I was fortunate to review a copy of Soda Springs, by author Carolyn Steele. I am appreciative that I took the time to review this book, for I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. I had been eyeing the book for some time, drawn in by the lovely cover. Below is my review.
Thirteen-year old, Tessa Darrow, lives a partially spoiled life on her family’s homestead in North Carolina. Her father has been off fighting in the Civil War, but when he returns, Tessa catches him burning his uniform. He quickly announces that they are taking the Oregon Trail to start a new life out west. In the rush to leave, disaster happens and Tessa quickly loses her childhood dreams. I was surprised that this was more of a western tale than a Civil War story.
The Oregon Trail is not easy on the Darrow family and tragedy strikes, leaving Tessa fighting for survival. Her father is gravely ill and they stop at the outpost of Morristown. A kindly woman of faith, Mrs. Holt, does what she can to treat Mr. Darrow’s illness. Mrs. Holt is an ex-member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and a brief history is given of a group known as the Morrisites, who split off from the church.
I did not feel that this book was preachy or pushy in any way toward a religion. I will admit that I was nervous about how much of the LDS story would be addressed. A brief history of a religious group was covered, but enough that it helped gain insight into a religion that I am not all that familiar with. The Darrows are not of the LDS faith and struggle with what is revealed to them.
Tessa is presented with several romantic interests. She faces challenges that many of us face. Does she follow love? Is she willing to settle for marriage? This book does a superb job of laying out the internal emotions that we go through as one grows and matures. The book draws the reader in and introduces characters that you can relate to, as well as paints a detailed picture of the Soda Springs area. The enjoyment in this book is in the details, and I found myself closing my eyes at times to imagine the scenes expertly described by the author.
Soda Springs is an enjoyable historical romance. There is little violence and brief kissing. Polygamy practices are discussed in conversation but not followed in the story. Tragic situations happen and trials are experienced in the characters’ lives.
This book sells for $6.99 as an ebook. I do want to point out that it is a 284-page book and is much more lengthy and detailed than a typical ebook that you might see in the historical western genre. I recommend that readers give it a try and I do not believe that you will be disappointed.
“Father, what are you doing?” Tessa whispered as loudly as she dared, fearful of waking the rest of her family. “Stop!”
“Go back inside,” he hissed at her.
She gasped in horror. “Your uniform!” Flames consumed the gray woolen coat and trousers. “Why?”
When Tessa Darrow discovers her father burning his Confederate uniform, she has no idea that his secret will take them to the wild West. But life in the West doesn’t mean forsaking the gentility of her Southern upbringing, not with the likes of William Bates and Peter Sundstrom competing for Tessa’s affections . . . This sweeping story illuminates an oft-forgotten era in LDS Church history. Filled with drama, humor, and enduring love, it’s a thrilling read for history buffs and romantics alike.
Author Carolyn Steele enjoys ferreting out obscure history and weaving it through her tales. With a career rooted in business writing, she loves researching details of her novels to ensure their historical accuracy. Carolyn works full-time writing communications for physicians then spends evenings indulging her passion for writing historical romance. Her first novel, Willow Springs, was published in 2014; her second, Soda Springs, was published in 2015. When not at the computer, Carolyn loves traveling with her husband and visiting with her children and grandchildren. In her spare moments, she traipses about with a camera in hand, and occasionally muddles through a round of golf. She dreams of one day traveling the world, photographing all of those mystical lands that beg to be backdrops for her novels.