The Hope of Azure Springs
by Rachel Fordham
Narrated By: Coleen Marlo
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Date: July 2018
Duration: 8 hours 7 minutes
Genre: Christian, Historical Romance, Western
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0 Overall; Story 5.0; Narration 5.0.
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. Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance listeners back to the 1880s and the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.
Em has had a difficult childhood and youth. After the death of her parents, at age 12, she ended up on the orphan train with her 7-year-old sister, Lucy. Hoping they would be selected by a caring family, she didn’t realize that siblings would be separated. Em could do nothing when cute Lucy was selected while plain, skinny Em was left standing on the platform. Across the state of Iowa Em is finally selected by a gruff man who lives a solitary life. SHe is left to sleep in the barn, worrying about her sister and fending for herself. She learns to catch rodents just to have a meal. Em stays away from her guardian but inadvertently sees him secretly visiting a place in the woods.
Outlaws attack her guardian, killing him and shooting Em. She manages to escape and is found by people from the town of Azure Springs. A kind family gives her refuge and a home where she can heal from her injuries. The local sheriff, Caleb Reynolds, interviews the raggedy waif because it is his job to track down the murderers.
Caleb is intent on fulfilling his duties as a good sheriff and ultimately to impress his parents. Caleb takes Em to the crime scene to help him investigate. He discovers she has a playful and brave side when she accepts his challenge to climb the trees while hunting for the hidden cache. He truly wants to help Em, never realizing that his time with her will change his view of her and those around them.
Em is quick to think of others, showing love and kindness, and entertaining the young twins with stories that she used to share with Lucy. Everyone in the family cares for her gentle loving spirit, except the elegant daughter who is the same age and is hoping to gain the interest of the handsome sheriff.
Em is grateful for the family who has helped her and the sheriff who has shown such concern to keep her safe. She finds herself enjoying her time with Caleb even though she realizes that she is too plain for such a man. Em sets out to get a job to earn money for the train back to the city where her sister was ‘adopted’.
I was pulled into this character driven story from the very opening. Em is a wonderful character with a courageous, resilient and caring spirit. Caleb is also a warm, caring character. I enjoyed the friendship that grew between them and really appreciated the wisdom Caleb’s father (and others) share. Ms. Fordham does a good job in showing how the characters grow beyond their young, natural insecurities. I liked the history of the orphan train and small western town dynamics. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be anxious to get more wonderful reading from Rachel Fordham.
Audio Notes: Coleen Marlo does a lovely job with the narration. She aptly conveys the emotions and depth of the characters. This is the first audio I have experienced with Ms. Marlo but I plan on it not being the last. Her narration enhanced an already lovely story so it was a plus, plus listening experience.
Source: Audiobooks Credit April 2019. This qualifies for 2019Audiobook and my “spring” title goals.