Author: Mary Connealy
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: A Western Light #1
Releases Date: February 13, 2024
Publisher: Bethany House
Her only chance at freedom waits across the horizon
Upon uncovering her tyrannical father's malevolent plot to commit her to an asylum, Beth Rutledge fabricates a plan of her own. She will rescue her mother, who had already been sent to the asylum, and escape together on a wagon train heading west. Posing as sisters, Beth and her mother travel with the pioneers in hopes of making it to Idaho before the others start asking too many questions.
Wagon-train scout Jake Holt senses that the mysterious women in his caravan are running from something. When rumors begin to spread of Pinkerton agents searching relentlessly for wanted criminals who match the description of those on his wagon train, including Beth, she begins to open up to him, and he learns something more sinister is at hand. Can they risk trusting each other with their lives--and their hearts--when danger threatens their every step?
Reviewer: Diana Lea
"That she couldn't control her words or obey her husband was all the evidence Thaddeus and Horecroft had needed to be satisfied that Eugenia was insane.”
How could such an injustice occur in our not-so-distant past? I wanted to know more. What was shared regarding the legal system and asylums of the 1860s was disturbing. I thoroughly applauded Beth’s clever escape plan. I was instantly rooting for these ladies to succeed! Following their quest for freedom via riverboat and wagon train was something I just had to do.
Mary Connelly gave us a cast of strong characters. Beth was strong, capable, and eager to learn all she could to succeed in her new life in the West. She was always alert to any possible danger, both to her group in the wilderness and to anything that might reveal her hidden identity.
Ginny was trying to flee not only the threats and violence of the past but also to be rid of those terrors that caught up with her while she slept. This really touched my heart. Thaddeus Rutledge was a character with so much evil that he easily provoked strong emotions in me. Family friend Oscar brought humor to us while he watched over Ginny on the trail and helped her learn the domestic skills her upbringing did not allow.
My favorite character was Jake Holt, a trail scout. A quiet cowboy who was observant, reliable, and knowledgeable about the ways of life in the West.
"Jake gave her a sharp look as she stumbled over claiming Oscar's brothers as her own. His eyes narrowed as he leaned close, too close, and whispered, 'Your accent slips when you're upset.' Beth pulled away from him, thinking fast. Before she could come up with some bumbling excuse, he said. 'I'm just giving you a warning. Not threatening to expose you as something you're not.'“
The story was slower-paced, relaxing, and still kept my attention. I took pleasure in learning about life in the West, right along with Beth. What I enjoyed the most were the strong bonds formed as strangers turned into friends and friends became family. So many fine characters came alongside Beth and Ginny as they strived for their new lives.
I was left a little wanting with the ending. I found myself imagining the possibilities of what could be. Maybe we will find more closure in future novels.
All in all, this book was a worthwhile read. Those who look for inspiring historical fiction could surely add this book to their reading list.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Kudos to Mary Connealy for writing a riveting story with compelling characters, an interesting plot, danger, and a sweet romance to tie it all together.
Have you ever read about a villain who was so evil you yelled at them internally and then got so mad you had to put the book down? I've read a lot of books with bad guys, but Thaddeus is by far one of the worst! You couldn't help but root for Beth and Ginny as they tried to escape his evil clutch.
A lot is going on in this book. The details of the wagon train and the difficulties they encountered were interesting and made one think about the bravery of the few souls in history who made journeys like this. The author did a fabulous job with this bit of history.
Ginny's continuing nightmares from the asylum, combined with the fear that Thaddeus was chasing her and Beth to bring them back and lock them both away, made this book hard to put down. For the most part, I enjoyed this story. However, it was the ending that threw me for a loop. It was so abrupt that it felt unfinished. There were also too many loose ends concerning Sebastian. I understand these things can be picked up in the next book, which would encourage people to be eager for the next book. I am not one of those people. However, if you like the anticipation it is a great read!
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through NetGalley for my honest review.
Reviewer: Beverly Laude
Eugenia Rutledge has spent the last three years in an insane asylum, thanks to her ruthless husband, Thaddeus. As a woman in the 1800's, all it took to be declared insane was the fact that you were outspoken in your unorthodox viewpoints (and having a fortune didn’t help matters).
Her daughter, Elizabeth, is determined to help her mother escape the horrors of the asylum. With the help of her friend, Oscar Collins, Beth decides to join a wagon train going west on the Oregon Trail. But before that happens, they have unexpected additions to their group in the form of Kat, another asylum escapee, and the mysterious Sebastian Jones.
Once the group joins up with the wagon train, Beth finds herself drawn to the scout, Jake Holt. Soon, their friendship blossoms into something more, and she has to decide whether or not she should tell him the truth about her situation. She must protect her mother at all costs, but she also wants to have a life of her own with Jake.
The author has done a great job of describing the hardships faced by the pioneers who wanted a better life in the West. There are moments of laughter, worship, and learning, but also grief and death. Beth’s desire to learn as much as she can to be independent in her new life offers a chance for the reader to learn along with her.
The book is full of hope, fear, love, and faith. It also points out the fact that a chosen family is often much closer, more loving, and more reliable than blood relations. There is plenty of action and tension in the book as the group tries to reach their hidden canyon before the ruthless, greedy Thaddeus can find them.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about life in the Old West and is also looking for a book that will give you hope in whatever situation you might find yourself in. It will also make you appreciate the conveniences that we take for granted every day.
I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Billi Varela
Mary Connealy’s book Chasing the Horizon is filled with adventure, suspense, and romance.
Beth Rutledge is such a strong character, putting so much on herself. Always wanting to learn everything to be fully prepared. And Jake! He is such a good partner for Beth. They were the perfect pair.
Honestly, it is really sad to see what women went through. Insane asylums. Granted, some women needed it, but most didn’t. The way Mary Connealy wrote this book made me feel so sorry for these women and gave me a bit of anxiety for Ginny. Always having to look behind her back, never fully feeling free. The trauma. The nightmares. Her character was so well written. The one character that needed to be locked away was the one roaming around free, ruining people’s lives.
I enjoyed the history portion of the wagon train. I have recently read a few books dealing with wagon trains, and I am pleased to have read another one. The trials and journeys these people had to take were no easy task. I loved another book about the Oregon Trail.
There was a surprise visit from two past characters! Let me just say that if you missed High Sierra Sweethearts like I have, you’ll get a little pleasant visit from two characters in that series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Kimberlee Sams
Chasing the Horizon by Mary Connealy is an excellent example of Christian historical fiction with a touch of romance. As a reader, I enjoyed all of the information about life on a wagon train traveling west, as well as the brief glimpses of what asylums of the time were like. All of this information is presented organically within the framework of the story, so it never feels like reading a history textbook.
All of the major characters are well-drawn and detailed, with enough unique characteristics to make them stand out as individuals. The most important are given enough backstory so that the reader truly understands their history and motivations. The slow-burn romance between Beth and Jake was beautifully written and completely believable. I enjoyed watching them gradually get to know and trust each other over the course of their long (and sometimes difficult) journey west.
There was also a bit of suspense in the plot. The book mainly focuses on the wagon train members and their progress, but occasionally toggles to Beth's father and his diabolical intentions toward both Beth and her mother Ginny. When the two storylines finally merge, there's definitely drama!
This is the first book in the Western Light series. While I wouldn't call the ending a cliffhanger, I would say that a few major plot points aren't wrapped up, and you'll need to plan on reading later books to find out what happens. I certainly intend to!
I received a review copy courtesy of Bethany House (a division of the Baker Publishing Group) through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Eckmeyer
This action-packed story, written by Mary Connealy, will not disappoint! Beth is running with her mother from her father, who wishes them both harm.
Their plan of escape is to board a wagon train with the help of friends. Beth meets Jake, who is the leader of the wagon train and the protector of the people.
Beth learns from going out on her own how to be independent and to survive in the West. She also learns what it means to be free. All the while, her father never gives up looking for her and her mother.
This story is intriguing and action-packed. You will cheer the characters on and feel like you are one of the characters riding the wagon train. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series, which will come out in the summer of 2024.
I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Bethany House through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Trixi Oberembt
Her only chance at freedom waits across the horizon.
I love wagon train stories, especially those that travel along the Oregon Trail! Mary Connealy is one of my favorite authors who can really write in this timeline and bring this piece of history to light.
In Chasing the Horizon, she breathes life into her characters and brings many adventures for the reader to experience. I probably would not make it even a few miles because of how long and rugged the trail was! I enjoyed getting to know Beth, Ginny, Kat, Sebastian, Oliver, Jake, and all the rest we met on the wagon train. They faced hardships, loss, endless days, and many months of travel over rugged terrain, but they also forged friendships and family ties and had a strong reliance on God to make it through each day.
Of course, Connealy added a bit of danger to spice up an already fantastic tale! Thaddeus Rutledge was the worst kind of man. He was relentless in his pursuit of Beth and Ginny and would go to any length or cost to get them back, forced or not. He’s a truly villainous villain!
All this is wrapped up in just over 300 pages. I enjoyed every one of them. I can’t wait until the next installment!
I was provided a copy courtesy of Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"They'd go and find a place beyond Thaddeus Rutledge's reach, and they'd hide for the rest of their lives."
Successfully retrieving her mother from the clutches of an insane asylum where Elizabeth Rutledge's greedy tycoon of a father had conveniently disposed of her, the two women bravely head west with a wagon train, assuming the relationship of sisters, a carefully planned ruse orchestrated by a former family employee. There was an urgency about their mission. For sure enough, Thaddeus Rutledge was pulling out every stop to find them. The two were worth a fortune.
What Elizabeth never expected to find along the journey was a man she could trust, the handsome wagon train scout Jake Holt, whose life had taken him across the country and back numerous times. Would he be amenable to finding a place to call "home," even if it meant hiding away indefinitely in order to protect the beautiful woman he had grown to love?
"Her slender waist was one of the nicest things he'd ever held."
Recording the efforts of two desperate women's hunger for freedom, this simply-told saga of "chasing the horizon" utilizes mild touches of humor and romance, generously sprinkled with unique characters and interesting historical details. A few loose ends conveniently set up the next book in the series quite nicely, and by the end of the story, every reader will be looking over their shoulder for Thaddeus Rutledge, even though the build-up fell a little flat in places.
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers through Interviews & Reviews. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.
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