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It’s 1855 and the story opens Texas style, big and bold with great dramatic flare. An orphanage burns to the ground from the hand of a devilish arsonist. Evelyn and Polly are the only two survivors who happen on the scene after returning in their wagon from a day away on errands. Under a full moon sky, they make a run for it thinking their only route to safety is a quick escape. As they rush enroute to a new home, we’re introduced to three other plot lines. The spotlight switches to Rufus and Winnie who mourn the tragic loss of their two children. Their daughter was taken by scarlet fever and their son by the hangman’s noose. Rufus and Winnie can’t seem to claim a foothold on level ground. Their loss is overwhelming and Rufus especially seeks healing that always eludes him. At the chapter’s close, we meet Basil Marlow, the black sheep of the Marlow family driven by greed and revenge. Basil’s first action in the story is to raise a whiskey toast to the conclusion of a dastardly deed and fire his pistol. He’ll shoot again before the story’s conclusion. Finally we meet Wyatt Clark and his mother. Wyatt is the story’s male protagonist. He’s a gem. A natural born leader with a love for raising the fastest race horses in Texas. All of this action takes place in just the first two chapters. The title of Amanda Cabot’s new book is Out of the Embers, and this story comes to life in a vibrant fashion out of these dying embers.
Cabot’s story is historically accurate. The United States was reluctant to admit Texas to the Union since Texas ranchers and cotton growers used large numbers of slave laborers. In 1855, the issue of slave labor was already causing a split in the U.S. The Mexican American War had already happened and soldiers who returned home lived with unpleasant after effects. One of Cabot’s characters is plagued by mental health problems following his battle experience.
Evelyn poses as Polly’s older sister even though Polly is a child who was just recently brought to the orphanage under dubious circumstances. Once they choose a new place to call home, they adopt new last names and carry on as sisters who always feel most at home in the kitchen. They meet many kind and generous people in Mesquite Springs. Evelyn and Polly are invited to stay with the Clark’s but Evelyn knows she must find a way to earn a living. Her exceptional baking skills give her confidence to open a restaurant. The idea is a good fit for the town and Evelyn and Polly have found a place to settle in. I thought Evelyn was a smart, independent, and courageous female leading character.
Several suitors compete for Evelyn’s eye, but she only has eyes for Wyatt. Marriage and settling down is not his goal when we first meet Wyatt, but eventually he realizes that a life with Evelyn and Polly will give him his heart’s desire.
In the middle of the story, there’s a mayor’s race. Wyatt and his childhood friend Sam are the two candidates. Wyatt pulls off a big victory which causes Sam to spiral downward. Sam follows through on some bad choices and exits the story soon after the election.
This is the second Amanda Cabot book I’ve read. I enjoyed the fast pace and well developed characters. If I had to predict what book two in the series will bring I would say I’m expecting Sam to reappear. I’m lukewarm about how he left the story. To me, he is a dark horse that will send shivers down your spine when he rides back into town.
Her leading characters were terrific with caring hearts and interesting goals. The Clark’s are the supportive family Evelyn has been longing for since her own parents died ten years ago. I look forward to all future books in the Mesquite Springs series.
I received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.