Beloved Hope (Heart Of The Frontier #2), by Tracie Peterson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Although I do not read many romance novels in the course of my voluminous devouring of volumes of material, from time to time romance novels do cross my path, and this is the second one by the author that has done so . Given the generally high quality of romance novels that I read, I have to admit that this is the second time I have been disappointed by a Tracie Peterson novel. Simply because someone has written dozens of novels does not mean that their novelists are pleasant even to audiences that might be receptive to historical romances, in this case dealing with the Pacific Northwest in the area in and around Oregon City. This is, it should be noted, an area I know well, and this novel, like the preceding one, hit close to home. Perhaps it hit a little too close to home, as this novel features a sympathetic heroine in the PTSD-afflicted Hope, and her mysterious and decent and reluctant beau. Although the couple themselves worked out well, I just did not really enjoy this novel. The framing of the story and most of all, the heavy-handedness of it, kept me from getting in the story, as I kept on getting pulled out of it my my irritation with the author.
At its heart, this is a novel about divine providence. It features three orphaned sisters, who are adapting to life in Oregon City in the 1850’s. The novel is set after the previous one, when the resumption of peace has led to some of the Cayuse to be tried for the crimes of rape and murder in the sack of the Whitman mansion. Hope, as a survivor of rape from one of the accused, is asked to try and finds herself unable to. Much of the novel deliberately keeps the hero and heroine apart, and forces characters to wrestle with honesty and moral courage before the inevitable ending. All of the barriers to happiness in this novel–Hope’s PTSD, Grace’s pregnancy and struggle with cholera, Alex’s wounds from a bear attack, and so on–seem rather contrived, which is a fatal mistake in a novel that depends a great deal on the reader putting up with the most dramatic events being “off-screen,” as it were. The dramatic events of the book are not shown, but told, and when they are told in such a heavy-handed way that serves the agenda of the author and not the pleasure of the reader, a great deal of the enjoyment of reading a novel is lost. If I wanted to read a narrow-minded examination on divine providence or theodicy, there are any number of books I could read, some of which I already have given my own personal struggles with the aftermath of trauma. I expect novels to be written with more grace and tact, and the author was not up to the task here.
During the novel, there are numerous occasions where characters are given the chance to avenge themselves on those who are tormenting them, and respond with a great deal of restraint. Unfortunately, even those readers who have a strong belief in divine providence will find the conflation between divine providence and authorial providence to be off-putting and irritating. At least I did. All of the action of this novel made it at least possible that there will be a third novel set in a couple of years after this one where Oregon is on the verge of statehood where Mercy, the annoying but bright third child, finds a suitable husband for herself after dealing graciously with a land-hungry and overly persistent would-be young lover here. Perhaps at least a bit of my frustration at this book is at the disconnect between the author’s providence for her schizoid PTSD heroine and the distinct lack of providence in my own life. It is hard for me to cheer on the romantic bliss of someone who stands on ground very close to my own when I look at my own state. Novels should not be written to mock their readers, but rather to encourage, and this novel just does not satisfy this reader, even if it has many pieces that would make a good novel in more talented and compassionate hands.
 See, for example: