Eden Lee’s tyrannical father is determined that his new apprentice, Silas Ballantyne, will marry one of his daughters. The family assumes it will be bold, beautiful Elspeth, whose illegitimate child is being passed off as her mother’s son. Timid, quiet Eden deplores the deception but does not want to marry; she has other plans, and soon learns that Silas too has ambitions beyond a blacksmith’s trade.
Love’s Reckoning is the first of a series tracing the Ballantyne legacy down through several generations, and as such has quite a few storylines to set up. This is well done, with plenty of twists and threads to lead into future novels. The late 1700s Pennsylvania setting is convincingly rendered, although I personally prefer that the author not rely on “’twas,” “mayhap,” and other such ornamental flourishes to remind the reader that we are not in modern times.
Occasional writing quirks could have been picked up at the editing stage. The words “nearly” and “winced” are overused, generally in combination, and some phrases struck me as odd (“with a flurry of her hand”). There are some misplaced modifiers, and I struggled a little with the timeline, which at moments seems vaguely defined.
My biggest issue with this story, however, is that the good characters are too overwhelmingly wholesome, while the bad characters are unremittingly unpleasant. I would have liked to see more nuances, especially in the case of Elspeth, who would benefit from some vulnerability.
The Christian elements are handled with subtlety and grace, making this novel a good candidate to succeed with a secular readership. Love’s Reckoning has greater depth than a straightforward romance, and promises well for an interesting series.