Civil War widow Della Ward has found a refuge of sorts on a Texas farm. Determined to eke out an existence, she gamely supports herself in the stark landscape, admitting that her one agricultural achievement is raising splendid but useless pumpkins. The arrival of James Cameron, her late husband’s comrade-in-arms, is a reminder that Della sent a harsh letter when Clarence Ward faced his final battle, back when she was young and pregnant, a Yankee living uncomfortably in the South, under the thumb of domineering, disapproving in-laws.
Cameron, a lawman famous for his deadly pistols, has a mysterious air and more than a few secrets. When he learns that Della has a daughter, Claire, whom she forcibly left to the care of the Wards, he agrees to escort her to Atlanta for a reunion. The couple cross the Western lands, first on horseback, making camp in long grueling stages, then by train. The journey is one of discovery for both, of endurance, and an opportunity to put the past in perspective.
The characterization and atmosphere are first-rate; the motivations and backstory are sometimes muddled. While the outcome of Della’s and Cameron’s yearnings is hardly in doubt, and the revelation of young Claire’s fate seems contrived, this is a satisfying historical romance from a seasoned author.