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A "sweet" romance set in 1893 Montana
With the tragic death of her fiancé, Elizabeth Hamilton believed she’d never love again. The comfortable life she’s settled into with her brother in Boston, is upset when he abruptly marries. Displaced by her spiteful new sister-in-law, and hoping to find a home for herself, Elizabeth allows handsome cowboy Nick Sanders to escort her from Boston to her friend’s Montana ranch.
In Montana, Elizabeth meets attractive Caleb Livingston, a wealthy banker who strongly resembles her beloved fiancé, and believes she has a second chance at love. Yet, she has to fight a growing attraction to Nick. In braving the dangers and hardships of the West, Elizabeth discovers unexpected strengths within herself--strengths tested when an influenza epidemic ravages the town. As a child’s life hangs in the balance, Elizabeth must choose between the man who has everything, and the one with nothing but his heart to offer
This was a hard book for me to enjoy at times. While I liked Elizabeth and Nick's chemistry, and Holland's descriptions about adjusting yourself from refined lady of Boston to rancher's wife in Montana, there was a few things that just kept repeating themselves throughout the story that bothered me.
Everyone in the story--Pamela, John, Nick, random character in the town--lost a younger sister. I know it was hard back in the day, that children died quite often and of things that wouldn't necessarily kill a child now, but it felt weird that it was constantly brought up. I don't think I've ever noticed, in any historical romance novel I've read before, quite so much childhood death. Elizabeth dwelled on it too. Upon her first meeting with Pamela's youngest daughter she wonders if her friend worries about her dying like her younger sister did years ago.
The other thing that nagged at me was that neither Pamela nor Elizabeth found it...disconcerting that Elizabeth was setting her cap for a man who resembled her beloved deceased fiancee so very much. Elizabeth I can understand mostly, she lost Richard quite young and never had anything to fill that loss, plus moving to Montana was a strain. Pamela though? Pamela who was her best friend and knew Caleb resembled Richard so much? It didn't occur to her that maybe it could be unhealthy?
Its not as if I don't believe in second chances with a lost love, but that isn't what Elizabeth's romance with Caleb was. The few times she forces herself to see that Caleb is not Richard don't seem to convince her of the fact. She keeps thinking this is her second chance at the love she lost when Richard died. Not that this is a new love just that she can have the love she lost. As a result there isn't very much to build their relationship on and its mostly founded on Elizabeth's intense belief that Richard sent her Caleb to have that life she lost.
Nick is about as far a cry from what Elizabeth wants as you can get. He's rough (though not vulgar), shy, and a cowboy. None of which she holds against him, to her credit, but it does put a gulf between them as Nick isn't certain he deserves such a refined lady (even if he has been in love with her, or her picture at least, since Pamela moved West). He shows her, in so many ways, his devotion and she responds...until she remembers Caleb looks just like her lost love and that's her real chance at love.
The highlights were when Elizabeth wasn't worrying about death or when Nick was showing her all the good that Montana had to offer. I enjoyed those moments. As to the rest, I wish Elizabeth (or Pamela) had shown more sense.