A daring young woman pushes back against societal constraints in a feminist, coming-of-age Western romance from New York Times bestselling author Susan Andersen.
In the small, bustling town of Mattawa, Oregon, the turn of the century offers a new kind of frontier for women: a vast and exciting range of possibilities--to a point. It's a time for change, and no one is more eager to embrace new paths than free-spirited outsider Hattie Taylor. If only she could embrace Jake Murdock too.
Jake can't remember a time he was so confused. Hattie is off-limits. The provoking spitfire is under his mother's protection--his protection--and he has always belonged to another. But now, with the passing of his wife, Jake feels something shift between them. Frustratingly aware of Hattie as a woman, he struggles with new feelings, new questions, new desires.
But when a desperate decision born of good intentions turns out to have ugly repercussions, Hattie confronts a cruel reality she can no longer ignore: the truth of where women really stand and the actions men take to keep them there. To navigate her new world of tainted justice and privileged order Hattie will draw on the strength of the women around her--and Jake will learn what it truly means to support the woman he loves.
Andersen (It Had to Be You) loads this addictive historical romance with charismatic characters and well-handled drama. In 1899, 11-year-old Hattie Taylor is sent to Mattawa, Ore., to live with a distant relative following the death of her father. Hattie, who's spent her young life running wild in Nevada, is way out of her element in her "aunt" Augusta's genteel world. Augusta's son, 22-year-old Jacob Murdock, is initially appalled by his mother's decision to take in the hellion, but to his surprise, he grows quite fond of Hattie, finding her guts and exuberance a breath of fresh air. Hattie, for her part, has a girlish crush on Jacob and dreams of marrying him when she grows up despite his betrothal to someone else. The pair remain close through Jacob's marriage, the death of his wife and child, and Hattie's maturation from girl to woman. Their friendship eventually transforms into love, though it hits some traumatizing bumps along the way, as when Hattie is raped by the family lawyer. Andersen tackles this sensitive subject with the utmost care, and does a good job handling Hattie and Jacob's transition into lovers, though some readers will be turned off by the age gap and familial relationship between them. A powerful plot, vibrant characterization, and stirring dialogue make this romance a delight.