In this second book in Bateman’s Westward Hearts trilogy set in 19th-century America, ex-prostitute Toni Rodden has joined a wagon train heading to Oregon, where the 22-year-old Toni hopes to make a living as a seamstress and to put her miserable past far behind her. As the settlers make their way west, Toni and her fellow travelers must cope with increased danger and tension, from forces outside and within, while Toni continues to struggle for acceptance—and with her feelings for Sam Two-Feathers, the wagon train’s handsome scout.
Bateman vividly depicts the hardships and challenges faced by the pioneers, though there’s a welcome note of understated humor now and then. Her characters, particularly the romantic leads and Ginger, a tough-talking, gun-toting young newcomer to the wagon train who befriends Toni, are well realized. In these characters, Bateman brings to life a slice of American history that’s usually relegated to a few lackluster paragraphs in grade-school textbooks.
It probably helps to have read the first novel in the trilogy, Defiant Heart, but this fine inspirational novel stands well alone as well.