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A Hopeful Heart
Dowryless and desperate, Tressa Neill applies to the inaugural class of Wyatt Herdsman School in Barnett, Kansas, in 1888. The school’s one-of-a-kind program teaches young women from the East the skills needed to become a rancher–or the wife of one. Shy and small for her twenty-two years, Tressa is convinced she’ll never have what it takes to survive Hattie Wyatt’s hands-on instruction in skills such as milking a cow, branding a calf, riding a horse, and cooking up a mess of grub for hungry ranch hands. But what other options does she have?
Abel Samms wants nothing to do with the group of potential brides his neighbor brought to town. He was smitten with an eastern girl once–and he got his heart broken. But there’s something about quiet Tressa and her bumbling ways that makes him take notice. When Tressa’s life is endangered, will Abel risk his own life–and his heart–to help this eastern girl?
Awkward and clumsy Tressa Neill is devastated when her socialite aunt sends her west to Kansas in 1888 to attend a new school that trains young ladies to be wives to hardworking ranchers. But Tressa soon finds that she is quite handy at practical matters under Mrs. Wyatt’s firm but sympathetic tutelage, and that Mrs. Wyatt’s staunch faith bolsters her self-confidence and leads Tressa closer to God. Solitary Abel Samms, struggling to keep his ranch despite significant losses he suspects are due to rustlers, soon becomes Tressa’s good neighbor, protector, and mentor despite his unhappy past with another Eastern woman. And he finds his own faith renewed as he observes Tressa’s struggle to believe. Sawyer’s plain-spoken historical and inspirational coming-of-age romance capitalizes on the resurgence in popularity of bride-train experiences on the American frontier, and offers a unique perspective on the herdsman’s schools established on the prairie.
Booklist, June 1, 2010
In 1888 New York, Tressa is a well-bred young woman without means. Her aunt and uncle have given her a home since her parents died, but they cannot (or will not) provide the dowry required for her to marry. When Tressa’s would-be-fiance decaps, they send her to school to find a husband–out West. As a student at the Wyatt Herdsman School in faraway Kansas, Tressa gives it her best. The days are long, the work is hard (and so are the other girls), but she loves riding, learning to cook, and Abel, a wary young rancher. Jilted by a squeamish Yankee woman once, Abel stays away from Tressa at first. She’s no tenderfoot, however, as Abel soon discovers. When raiders, horse thieves, and false friends threaten Abel’s livelihood, he and Tressa overcome all odds together. A Hopeful Heart has winsome characters, an interesting premise, and a heavenly match made on earth. This will not satisfy readers looking for depth and complexity, but fans of inspirational romance novels will not be disappointed.
Historical Novels Review, Issue 54, November 2010