by Deeanne Gist (Goodreads Author)Saddled with a man’s name, the captivating Billy Jack Tate makes no apologies for pursuing a man’s profession. As a lady doctor at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she is one step closer to having her very own medical practice--until she doctors an imposing man who threatens the fulfillment of her dream.
Hunter is one of the elite. A Texas Ranger and World’s Fair guard specifically chosen for his height, physique, character, and skill. Hailed as the toughest man west of any place east, he has no patience for big cities and women who aspire to walk in a man's shoes.
But the abandoned baby Hunter discovers at the Fair finds him teaming up with the good doctor to give the foundling a better future than the slums of Chicago, where the children play on flea-infested, garbage-strewn streets. AS Billy and Hunter fight for the foundling's welfare, their hearts warm to the precious child--and to each other. Soon their concern grows to encompass the Nineteenth Ward's burgeoning population of street children. In the interest of fair play, Billy and Hunter let nothing stand in their way as they labor to build a park for them, birthing Chicago's first playground and a national movement that will sweep the nation.
But the Fair is coming to an end, posing impossible decisions for Billy and the man who has won her heart. Will they become a footnote in the Fair's history books, or will what they discovered in Chicago be longer lasting than the World's Exhibition.
My Review: 9/10
Almost a year ago, I requested this book from Netgalley. I avoided reading it though, for a few reasons. I had just come off a Deanne Gist binge, the heroine sounded a lot like some of her other progressive characters (that I didn't completely get on with), and it appeared to be a sequel and I needed to track down and read the first book.
A couple of days ago, I was craving a good christian historical romantic fix, and decided to finally give it a shot, even though I'd never read the first book. Oh my goodness, I am SO glad I did. I think this is definitely the best book Ms. Gist has written, and oh- it was just. so. good.
Prepare yourself for some gushing.
Okay first, the best part- the history. This book fully transported me back in time in a way that no other book has ever done before. I had read about pretty much all of the subject matter at one time or another in other novels, but none of them ever affected me the way this book did. None of them ever really made me feel the gratitude all the way down to my toes for my ancestors, for the men and women who came before me and worked SO HARD to win the freedoms I take forgranted. Given my personality type and interests, I've always been happy to enjoy the freedom of having options and opportunities, but have also secretly believed I would have done just fine if I'd lived back then, because I don't really have the ambitions that many women today have. And maybe I would have done just fine... if I'd been born into a gentleman's family, one who loved and valued me at that. But probably not otherwise. More than likely, I would have been born into a poor immigrant family. What if I had been Alcee or one like her? I spent a lot of my time, when reading this book, imagining if I had been born into any of these circumstances, without the ability or hope to change things. The idea that one wrong move, one innocent mistake, could land a CHILD in jail at the tender age of 8, sharing utensils with disease ridden, violent, fully grown people. My daughter is 8. The horros of the jail and the judicial system hardly skimmed the surface, but I have a good enough imagination.
Also I LOVED the photos that were woven in throughout the book. So cool!
Ah, the romance. So well done. So, so well done. I loved the dialogue, really between all the characters, but especially between our hero and heroine. It was so realistic and so honest. I love it when I feel like both characters are right. I could easily understand where they both were coming from and felt they both had valid points. Simply compromising didn't seem like it would really fix anything, only breed resentment and frustration. But, over time the characters both changed, and so what they ultimately needed changed as well. I loved that the author allowed them both space from each other, to soften their hearts. I love that she allowed them to be wrong and make mistakes. I loved that she allowed them confusion, to not always know their own heart, because these are things I identify with.
I suppose I can understand how some people might have gotten hung up on flirtations, but it really didn't bother me. When a female character seems to think about nothing but kissing the male lead, I get annoyed that there is no attraction on a deeper level for her. The kissing, though intense, did not repeatedly happen, was not obsessed over, was not described in great detail and was used to bring the characters to a turning point in their relationship- was this just an attraction or were they serious about each other? As the reader, I appreciated that. It's irritating to me when characters are wishy-washy and go back and forth about what they want and what they think they deserve. I loved the fast-paced, direct approach. I wished more books did that.
Other than that, our female lead Billy Jack, thinks about her undergarments occasionally, but it was done in a way that showed her struggle of wanting to look and feel feminine but also strong and competent. She wanted to be taken seriously and respected but not have sacrifice being a woman and feeling attractive to do so. This is not smut. I'm sad that anyone got caught up on some of these minor details and missed the depth of all the moral and personal issues brought to light in this wonderful book.
Despite the heaviness of some parts of certain plotlines, there was also equal parts humor and joy. I laughed out loud at some of the things that happened, like the opening scene and then when Hunter blurted out "You're Miss Pantalets-Trousers!" HA!
The only thing that could have been improved on was the faith aspect. Though there were a few brief references to God, it seemed very subtle and vague. I wished there had been more faith building through seeking God and His plans in this book. I think if God had been given proper credit for changing their hearts and their circumstances (rather than it just being implied) it would have been an even stronger, more impactful book.
There was so much to love about this book. Don't write it off because someone else got hung up on the surface stuff.