Title: The Edge of Light (Book One in the Beldon Grove Series)
Author: Ann Shorey
About the book: It is the summer of 1838 in St. Lawrenceville, Missouri, and Molly McGarvie's life is about to change forever. When her beloved Samuel succumbs to cholera, Molly is heartbroken but resolves to take care of herself and her children.
When Samuel's unscrupulous brother takes over the family business and leaves Molly to fend for herself, she knows she must head out on her own. It is a dangerous journey, and along the way she must face the loss of another family member. Somehow she must find a way to make a living, restore her family, and fend off some overeager suitors.
My thoughts: We meet Molly and her family just as her husband is returning home ill - he dies within the week and leaves Molly, pregnant, and with 3 other children. Molly, knowing she has to keep things together for her children, expects to take over her husband's brickyard - but her brother-in-law shows her papers that says his brother willed it all to him if he died. Molly can't believe it, but in 1838 there wasn't much a woman could do to fight it. She sends word to her brother Matthew, a pastor in Illinois, that she needs a place to stay. Along with Dr. Karl Spengler, they travel to move Molly and her family back to Illinois. Molly is forced to leave Betsy, a friend since childhood, but also her slave, behind - again because of her brother-in-law. She vows that she will save enough money to "buy" her back and bring her to Illinois.
Tragedy strikes along the way, and Molly loses a child even as another is born. Her daughter Lily is born just after they cross the river into Illinois. Molly blames Karl for her loss, and can hardly bring herself to look him in the eye. Once in Beldon Grove Molly strives to find a place of her own and raise enough money to buy Betsy. She needs Betsy so she can go look for her lost child. She believes him to be alive, even though everyone else is sure he is dead.
Even though everything seems to be against her, I felt that Molly never gave up hope. She kept striving to take care of her family, and kept the thought that her child was still alive - even though she had to keep this to herself as everyone pretty much thought she was crazy. She eventually learns a hard lesson where Karl is concerned and learns about the value of forgiveness.
I love reading about this era in our country. I don't want to say that life was simpler, as people definitely had a lot more work - from baking bread to the way they did the laundry to plowing the fields - but the values were different. God and family were truly valued. You had what you needed and not a lot of excess. Material things didn't cloud peoples values or lives. I think this book shows how hard frontier life was, yet the riches could be very great.
Title: The Promise of Morning (Book 2 in the Beldon Grove series)
Author: Ann Shorey
About the book: Life in Beldon Grove on the Illinois frontier in the 1840's isn't easy. For Ellie Craig, the graves of her three infant children make it unbearably lonely, despite the love of her husband Matthew. When she uncovers a family secret that suggests she may not be as alone as she thought, Ellie is determined to find the truth.
Meanwhile, Matthew Craig faces controversy in the church he pastors when a man arrives in town claiming to be both a minister and the son of the town's founder. Will Matthew find the courage to reclaim his church? Or will he return to itinerant preaching, leaving Ellie even more alone than before?
My thoughts: This book picks up about 7 years after the first one ends. This time, the focus is on Matthew - Molly's brother - and his wife Ellie. They have lost 3 children in succession and Matthew feels he has lost a little of Ellie with each child. Add to that the arrival of a man claiming to be the son of the founder of Beldon Grove. He feels as if he is "entitled" to the town - that it is his inheritance. He also claims to be a preacher, which steps on the Matthew's toes as he has worked a long time to establish the only church in Beldon Grove.
As he and his wife drift further apart, Ellie makes a startling discovery about his family that causes her trust in what she knows to weaken. Matthew, no longer being able to lean on Ellie, feels he must leave his church due to certain townspeople not believing he should be a preacher. This causes him to doubt his calling and he sets out to resign. Instead he returns to being an itinerant preacher and widens the gap with Ellie, as this leaves her alone even more.
I am enjoying this series immensely and am looking forward to To Number the Stars, which sounds like it is going to focus on one of Molly's daughters.
~The Edge of Light was borrowed from my local library, but I want to thank Baker Publishing for the complimentary copy of The Promise of Morning.~
The Edge of Light
Publisher/Publication Date: Baker Publishing, Jan 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3330-8318 pages
The Promise of Morning
Publisher/Publication Date: Baker Publishing, Mar 2010