The Secrets of Emberwild

Written by Stephenia H. McGee
Review by Michael I. Shoop

Nora Fenton is confused and disturbed by her father’s deathbed words about their lives being built on a lie. However, she quickly realizes she has worse worries. Headstrong, capable, and very determined, Nora wants to prove that she can train horses and manage her family’s farm, Emberwild, as well as any man. All her hopes are set on racing an untried colt named Arrow at the 1905 Mississippi and West Alabama State Fair, no matter that her mother and Uncle Amos are against her involvement in the colt’s training and do everything in their power to thwart her plans for racing the colt and then offering him for stud services.

Into the Fentons’ orbit comes handsome Silas Cavallero, a stranger from Texas who arrives seeking answers to his father’s death in the town some years before. Hired on against Nora’s wishes as a trainer for Arrow, Silas forms a tentative relationship with Nora that slowly grows into romance. Bonding over their mutual passion and admiration for the magnificent horse, they focus on preparing the colt for harness racing. But several dangerous incidents, Nora’s uncle’s insistence that she stay out of the horse’s training, and her mother’s attempts to marry her off, make things difficult.

McGee, with her well-paced writing, interesting characters, and historical detail, spins a delightful story of a woman’s battle for independence and a man’s search for the truth, one that includes a simmering romance, villainy, heartache, plus exciting horse racing, all connected to a beautiful but temperamental horse on which they pin their hopes for the future. Compelling and engaging, with characters to root for.