I received an advance review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
This is a sequel to Into the Free, which I have not read. It's Mississippi, 1943, and Millie is marrying veterinarian Bump Anderson and moving West to help him start a ranching operation for their boss, Cauy Tucker. She is haunted by memories of a horrible experience a month before her wedding, and that secret taints the early months of her marriage. Her relationship with Bump is also rocked by many and varied external challenges.
A knowledge of the backstory is not necessary to follow the events, but it would certainly be helpful. While the main thread of the novel is Millie's struggling young marriage, there are multiple secondary story lines that contribute to the stress placed on their relationship. It is an ambitious amount of complexity for such a brief book, but Cantrell carries it off pretty well. Some characters do make unconvincingly convenient appearances and exits, however, which are all the more noticeable in the supposedly isolated ranch setting.
Some outcomes were just not plausible. Millie accepts (and apparently the reader is supposed to also accept) several flimsy explanations and even refusals to explain suspicious actions. There is a great deal of emphasis placed on "trust," but there is precious little earning of that trust.
Conservative Christian readers may be uncomfortable with the integration of Native American spiritual beliefs. As for Christianity, the faith element is integrated frequently but vaguely, making this truly more "inspirational fiction" than "Christian fiction."
Recommended for readers of faith-based fiction who enjoy novels centered in marital themes.
I just don't like books about marital discord. My husband has noticed that I get testy with him when I'm mad at the husband or boyfriend in the book I'm reading. Obviously this means that books about struggling marriages are not a favorite in my household.
I was also disappointed by the way Millie handled many things relating to her marital problems. Because she was such a young bride and came from such a difficult background, it was more realistic, but I spent most of the book wanting to step in and tell her to grow a spine and whip her life into shape.