Author: Rachel Fordham
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Where you come from matters far less than where you're going
Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory. In the shadow of the Black Hills, she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid--despite being only twenty-four. But the past has a way of catching up with people.
When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie's pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves--but he is precisely the one person who can never know.
Can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can't seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?
Reviewer: Marta Aldrighetti
Agnes Pratt lives a good life with her parents. Suddenly, she decides to leave and accept a teaching job in Penance, Dakota Territory. She didn't say goodbye to her best friend and wealthy neighbour, James Harry, who loves her deeply.
In Penance, life is hard because she is a woman and alone. She has no relatives nearby, nor a husband or brother, she must support herself.
This was an adventurous, curious and lovely story, with miners, loggers, hardworking and straightforward people. I loved it!
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell and NetGalley, through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Raechel Kelly
What a sweet and touching story! This was my first book to read by Rachel Fordham but I've loved following her on social media, and seeing her heart for children pour over into her work is so touching.
A Life Once Dreamed is beautifully written, and the characters so beloved. I loved getting to know each one of them. Agnes and James' history played out through the pages at a great pace, and I really enjoyed seeing the whole story unfold.
When I was in my teens, I read a book called "Hattie Big Sky" about 4 or 5 times. A Life Once Dreamed gave me feelings of that book, which honestly bonded me to it all the more. While they're not super similar stories, they reminded me of each other, and since HBS has always been such a beloved book in my younger years, finding this one felt like such a treat.
There were a couple parts that had me tearing up. It was just all so well-done, and beautiful.
I loved Sam! Like, wow. What an amazing character. I definitely hope he is getting his own story! All in all, a very lovely book, and I am now even more eager to catch up on the author's previous works!
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group (Revell), through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Connie Porter Saunders
This is such a lovely book, and it definitely convinced me that Rachel Fordham is an author that I need to follow.
A Life Once Dreamed is set in 1880 in the Dakota Territory. Fordham paints a vivid picture of Penance's small mining town, with its one-room schoolhouse, saloon, and the rugged men and strong women who live there. Agnes "Aggie" Pratt is a teacher who truly loves her students, and she has made a huge difference in their lives. Still, she's resigned herself to always being their "spinster school teacher." It is when the new doctor arrives that Aggie realizes her future may be forever altered. James Harris is a man from her past who stirs up feelings that she had tried to bury, and Aggie finds herself wondering, "What if?" as her neat, tidy life is turned upside down!
I loved learning about the Aggie and James as they once were, and I enjoyed seeing how they had changed over the six years they were apart. Some other characters add so much dimension to the story: the irrepressible student Tommy Smith, who can't understand why Aggie is an old maid, Hannah and her daughter Ruby, and of course, baby Freddie. Not to mention Sam, who grabbed my heart and left me wanting another story just for him!
A Life Once Dreamed is a tale of sacrificial love, second chances, and a sweet romance that all of us would like to experience. There is also the mystery behind Aggie's decision to leave her affluent life in Buffalo and an inspiring faith message woven throughout the story. If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian romance, you will want to read this book!
This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Joan Dowell
This is the first book I've read by Rachel Fordham. I took it on an eighteen hour drive to visit my new grandbaby. About nine hours in I was on my phone looking this author up and seeing what other books I could read next.
The characters in this book were delightful and the story line was well thought out. Fordham intertwined the characters past and present in such a way that held your attention with every turn of the page. This is truly a must read.
I received this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews & Reviews for my honest opinion.
Reviewer: Mindy Houng
"Because I don't know what's ahead and neither do you. But when we get there, to whatever it is that is next, we have to be ready to welcome it, not scrambling to catch up."
This is my first book by Rachel Fordham and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read one of her books! What a sweet historical romance full of second chances and adventures in the untamed territory of the west. The author's writing style is easy to follow and she will naturally lead you into the heart of Penance, Dakota Territory where you'll root for the success of the town and the people who make up the growing town. If you enjoy historical romance set in the west, you will definitely enjoy this book.
Aggie is a spunky, independent, stubborn, compassionate schoolteacher who fled her wealthy lifestyle back East to devote herself to teaching the children out west. She has a secret and a great love from back home she's fleeing from. James, her next-door neighbor from Buffalo and her almost-fiance, comes to Penance to reclaim their love while serving as a doctor in a community desperate for medical help. I enjoyed how Aggie and James both grew emotionally and spiritually during the book. Aggie learns to trust more in the sovereignty of God and James learns what true, sacrificial love means. My favorite character, though, was Sam - a lovable, down-to-earth, plain-spoken logger who is sweet, tender, thoughtful, and honest about his dreams and heartbreaks.
I received a copy of the book from Baker Publishing Group (Revell) and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
Reviewer: Nicole Wegscheider
Rachel Fordham’s book, A Life Once Dreamed is a captivating story about Agnes Pratt’s mysterious departure from her social life in Buffalo, New York in 1880. She suddenly leaves important people — her family and the love of her life, to accept a teaching position in Penance, Dakota Territory. What is her motivation?
I enjoy the theme that new environments provide new opportunities for growth. In the beginning, Agnes was a timid, reserved woman who grows into a bold, connected and strong woman. She arrives in Penance as a newcomer with so much to learn and she evolves into a valued and well-respected member of the community.
The mystery begins to build upon the arrival of the new doctor, James Theodore Harris to Penance. He is a handsome and well-dressed man. Agnes is shocked to see James. They have met before. Agnes carries a heavy burden. The mayor asks Agnes to introduce the doctor to each member of the community.
I also liked the idea that there are life changing moments. Agnes discovers that she has a love for a baby boy abandoned in a saloon fire. Her decision to keep the child dramatically changes the course of her life. What will she do?
A serious circumstance suddenly manifests. It impacts the entire community. Due to the great needs, James and Agnes provide their best support. As a result, they discover fascinating things about themselves and each other. It is fascinating to follow these discoveries.
In this story, I really appreciate the value and importance of a promise. James is a great example of a person who values a promise. What is the promise? What does he do?
Rachel Fordham’s book is a page-turner that I would highly recommend.
I received this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Revell, through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: June McCrary Jacobs
A unique historical romance written by Rachel Fordham . . .
This story is set in the Dakota Territory beginning in the mid-1870s. Eighteen-year-old Agnes Pratt has left her warm, loving home in Buffalo, New York, to take a job as a schoolteacher in the small town of Penance. For reasons known to her parents, Agnes flees the only life she's ever known to venture out on her own and to support herself by teaching in a one-room schoolhouse.
The supporting characters in the story, particularly Aggie's friend, Hannah, are amazing women. They work hard to put food on the table for their families, raise their children, and reach out to their friends and neighbors in times of crisis and need. The citizens of this small town pull together on many occasions to make a positive difference for members of their community as well as newcomers to their town.
Aggie's best friend from Buffalo, James Harris, arrives on the scene to become the town's physician. The two have not seen each other or communicated for six years, and there are many awkward scenes between the two of them as they try to redefine the boundaries and guidelines for their new relationship. Many misunderstandings ensue throughout the novel because of Aggie's reluctance to open up to James about why she left her Buffalo home in the first place.
The book includes a strong Christian faith thread throughout the entire story. Prayer is mentioned frequently and is practiced by the lead character on many occasions. I appreciated the manner in which Aggie felt that certain events which occurred in her life were God's way of calling her to act on His behalf in situations involving other individuals, including babies and children. Aggie was a loving, kind, compassionate woman whom I would be pleased to have as my friend. She was accepting of people's differences in a manner in which many people in the town and during that time period were not.
When I reached the end of the story, I was delighted to read the Epilogue which gave us a peek into the lives of the main characters eleven years on. I felt that the Discussion Questions included at the end of the book were high-quality and would lead to many valuable interactions to a book group.
I recommend this book for fans of Christian fiction, Christian historical fiction, and Christian romance.
This book was provided courtesy of Revell Publishing, through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"This was her life. Colorful and simple. Comfortable and predictable."
But did it always have to be that way? For, forever is an awfully long time.
Agnes Pratt left her former life behind, including all of its comforts, following a heartbreaking discovery and a long anticipated proposal. Now Aggie spends her days behind a desk in a one room schoolhouse, tucked away in the Dakota Territory mining town of Penance, where no one from Boston could possibly find her. Until he did.
Dr. James Harris could never figure out why his beloved ran away without a trace. Aggie had never even said good-bye. When he learns that the people in Penance desperately need a trained physician, James knows in his heart that he and Aggie have been given another opportunity. If only she believed the same.
This second-chance-at-love story includes numerous pitfalls, for we all know that secrets distort the very truths they seek to hide. In spite of a good number of stops and starts, coupled with some fairly awkward conversations, the plot finally zeroes in on one critical truth; every life has significance, for "the least of these" should not be judged on their beginnings, but rather afforded every opportunity to be loved unconditionally until their end. Readers will appreciate this author's ability to write a sweet, satisfying story.
I received a copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group/Revell through Interviews and Reviews.
Reviewer: Anna Bottoms
What a beautiful story of sacrificial love, friendship, and promises kept. This story was well written with a diverse variety of characters that came to life on the pages. Each one added to the overall story, and showed the great value of community.
I loved watching Aggie and James as they overcame the hurts of their past, and found their way back to each other. Each of them grew in character as they faced the challenges of living in a frontier town.
Sam was one of my favorites, offering himself without expecting anything in return. I would love to see the author give him his own story.
I found this book to be a unique and exceptional example of writing a convincing historical romance that drew me in with the depth and feeling displayed in the characters. Well worth the read, I highly recommend this book.
I received an ARC from Baker Publishing Group through Interviews and Reviews and this is my honest opinion of this work.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Rachel Fordham once again delivers on intrigue and romance in her latest offering, A Life Once Dreamed.
Aggie Pratt has been gone from her hometown of Buffalo for six years. She settles in the town of Penance, which, as the story plays out, is an appropriate name for people who are running away from something. Her childhood friend and former fiance, James, tracks her down after six years for two reasons: finding out why she left and becoming the primary doctor to the people of Penance. And with that, the story is off and running, but a surprise waits just around the corner.
I love how the author weaves themes into her books without being overly preachy. In this case, I found several different themes running through the book. Unfortunately, if I tell you what they are, it will spoil the book for you. So, you'll have to read it! Suffice it to say that both Aggie and James grow and change for the better.
The only thing I found somewhat annoying was how long it took for Aggie to reveal her secret. It dragged on far too long for my tastes and left me frustrated and starting to dislike the character. But, the big reveal couldn't have come at any other time. I realized that the moment I read it. It was perfect.
One more thing, the character of Sam! I could just die right now. Please Rachel, make your next book about him!
If you love historical romances, you will definitely love A Life Once Dreamed—a fitting title to an excellent book.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Revell Publishing, through NetGalley, for my honest opinion.
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