The Heart’s Charge (Hanger’s Horsemen)

Written by Karen Witemeyer
Review by Tom Vallar

In the spring of 1894, 3-1/2 years after the horrors they witnessed at Wounded Knee, former soldiers Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks travel to Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed. These members of Hanger’s Horsemen are the perfect duo to deal with horseflesh, but when they encounter a woman ready to deliver a baby in the middle of nowhere, they are less adept. Their innate skills allow them to accomplish this feat, but when the distraught woman gives up her baby, it is sheer luck that leads them to the door of a foundling home. Their intent to leave the infant and depart is dashed when Mark recognizes the owner of the home as the woman he proposed to a decade ago in Massachusetts.

Katherine Palmer, raised in wealth, doesn’t consider herself worthy of the dashing Mark Wallace, so she devotes her life to caring for the needy. When Eliza Southerland, a mixed-race teacher, describes the home she wants to start in central Texas, Kate agrees to a partnership in which Harmony House ministers to homeless orphans. Kate can arrange care for the newborn girl, but never put aside her feelings for Mark. And Eliza is intrigued by the shy Black man, Jonah, in ways she’s never sensed before. The four must marshal all their strength to uncover why children are disappearing.

Witemeyer depicts the time period well and constructs a plausible conflict. The character interactions, however, are superficial and chaste given the initial attractions, and the action is reserved for the final confrontation. The majority of the plot is advanced through soul-searching, appropriate for an inspirational audience, but less gripping than would appeal to a more general readership.