The second book in the Front Range series–out now!
Title: Colorado Hope
Author: Charlene Whitman
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Genre: Sweet Western Historical Romance
1875 ~ Beset by a sudden spring storm on the Front Range, newlywed Grace Cunningham watches in horror as her husband, Monty, is swept downriver. Pregnant and despairing, she stumbles into Fort Collins and tries to make a life for herself, praying that one day the man she loves will walk into town and back into her life.
A year after Grace’s tragic loss, Monty enters the dress shop where she works—with a beautiful woman on his arm. Shocked that he has no recollection of her, Grace is determined to win back his heart. Somehow she must help him regain his memories and his buried love for her—and not just for her sake but for the sake of their infant son, Ben.
Monty, miserable in his marriage to a woman he hardly knows, is inexplicably drawn to Grace. Every time he’s near her, memories surface, but they are hazy and troubling. He’s torn between his vows and the desires of his heart, for he cannot stay away from Grace.
Grace’s hope is sparked when Monty starts recalling glimpses of his past. But when murderous outlaws come to town, she is thrust into grave danger. Monty risks his life to rescue her, only to face even greater perils in the treacherous mountains. Can she truly hang on to hope when she is about to lose all she loves?
Colorado Hope does an amazing job of transporting the reader to the world of pre-state Colorado. You can see the mountains, hear the river, and feel the late snow falling. (June! Snow in June! At least we haven’t had that–to the best of my knowledge, anyway–here in WNY.)
Ms. Whitman really gives you the feel of being in Fort Collins, an up-and-coming frontier town. It seems a lot like our more modern small towns–unfortunately–with gossiping, judgmental busybodies. But there’s also people willing to help out strangers, and public officials who will go above and beyond to find out the truth.
And there’s people who will end up being the best kind of friends…
Grace and Monty Cunningham decide to move west to Colorado because Monty’s been bitten by the frontier bug and has a job offer as a surveyor in Fort Collins. Grace is less convinced that the move is a good idea, but she loves Monty and eventually agrees. A tragic accident takes him from her before they even reach their destination, though, so she ends up in town alone and pregnant, with all the town matrons believing she’s an unwed mother who’s made up a tragic tale to cover her shame.
Monty meanwhile is taken in by a wanna-be actress whose last husband was hung as a bank robber, a conscienceless woman (relatively, anyway–she does nurse him back to health, at least) who’s only marking time until she can go dig up what is left of her ex’s ill-gotten gains. His accident has left him with amnesia, but he too ends up in Fort Collins, married to another and using a different name. Grace and Monty’s journey back to one another is long and twisted, with many forces trying to keep them apart while others work to help them discover the truth.
There wasn’t a lot of gray area in the novel–the good characters were very, very good, and the bad really didn’t have much in the way of redeeming qualities. Grace in particular had no real flaws, except that her response to just about everything (especially every time she sees Monty and/or Stella) was to go back to her rented room and cry for hours. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t go to the man who had offered Monty the job–he at least could have vouched for the fact that there was indeed a married Mr. Cunningham who was traveling to Fort Collins to work for him. She couldn’t have known this without being Mrs. Cunningham, and therefore it would have held up her claim. It is mentioned later on (among the menfolk) that they had been waiting for him to come but he never showed–at the very least she could have been spared a great deal of the malicious gossip from the women in town.
Monty’s main flaw was that he was easily seduced by a deceiving woman–but that of course was the fault of the manly urges that he tried very hard to suppress and had never felt quite right about. He is constantly plagued by a feeling of wrongness that he blames on the amnesia–if only his memory would return, then all would be right again. With all of the flashes of memories that he has, though, and the way he is instinctively drawn to Grace, it takes him an awful long time to make the connection. Perhaps if she had said something it could have helped matters along…
Everything is solved nicely and neatly (finally!) in the end–Grace and Monty are reunited, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and Colorado finally becomes a state. Colorado Hope was an engrossing, if sometimes frustrating, read.
Rating: 3 stars / C+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
May 16, 1875
A fierce wind whipped Grace Ann Cunningham’s hair, yanking at the long strands and pulling them free from their pins. She squinted through the haze of the blustery day and stroked her bulging belly, trying to comfort her baby, who seemed just as agitated by the sudden storm.
Her back ached from sitting on the hard buckboard bench all these miles—much less comfortable than the plush sleeper car they’d enjoyed last week on the train from Illinois to Cheyenne.
She frowned at the dark roiling clouds that had moved in and quickly blotted out the sun.
What had been a pleasant uneventful morning was now turning into an ominous and unsettling afternoon on the open prairie.
Grace sucked in a breath as the baby again kicked her ribs in protest. Her sweet husband’s sun-browned face tightened in concern as he caught her gesture. He pulled on the reins of the two draft horses—sturdy ones they’d bought yesterday in Cheyenne. Surefooted, the seller had told them. And Monty knew his horses, so she trusted his purchase and assurance that they’d
haul them without incident to Fort Collins. But looking at her husband’s face now, seeing the subtle telltale signs indicating that he hadn’t expected this squall nor felt at ease about it, gave her pause. And her normally talkative husband had been too quiet this last hour, eyeing the sky and listening to the roar of the nearby river, as if hearing their complaints and trying to suss out nature’s intentions.
“The baby all right, darlin’?” He scooted over on the buckboard seat to look her over, then took her hands in his.
Warmth from his gentle grip comforted her, but not as much as the love streaming from his adoring gaze.
“I think so,” she told him, then smiled as he laid his hand firmly on her belly.
Grace thanked the Lord in a silent prayer for this wonderful man who’d married her in a simple ceremony last September. All those years she’d lived with her doting aunt Eloisa in the boardinghouse back in Bloomington, she never imagined she’d be blessed with such happiness.
When Montgomery Cunningham had first stepped into the parlor to take a room before starting college at Wesleyan University, she’d been a shy, giggling girl of ten. Neither of them foresaw the love that would spark six years later when he showed up again unexpectedly, about to head west to explore and survey lands unknown.
Monty closed his eyes, his hand still on the baby in her womb. She imagined him communing with their baby, speaking to it the way he spoke to rivers, to trees, to the land he traversed by boat and on horseback and on foot. Something had happened to him when he returned from the Hayden Yellowstone Expedition. He had changed from boy to man, yes—but it was more than that. He had fallen in love with the West, and with rivers in particular. Although he’d studied geology in college with John Powell, water captured his heart, and he sought out trips that had him navigating whitewater. Nothing made his eyes sparkle more than talking about the way water moved and sang as it cascaded and carved the face of mountains and spilled into waiting valleys. Well, except the way he looked at her.
Monty may have loved rivers, but Grace knew he loved her more. So much more, for he gladly gave up his exploring to settle down and marry and start a family. Although, Grace thought moving to the new town of Fort Collins, Colorado, was adventure enough. She hoped he’d come to see it that way as well and not be into the wild.
For More Information
- Colorado Hope is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado’s Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George “Dix” Whitman, her love of thirty years. Colorado Hope is the second sweet Historical Western Romance novel in her Front Range series.
Her latest book is the sweet western historical romance, Colorado Hope.