THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS
Genre: Inspirational Historical Romance
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 336
Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.
For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.
Welcome to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
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Praise for The Hope of Azure Springs:
“In her promising first novel, Fordham assembles an endearing cast of characters in the rugged Midwest plains for a tale about surviving and thriving. . . .Fordham depicts heartbreaking emotional and physical suffering, while beautifully illustrating the power in simple acts of kindness to foster healing, hope, and happiness.”
“A deftly crafted and compellingly entertaining historical romance that is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Rachel Fordham’s debut as a novelist, Hope of Azure Springs is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections.”
— Midwest Book Reviews
“With unusual charm and warmth, Rachel Fordham opens the door to Azure Springs, a place as memorable as the people who inhabit it.”
— Laura Frantz, author of The Lacemaker
“This delightful book about the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love will keep you turning pages until the very end.”
–Jennifer Beckstrand, author of A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill
“A tender story about loss, life, and the beauty that lies within each of us.”
–Stacy Henrie, USA Today bestselling author and RITA award finalist
Clueless Gent’s Rating
The Hope of Azure Springs was delightfully entertaining! It was one of those stories that you just didn’t want to see end. Billed as historical romance, this book contained the full gamut of human emotion: fear, pity (including self-pity!), pride, joy, hate, humor, and finally – love.
I think this story has a little something for everyone. If you want suspense and tension – this is for you! Raw emotion? Yup! Need action? It’s in here! Romance? What do you think?
When is a story set in nineteenth century Iowa not considered a Western? When it’s this good! When do so many little things add up to one imperfectly perfect big thing? Apparently, when Rachel Fordham tells the story!
The Characters of The Hope of Azure Springs
Nineteen-year-old Em is our lead protagonist. If you think you’ve had some hard knocks in your life, you should see things from Em’s point of view. Armed with a very original set of flaws, talents and quirks, she feels stuck in her life. However, through some serendipitous misfortune, she seizes an opportunity to begin the quest that has haunted her relentlessly for seven years.
Caleb is our co-protagonist. He’s the sheriff of Azure Springs, but I don’t think he really wants to be. Caleb’s very good at what he does. He’s tough when he has to be, but he’s also comfortable telling a fairy tale to little girls. He questions his reasons for going into this line of work.
When Em’s path crosses with Caleb’s, it’s hard to tell whether it’s a meeting or a collision. However, I’ll promise you one thing: it’ll be entertaining!
The copy I read was not a final text, so any SPAG errors are totally moot.
I think the pacing was perfect for a story in this setting; it slowed when it needed to, and it raced when evil was afoot. Where this story really shines, however, is in the character arcs! Some of these are among the best I’ve seen.
I do have a few gripes with certain things in the story, but I can’t really tell you about them without giving spoilers. Besides, even with my petty gripes, it’s such a wonderful, well-written story, let’s not take anything away from it! I think it’s incredible that this is a debut novel. Kudos to you, Rachel Fordham!
(Still deciding if you want to read it? Take a peek at the Prologue and Chapter One of The Hope of Azure Springs.)
I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.
PROLOGUE FROM THE HOPE OF AZURE SPRINGS
Em heard a man’s voice from somewhere above her. A strange thumping pulsed through her with each word he spoke. Her throat burned, screaming for water, but she could not cry out.
“There’s life in her. Not much of it though,” a second, raspier voice answered. She felt a hand press against her throat and then move over her body, gently probing. “She’s bleeding pretty bad.”
“Gunshot?” the first voice asked.
If only her eyes would open, and she could see them. Straining, she struggled to pull her heavy eyelids open. Finally, bits of light darted in front of her eyes, but she could not focus. The faces above her were fuzzy and indiscernible.
Fear swept through her, suddenly waking her battered body. Afraid the men from before had returned, she opened her eyes wide, finding strength that only moments before she had lacked. With thrashing arms, she flailed at the men. Her arms flopped about but offered little defense—she was too weak from blood loss. And then they moved no longer, subdued by large, strong hands.
“Easy, girl. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just want to help. Take you into town, that’s all. There’s a good doctor there.” The man’s deep voice sounded gentle, but still she did not trust him. Voices could be deceiving. Arms could hurt as well as help. She knew these things well.
Soon she felt her body being raised above the ground, and moments later the hard planks of a wagon became the resting place for her injured frame. Too weak to move, she lay looking at the sky, wishing there were a way to end the agony, but knowing that for Lucy she would fight on.
Once the wagon lurched forward, she lost track of everything again. The wheels bouncing over ruts made her pain so intense that everything closed around her and then faded to black.
Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. She hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.
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