Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tamera Alexander's Within My Heart (book review)

Bethany House provided me with a review copy of Tamera Alexander's new novel, Within My Heart, which published in September. 

Within My Heart begins with a chilling prologue that won't make sense until much later, but will be significant much later in the book... don't skip it!

We are introduced to Rachel, a widow with two young boys.  She was in love with her husband, who met his demise two years prior.  She is doing the best that she can to keep her husband's ranch going, but finds herself in over her head when it comes to animal husbandry.  She tolerates the town doctor, Rand Brookston, and learns to like him more as the story unfolds when he comes to her rescue more than once and also provides care to a very close friend of hers. 

They butt heads a bit.  She has him pegged as a pompous doctor, just like her dad, and poor Rand keeps finding ways to stick his foot in his mouth to seemingly prove her opinions about him right.  However, as they work closely together to provide care for an ailing friend, she learns to see him for what he truly is  - that is, nothing like her father - and finds herself falling for the young doctor.

My Take:

I really loved this book.  In fact, I spent a whole Sunday reading Within My Heart from cover to cover.  I was introduced to this book via the author's website, when she was asking for reviewers. She had included an excerpt and I knew once I had finished it that I would definitely fall in love with the characters.

Rachel is everything I would hope to be if I had lived in the West after the Civil War.  A pioneer woman of sorts, hard working and extremely driven.  Rachel was also deeply in love with her husband and missed him terribly as she tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with her eyes on the prize and doing whatever she needed to do to make the ranch - her husband's legacy - thrive.  She accepted setbacks that came along, but kept the hope alive by finding unique solutions to the problems that plagued her ranch.  She is extremely proud and that is something that I could identify with.  She never wanted to feel that she owed somebody anything.  She paid her debts and then some.  Sometimes her pride would get in the way of better judgment - something that I am guilty of at times.  In short, I saw a lot of myself in her.

Rand Brookston, the town doctor, was a nice match for Rachel.  He has his own demons chasing him and in reality, they are both the same.  They put on a brave public front while being haunted by the past.  Yet, they persevere.  He was really a good match for Rachel because he complemented her so well.  She was the town healer before he came to town and made a great help mate to him when he needed a surgical assistant.  She understood his lifestyle because she once lived it since her father was a doctor.  She would make the perfect wife for him if she could get past her feelings toward doctors in general, having painted them all - Rand included - with a wide brush.

Within My Heart is the third book in the Timber Ridge series.  I haven't read the first two books, but I can only imagine that they are just as good or better than Within My Heart.  The story did touch on two other figures, whom I imagine were from the previous books.  However, I like that this book stood easily on its own.  Referencing past books is a nice way to let a reader know that they might enjoy reading a previous book, while not hinging the book upon knowledge that a reader who picked up the series late wouldn't be privy to.   Going back and reading the the first two books would only enhance Within My Heart, while in reality they were not required reading to enjoy this book.

Overall, I loved the book and enjoyed the characters immensely.  When I finished, I felt like there was room for the author to write another book instead of stopping at three.  I could easily see her writing a new love story, one involving a newcomer to town and a recently widowed shopkeeper...

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Within My Heart at no cost to me, courtesy of Bethany House.  Though the book was provided to me at no cost, the opinions stated herein are 100% my own.  If you are interested in reading more about this book, please click here.
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