. In 1867 and recounted in a diary/letter addressed to “you” that Hope finds in the barn loft, Emily Forsythe describes traveling by stagecoach through Montana toward an arranged marriage in Oregon. When the coach crashes, only Emily survives, rescued by Nate, a captivating blue-eyed horse trader and railway scout. In alternating chapters, Hope’s and Emily's engrossing stories mirror each other (as do Cal’s and Nate's), from injury to adjustment to the wilderness, coping with injustice, their first kisses, and beyond. Danger lurks at every turn in this sweeping and suspenseful romance, but its history is not well-integrated. Inglis packs in too much of her research, dropping in issues without really developing them, including women's subservient status; that of Nate's Apsáalooke family and his half sister, Rose, who is "two spirits in one body, a man and a woman"; the near-extinction of the bison; bullying.
Still, the romances (with all their implausibilities) take precedence, and readers will be caught up with Emily’s and Hope's exciting journeys. (Fiction/historical fiction. 14-18)