Yearning for a fresh start, Ewan McKay travels with his aunt and uncle from northern Scotland to West Virginia, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial assistance from his uncle Hugh. Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, but it’s Ewan who gets the business up and running again. Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner’s daughter, and he feels a connection with her, but she’s being courted by another man–a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Besides, Ewan has resolved he’ll focus on making the brickmaking operation enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Scotland.
But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan’s hard work may come to naught. As his plans begin to crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. She and her mother may have a way to save the brickworks, and in turn Ewan may have another shot at winning Laura’s heart.
I enjoyed reading this book. One of my requirements for good historical fiction is that I learn something by reading the novel. In this case, it was about brickmaking in the era after the Civil War. It was interesting to read about cutting the clay out of the earth in the fall so it could cure, by frost and thaw, over the winter. I learned about making bricks different shades of red by combining hematite with the clay. And now I know what a “frog” is, identifying the maker of the brick. I also learned about the smog in Pittsburgh at the time as well as quite a bit about Scots-Irish immigrants.
The characters are fully developed and act consistently. That Aunt Margaret really disgusted me, with her strong desire to be “somebody” in the community. She was willing to hurt just about anybody, even her sister, to get her way. What delightful women Laura and her mother are. Full of compassion, I really appreciated them.
There are some good topics for discussion in this book too. For example, which is more serious and in need of correction, a one time moral failure or a consistent and wicked tongue? When should a self-righteous person be corrected? And there is the issue of weak men. I was a bit disappointed at Uncle Hugh for being so weak with regard to his overbearing wife. And Ewan, well, I think he could have been a stronger character too. Women pretty much ran the show in this one, whether right or wrong.
This novel is a rewarding Christian historical romance. But the end leaves us hanging so I will certainly be looking for the sequel!
Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her best-selling novels. She lives in Topeka, Kansas. Find out more at http://judithmccoymiller.com.
Bethany House Publishers, 353 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.