Chasing the Horizon (A Western Light)

Written by Mary Connealy
Review by Beth Kanell

Mary Connealy’s Oregon Trail adventures, in this new series debut, focus on women’s experience of white settlers crossing the American West, where the ability to manage a horse is as essential as the skills for rapidly making a sustaining meal. Trauma survivors may find the details of abuse in Beth Rutledge’s family disturbing, as Beth’s mother’s experience being confined in a brutal asylum is frightening, shocking, and readily connected to the malicious and implacable man who’s pursuing the women across the wild lands. Money and menace fuel a terrible enemy, who’ll even enlist Pinkerton agents to recover his “property” in the persons of these women.

But there are other men, compassionate ones, like Dakota, who’s making decisions for the wagon train that Beth has joined. She sees him clearly despite her previous experiences: “Beth saw the struggle on Dakota’s face. The war he waged within himself. His compassion for Maeve. His concern for Fiona… Dakota’s shoulders looked like they were used to bearing heavy burdens.” Her own concern will focus more deeply on Jake Holt, the wagon train’s scout, and on the slow and powerful attraction and respect growing between them.

Strengthened by prayer and faith, the traumatized women in Chasing the Horizon lose many of their nightmares during the efforts of crossing the country. For Connealy, veering away from her earlier humorous action Westerns into this debut of her new series, A Western Light, brings out her ability to blend historical detail with sustained emotion and romance, in a journey from abuse to trust and strength. “I’d listen if you ever wanted to talk,” Jake offers gently. The book’s suspense hangs on whether and when Beth can let her troubles be shared.