Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won't be able to do it alone.
For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He's determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn't expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
Debut novel by Rachel Fordham
The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham takes us back to 1881. Em Cooper has been shot and left for dead. She was lucky to be found and transported to Azure Springs, Iowa where the Howell family has taken her into their home. Sheriff Caleb Reynolds is responsible for keeping the law in Azure Springs and the surrounding area. He wants to catch whomever harmed Em and her guardian George. Em was taken in by George seven years prior when the orphan train came through the area. She has been living in a dilapidated barn and scrounging for food since then. Three men came to the farm and proceeded to tear it apart looking for something. When they did not find it, they shot George and Em. She can provide Caleb with a description and it matches that of men who recently robbed a stagecoach. While Caleb works the case, he finds himself drawn to Em with her kind nature and generous heart. Em is eager for the bandits to be captured so she can begin her search for her sister, Lucy. They became separated when Lucy was adopted, and Em has worried about her ever since. Em is grateful her prayers were answered, and she was freed from George, but she has yet to realize that she is the answer to others prayers.
The Hope of Azure Springs is well-written story with a gentle pace and a beautiful cover. I liked the main characters of Em and Caleb. The supporting characters of the Howell family and Margaret Anders (I like her attitude) helped enhance the story. Em has had a difficult life, but she does not let it get her down. She has a positive attitude and a grateful heart. Em has a different way of looking at things and she helps others with their grief. The romance was sweet, and it focused on the individual’s character (what is inside the person) instead of their physical appearance (though Caleb is handsome). I like the Christian elements present throughout the story. The presence of God in our lives, having faith in God, God’s grace and prayer. Other themes are hope, self-reliance but also knowing when to accept help from others, friendship, enduring love, and the value of self-worth. The road to a happy future is a bumpy one, and Em’s journey will be an emotional one. I like how the story goes full circle. My rating for The Hope of Azure Springs is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I hope the author gives Eliza and Margaret their own books. I would like to see their stories play out. Readers who enjoy clean western romance novels will be delighted with The Hope of Azure Springs.