Her heart seeks sanctuary in the deep woods. But will trouble find her even here?
The Civil War has ended, but in Katie Calloway's Georgia home, conflict still rages. To protect herself and her young brother from her violent and unstable husband, she flees north, finding anonymity and sanctuary as the cook in a north woods lumber camp. The camp owner, Robert Foster, wonders if the lovely woman he's hired has the grit to survive the never-ending work and harsh conditions of a remote pine forest in winter. Katie wonders if she can keep her past a secret from a man she is slowly growing to love.
With grace and skill, Serena Miller brings to life a bygone era. From the ethereal, snowy forest and the rowdy shanty boys to the warm cookstove and mouth-watering apple pie, every detail is perfectly rendered, transporting you to a time of danger and romance.
The Measure of Katie Calloway is an excellent, well-researched, carefully-plotted read. I very much enjoyed this slice of slightly different Christian historical fare.
The beginning of the novel will remind readers of Victoriana of Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: a young woman runs, this time with her young brother, from the beatings of her abusive husband. Here, a Civil War vet named Harlan determined to ensure his wife's untimely demise. Unsure where to find work or sustenance, Katie providentially runs into Robert Foster, the foreman of a Michigan logging company where a good cook is immediately needed. Katie's tenacious spirit and talent in the kitchen find her a perfect match for the voracious loggers.
Surrounded by rough loggers in the shanties outback, Katie's already wavering trust of the male sex is tried and tested; but Robert Foster and some of the more noble loggers slowly turn her opinion.
Elements of trust are a major motif in the novel. As Katie learns to open her heart again; so Robert Foster slowly learns to let go of his past as a surgeon during the Civil War. The historical research is meted out perfectly. Moreover, the atmosphere of the crude mining environment is painted with historical integrity. I was wowed by Miller's grasp of the time and of the mining community. Each well-paced chapter, for example, is framed with a shanty song of the time adding to the historical relevance and flavour of the tale.
I was most impressed with the heart-stopping climaxes of the tale: one, surprisingly, and refreshingly, occurs little past the halfway mark when a forest fire threatens the livelihood of all of our well-painted characters. The treatment given to Katie's husband and his dogged pursuit to find her and give her her just desserts is also well-maintained in the background as the story plugs forward.
This is a strong offering for a Christian historical which paints a time and place I had not read of yet. The lingering effects of the Civil War still haunt the characters. There is a believability of time and place that is winsome in this genre. Elements of faith play as a stronghold; but never venture into preachy territory. All readers will enjoy this novel with a hefty spice of character and faith.
I applaud Miller for this great addition to Christian historical fiction and I strongly encourage you to seek it out. In a tale that could easily seep into melodrama, Miller's strong prose and solid plotting give great credibility to the novel.
Visit Serena Miller at her website to learn more about the author and her writing of this text.
My thanks to Revell for the review copy of this novel.