Saving Grace (Safe Havens, #1) by Sandy James
Series: Safe Havens #1
Publication Date: May 30th 2013
Genres: Historical Romance, Westerns
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Grace Riley is on the run—from her past and from her fears. The victim of a violent rape at the hands of a rich politician’s son, she must “disappear” to escape his constant attempts to recapture her. Moving from cattle drive to cattle drive as a cook, she avoids her tormentor for nearly twenty years. When she discovers that the brother she gave up for adoption after their mother died in childbirth was orphaned at an early age, she is frantic to verify that he’s safe. She tracks him to a cattle ranch in Montana.
Widower Adam Morgan owns the Twin Springs ranch, but finds himself falling into a life of loneliness. Although he enjoys spending time with his grown daughter and the two men he rescued when they were living on the streets, he longs to meet a woman he can love. Living in the Montana territory where men greatly outnumber women makes finding a new wife difficult. Weary of working cattle, he is ready to make some changes in his life.
Grace falls ill on her journey, but she manages to make it to the Twin Springs ranch where her brother is supposed to be living. Adam takes her in, concerned for her health and the reason she’s searching for one of his adopted sons. Their chemistry is immediate and intense, but can Grace heal from her past of pain and fear? When her secrets are finally revealed, can Adam forgive her deceptions and learn to love again?
If a consistent quality to this author’s work is to be found, and there are many–by the way–, I would have to say that she packs so many aspects of a situation into one story. I think that is especially true in this novel that is set in the 19th century American “Old West” and which features a woman who has been raped, birthed a child when she was only a child herself, experienced the grief of giving her child away, finding out later that her son has been thrust into a terrible situation because of the death of his adoptive parents, and so and so on. Grace Riley is one of those women that built the American West with grit and persistence, determination to win over innumerable odds, carried always a heart full of love and loyalty for family but who never lost sight of the goal of surviving intact. She is smart and wiley, keeping a few steps ahead of her obsessed rapist and still protecting her carefully guarded secrets, accepting that the “normal” expectations of marriage and family will probably never be hers.
Adam Morgan is the kind of Western hero we all dream about knowing. He’s a man of deep sensibilities, honest and steady in his dealings with his friends, a fitting role model for the two boys he “adopted” after finding them eating out of garbage cans in Denver in their early years. Jake, Grace’s son, has now married a gentle and sweet-natured girl and they are expecting their first child. And it is in that setting that Grace makes herself known to Jake as his “sister” who couldn’t care for them after losing their parents.
This novel is filled with grit and gumption, anxiety and anger, fear and faithfulness, loss and loving. It is the consummate story of what real life was like for a young girl who was “sold” by her father to pay gambling debts and the seeming wreck of her life in the years to follow. It is also a wide-screen kind of view of the harsh nature of life in the American West especially for women without support or the “protection” of a husband. Grace’s brother was her savior more times than she could count as she continually flees for her life and sanity from the man who ruined her life.
Those of us who have come to appreciate Sandy James’ writing style, her creativity in shaping story lines and her craft in putting it all together to make a full-fledged novel are going to recognize that this is one of those novels that just sort of leaves you dazed when the last word has been read. It certainly was that way for me. There is no fudging on the emotion, the deep wounds that life has dealt this extraordinary woman, the kindness and loyalty of a man like Adam, the good that this woman still insists on leaving in her wake regardless of where she may be. Everyone is blessed by her, yet her own pain never seems to be addressed and that is Grace’s lesson to learn . . . how to share her pain with others, learning to trust, opening her heart to love and the full range of feeling and experience that an authentic love can bring into her life. Life has not taught her well, or perhaps has taught her too well that there is no grace for Grace. Yet, somehow it is waiting for her if she will but take the risk. For someone like Grace that is asking a lot. But from time to time, the risk is truly a blessing in disguise.
Don’t miss this one. It is well worth reading. In fact, I think it is one of Sandy’s Best and that’s really saying something. I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place