With the ball of her fist, Kathryn rubbed a layer of frost from the icy pane and peered out of the cabin window. More than two weeks had passed since sheâ€™d awakened to an empty bed to find Larsonâ€™s note on the mantel. "Kathryn, gone to northern pastures. Back by weekâ€™s end."
Larson Jenningsâ€™ unexplained departure begins Tamera Alexanderâ€™s debut novel Rekindled. Set in 1868 in the Colorado territory, although this historical romance is ostensibly about Kathryn and Larsonâ€™s struggle to keep their ranch from the auction block, it is really the story of the rekindling their barren and grown-cold love.
The story is fast-paced. Its successions of near meetings and misses, unhappy accidents, and incidents where characters act, or donâ€™t because of mistaken assumptions reminded me of the stories of Thomas Hardy. Its rural (though frontier) setting and preoccupation with appearances — of both the outright physical and the what-will-people-think variety — also gave it that Hardy-esque feel. However, Alexander stops far short of being truly pessimistic.
The theme of relationships runs through the story. Kathryn and Larsonâ€™s marriage has its share of dissatisfactions, secrets, avoidances, disappointments, and a hoard of fears, suspicions and jealousies. When Kathryn is thrown into the company of, and befriends the townâ€™s coquettes, she is forced to face her own prejudices while gaining a whole new appreciation of her husbandâ€™s demons. Later, when Jacob arrives on the scene, his repulsive disfigurement becomes another relationship complication.
Perhaps because the romance genre with its preoccupation with the minute-by-minute machinations of the heart is not my favorite, I found that aspect of the book a little tedious. And though the mystery of who Jacob is (to Kathryn) is a major story element, the cat-and-mouse tension between the two, stretched out through about two thirds of the volume did, at times, tax my patience and credulity.
However, the setting was postcard-clear and the characters were interesting and complex (I was fascinated by the villains Kohlman and MacGregor). There was even a mysterious character Gabe, who I expected more than once to unfurl his wings and take off into the blue.
All in all, Alexander leaves us with a good romantic read and a lot of hope. The storyâ€™s burning message is that though the circumstances of life may scar us, God uses those same circumstances to purify us, strengthen us and prepare us to participate in making our own dreams come true.
Tamera Alexanderâ€™s second book in the Fountain Creek Chronicles series, Revealed, is due out in November 2006.