Longing for Home is a novel by Sarah M. Eden that left me longing for more by the end of the story. That makes the fact that it is the first in a series a good thing.
This is the first book I have read by Sarah Eden. Before I received a copy of Longing for Home, I was not familiar with her work. I will admit that I picked it up with some trepidation as I am not normally a reader of romance novels. I was pleasantly surprised to find it really didn’t fit into my definition of that neatly-dismissed category.
Longing for Home is the story of Katie Macauley, an Irishwoman recently immigrated to America. The book opens with “Eighteen years had passed since Katie Macauley killed her sister.” Katie was born at the beginning of the Great Famine and eventually ends up in America (as did so many Irish of that era) hoping to earn enough money to pay off a debt to her father and buy back the land her family lost in the famine. It takes many more chapters to learn the sad story of Katie’s early years and the death of her sister.
As the story opens, Katie arrives in Wyoming Territory to take a job in frontier town Hope Springs as a housekeeper for widower Joseph Archer. Unfortunately, the town is bitterly divided between the Irish and the “Reds” in a microcosm of the anti-Irish sentiment so prevalent in America at that time.
Joseph, who is the town’s wealthiest resident and primary landowner, has vowed to remain neutral in the feud. As soon as Katie arrives and opens her mouth, Joseph realizes that she is Irish and fires her. He relents and rehires her but her arrival and determination to stay—at least until she has earned what she needs to return to Ireland—upsets the town’s delicate balance. Her employment continues to be a challenge for both her and her employer, first for one reason and then as the story unfolds, for others. This leads to Katie needing to find a way to support herself, not an easy task in a small town where half the population wishes her gone—or worse.
We learn how difficult it is to be Irish in late 18th-century America, with the intense prejudice against Irish immigrants. Being of Irish heritage, this is a story with which I am familiar and one faced by many groups of immigrants throughout our history. Sarah’s treatment of the conflict feels for the most part, natural and unforced with the tension ebbing and rising throughout the story. As we learn more about Katie along with the rest of Hope Springs, her sad history begins to explain her behavior, attitudes and fears. She soon has two admirers and much of the story is devoted to the building relationships and sometimes awkward love triangle. About ¾ of the way through he story, it becomes clear that this book is not going to end in a tidy resolution, which was about the point I realized it was first in a series.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long for the next installment, due out in spring 2014. Longing for Home is part of a new brand of romance novels by Shadow Mountain. From their website, “This new brand of “proper” romance allows readers to enjoy romance at its very best—and at its cleanest—portraying everything they love about a passionate, romantic novel, without busting corsets or bed scenes.” If their other offerings are all as well-written and engaging as Longing for Home was, this definitely will make me rethink my opinion—and my willingness to read—books of the romance genre.
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