What a page-turner this novel proved to be! A proper lady from England, along with her maid become part of a wagon train traveling across America as they search for a missing uncle. The vivid details pulled me into the story. Although delicate, the ladies decide that they will transform themselves into strong, capable pioneer women. They learn to drive a wagon with a team of mules, make edible biscuits over an outdoor fire, and sleep on the lumpy ground.
I enjoyed watching the relationship between Lady Anne and Elise develop into friendship. I look forward to the next book in this series.
The Lady's Maid by Susan Page Davis Prairie Dreams Book 1
Lady Anne Stone has just lost her father, the Earl of Stoneford. Her cousin Randolph was ready to take the title and the fortune with it but they can do nothing until they know if her Uncle David is dead or alive. He was in America last they heard but that was ten years ago. Elise Finster is Anne's maid. She has worked for the family since she was sixteen. She now fears she will be looking for new employment. Lady Anne has a different plan though, to go to America and find Uncle David, who unbeknownst to Anne, has always held a special place in Elise's heart.
The story is focused on Elise. Her struggles to treat Anne as a friend and not use her proper titles so they do not look wealthy and become targets and to keep her mistress safe in this rough and strange country. When they run into dead ends in St. Louis they head to Independence. The only bit of information they can find sends them on the Oregon Trail with a wagon train. They hire a man to help them, unknown to them that Thomas had been hired to follow them and find out about David. Ed Bentley, called Eb, is dead set against these high bred English women going with but his partner, Rob, disagrees. As they head down the trail both Anne and Elise learn the basics of cooking, cleaning and taking care of mules, even driving them.
Susan writes in such ways that you are traveling along the Oregon trail with them, feeling the fears and frustrations as well as the joys. Seeing the beauty along the way as well.
For readers who want to immerse themselves in historical detail, this is the book for you. Davis takes the reader through the hardships of the Oregon Trail, the dangers and triumphs, the joys and sorrows, all while weaving together a love story and a mystery in the bargain. Travel along with Elise Finster and her mistress, Lady Anne Stone, as they discover inner strengths they didn't know they possessed and possibilities they never dreamed of.
Elise Finster is The Lady's Maid, having served Lady Anne Stone (and her mother before her) for twenty years. Lady Anne's father, the Earl of Stoneford, has recently died, and his heir, David Stone, was last heard from ten years ago when he was running a shop in America. Efforts to find Uncle David have been in vain, and the question of who is the new Earl cannot be settled without knowing for sure whether David Stone is dead or alive. Meanwhile, Lady Anne is left with only a small annual allowance that is not enough to maintain her lifestyle, so Lady Anne decides to travel to America to find Uncle David, with Elise accompanying her as her maid and companion.
Once in America, the ladies find evidence that David Stone rode west to Oregon ten years earlier, so they decide to purchase a wagon and mules, and join a wagon train going west. The train is guided by Mr Rob Whistler, with Mr Edwin (â€˜Eb') Bentley as the scout. They have reservations about two women travelling alone, particularly as these women are obviously ladies, and, equally obviously, have none of the skills necessary for survival in the wild. However, good fortune provides them with one Mr Thomas Costigan, who offers to drive their team, but who may not be all he appears to be_
This was a really sweet historical novel, with a growing friendship between Anne and Elise, a romance, and some suspense. The lead characters were plainly Christians, but this was not really the emphasis of the story, so the book was not in the least preachy. It has to be said that the end of the novel does not quite tie up all the loose ends, leading me to suspect that a sequel will follow. Perhaps this will also answer the question of why David Stone left England for America almost twenty years ago_ However, the end is quite satisfying for all the romantics out there. Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, even though it was quite different from Susan Page Davis' contemporary romantic suspense novels (such as Frasier Island) that I have previously enjoyed.
Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook to review.