In Frost’s debut, an intrepid young woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery while finding true love in an unlikely setting.
After Katherine Haynes’ mother died, she formed a close bond with her widowed father, Walter, and found a second home at the Williamson-Goucher School for Young Ladies. During Easter weekend in 1841, tragedy strikes when Walter dies during a thunderstorm. Orphaned Katherine is left in the guardianship of her step-uncle, Henry, who plans her betrothal to his younger son, Ethan. By 1850, Henry has also died and Katherine’s guardianship has passed to his older son, Jonathan, a calculating man who has his own designs on Katherine’s inherited fortune. When she receives a letter from Ethan declaring his love, she returns home, where Jonathan assaults her. After realizing that Ethan loves another woman and that no one else can help her, Katherine decides to travel to California, where her grandmother lives. During her travels, she meets a man named Martino Castillo, who agrees to escort her. When he’s arrested after being mistaken for a wanted criminal, Katherine hastily agrees to marry him to spare his life. What starts as a marriage of convenience, however, turns into an unexpected romance as the couple tries to stay one step ahead of Jonathan on their journey. The strongest elements of Frost’s novel are its settings and its large cast of characters. Her descriptions of Katherine’s clandestine escape from Baltimore and subsequent journey through Western frontier towns are engaging and exciting throughout. Frost doesn’t shy away from describing hardships, but she balances them with the warm, welcoming sense of community that Martino and Katherine develop with their fellow travelers. Both of the lead characters are appealing and their love story is tender and believable. The secondary players are also well-developed—particularly Alexander Daniels, Jonathan’s partner and a man of intrigue and mystery. These strengths all compensate for occasionally weak copy editing; for example, early on, a housekeeper leads Katherine “passed the cabinet of treasured Rockingham pottery.”
An often entertaining historical romance with vivid settings, complex characters, and a plethora of plot twists.