This young adult novel is based on the events during and after the 1872 Boston Fire. Aimed at horse lovers, it’s about the fire-horses, the real heroes at a fire. But in Boston in 1872, half the fire-horses were ill, dying of distemper, making the Boston fire a real disaster.
Heroine Rachel is appealing as she struggles to be herself. Her father moves the family to Boston; Rachel’s horse has to be sold. Rachel doesn’t stop sulking until her brother becomes a fireman and involves her with the fire-horses. After the fire, Rachel helps the vet care for a badly burnt fire-horse and discovers that she wants to be a vet. In 1872 women marry and stay at home. Rachel must fight society’s expectations, but with the help of a young vet and her mother she takes the first steps.
As an adult historian, I wondered at the amount of free time Rachel had. She did very little work with her mother, and her father never used any of the usual Victorian threats and punishments to prevent her “disgracing the family” by riding bareback in skirts.