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2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Well-Balanced Plot Makes LDS Historical Romance A Charmer

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After breaking her engagement to her righteous, but utterly predictable, fiancee, 27-year-old Julia Darling knows she needs to get out of the Salt Lake Valley.  Longing for adventure, she answers a newspaper ad written by a "desperate rancher" in Wyoming looking for a "chef of mature years" to cook for him and his ranch hands.  A graduate of Boston's most renowned cooking school, Julia certainly knows her way around a kitchen.  She ignores the "mature years" bit and accepts the position.  

Before Julia's really had time to think about what she's doing, she's packed and on a train to Wyoming.  Her new boss, a crusty rancher named Paul Otto, is startled by her youth, even though, at 35, he's not as seasoned as he made himself sound in his ad.  More concerned with his empty stomach than by the impropriety of a young, unmarried woman living on a remote ranch full of men, Mr. Otto hires Julia.  His new cook is nervous, but determined.  Until she sees The Double Tipi.  It's obvious she can't cook—let alone live—in such a wild, untamed place.

As much as she wants to run straight home to Utah, Julia's struck by how much she's needed at the dilapidated ranch.  There are empty bellies to fill, an orphan child desperate for a mother figure, and, of course, an uncouth cowboy who grows more intriguing by the hour.  It's adventure she's craving—this qualifies in spades.  But can she really survive for a year out in the wilderness, so far from her family, her friends and her faith?  She'll find out as she battles everything from rats to snakes to deadly weather to the traitorous yearnings of her own heart.

Before reading Borrowed Light, a historical romance by Carla Kelly, I'd never heard of the author, let alone read one of her books.  Which is a darn shame because, frankly, I loved this one.  It's one of those novels that has everything—adventure, mystery, romance, humor, even spirituality.  Don't be turned off by that last one because the religious aspect of the story is interwoven so well with everything else that it doesn't come off as didactic or heavy-handed.  In fact, it's that balance between all of the different story elements that make Borrowed Light so enchanting, so compelling and so thoroughly enjoyable.  It might be a little far-fetched (Would a single LDS woman in 1909 really have been comfortable—not to mention safe—living out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of men?  Would her conservative, protective parents really have given her their blessing to do so?), but I don't care, I loved this book.  And, believe you me, it won't be the last Kelly novel I read.

(Readalikes:  Captive Heart by Michele Paige Holmes; the Sarah Prine novels [These Is My Words; Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden] by Nancy E. Turner; Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner; and a little like Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of Borrowed Light from the generous folks at Bonneville Books (an imprint of Cedar Fort) via the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!
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