Grace A. Johnson
Review: The Heart's Charge by Karen Witemeyer
#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile.
#2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks, one half of the infamous Hanger’s Horsemen, have found themselves in Llano County...delivering a stranger’s baby. Through an unlikely incident, war-hardened Mark and Jonah find themselves saving babies, caring for orphans, and even falling in love.
Favorite Quote: “Regrets are heavy, son. The fewer you cart around, the better of you’ll be. But when they come, and they will, remember you got a Father who will carry them for you if you let him.”
Karen Witemeyer is actually one of my first and forever favorite authors—up there with Roseanna M. White and Kristi Ann Hunter—and even though this is technically my first time ever reviewing any of her books, I have loved her for years!
Why? Well, probably because (1) her writing style is so well-balanced and yet she has such a unique voice; (2) all of her books are chock full of humor and wit; (3) her plots are always so smoothly paced, intriguing, suspenseful, action-packed, and just plain fun; (4) despite having some action and suspense in almost every single one of her books, the romance is always very well-developed and super sweet and swoony; (5) her characters are different without being outlandish, and so easy to love!
So that sums up the kind of expectations I have whenever I pick up a Witemeyer Western, I guess. (Ooh! That should totally be a genre: Witemeyer Westerns. Yep, I’mma start writin’ me some o’ those! Anyway…) I had extremely high expectations for The Heart’s Charge, both because I absolutely loved the previous book in the series, At Love’s Command, and because this time Witemeyer was full-on writing TWO romances in ONE book!
Now, I know she can do it—she’s the master of well-developed novellas that are never rushed or skimpy; and she pretty much did the same thing before in Heart on the Line with Grace and Amos and Helen and Lee. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about how much I’d enjoy this book…
That being said, I didn’t hesitate one second (I’m honestly not sure if I even read the full blurb) before picking up this book. The day I got this puppy in the mail was a glorious day for me, and I hadn’t even cracked it open yet!
I cracked it open two seconds later, though, and thanks to being down with a cold, I’d read clean through this here book by the end of the day! Definitely worth a case of the sniffles.
Anyway, enough jawing. Let’s get into all the reasons why I loved The Heart’s Charge specifically (as in, not for all the reasons why I love Karen’s fiction...those are automatically applied).
#1 I ADORED the characters. I mean, I love all of Witemeyer’s characters (except for Amos and Grace; they were definitely my least favorites), but Mark and Jonah and Kate and Eliza were just...well, adorable!
Mark was such a cutie-pie. I remember him being hilarious and flirtatious in At Love’s Command, but oh. my. word. Seeing (or reading, I guess) him care for baby Sarah and hanging out with the kiddos at Harmony House and get all flustered around Katie was just pure enjoyment for my little romantic heart.
But Jonah? Yep. Jonah was mah man. I think I loved both him and Mark equally, but there was a part of me that was (1) super excited to read about a black hero and (2) falling in love with his quiet, macho demeanor. Seriously. I does not get any better than that. (Can I just say that although I love the cover, they really should’ve gotten a different model for Jonah? I just imagined him taller and brawnier and darker and frownier and...stuff. That may’ve just been me, though.)
As for Kate, she was great. (Yes, that rhymes on purpose.) I rarely ever get too attached to heroines, and that was still the same for THC, but I did like Kate’s personality and her loving nature. It always pleases me to read about a historical heroine who actually likes children, and even more so do I love reading about characters (especially girls) who follow God’s will for their lives and seek Him in everything, no matter the sacrifices they have to make.
So, on a side note, that right there—the underlying theme of sacrifice and missions—was one of my favorite parts of this novel.
Then there was Eliza. Y’all, that woman was a hoot! Throw Jonah in the mix, and woo-wee! I guess it comes from being a Southerner (as in, being around a lot of black women with thick heads, stubborn hearts, and smart mouths), but reading about Eliza was like making a new best friend. She was so real to me, and that was one thing I really appreciated about both hers and Jonah’s characters—that they were so realistically portrayed in ways that hardly any characters are these days.
Anyway, all four of the main characters had such strong personalities and were just plain awesome. So there’s that.
#2 I guess I’ve already covered this (but then, doesn’t a five-star rating say enough as it is?), but I just want to drive the point home that, yet again, Witemeyer has effortlessly pulled off two stories and four POV characters in one average-sized novel. Her developmental skills are quite possibly the best of anyone author I’ve ever read—and that’s saying a lot right there.
#3 And here’s the point y’all have all been waiting for… I loved how racism was portrayed. I make it a point not to read stories strategically focused on racism, because seriously, y’all—I get enough of that from the news. So I’m always a wee bit concerned when going into a book with colored characters (or, shoot, even female characters—y’all know I can’t stand a feminist agenda) that the author is going to turn the story into an argument against racial injustice.
That’s all well and good for nonfiction, but I don’t read fiction for that reason. I read fiction to escape from this whacked-out world I live in. Anyway…
That’s why I loved how Witemeyer handled the issue of racism in this time. It wasn’t the main focal point, where the story was all about wallowing in self-pity, behaving as a victim, or dealing with gobs amount of hate. Instead, the story was about two individuals who persevered, made a good life for themselves, and showed love to others, no matter their race.
That right there is what I want to read—even from books about racism.
Same goes for how she tackled sexism—what with Eliza and Kate running the orphanage all by themselves. They didn’t establish an orphanage to prove themselves or cause controversy—they did it to help others and follow the Holy Spirit’s prodding—so never did they cause a stir or make a fuss about their gender or any restrictions they had because of it, you know? They were truly strong, independent women—especially considering they showed respect to their authorities, love to their persecutors, and accepted help when it was genuinely needed and lovingly offered.
So, all in all, Witemeyer did a commendable job handling these tougher subjects, for which I am exceedingly grateful.
To sum my rambling up, y’all, this is a prime piece of fiction right here. Witemeyer rarely ever disappoints! The Heart’s Charge was on-par with her best novels (but, then, aren’t they all her best?) and full of heart-pounding suspense, swoon-worthy romance, and her signature wit and humor! I simply cannot wait for the next installment in the Hanger’s Horsemen series! (C’mon, Preach, it’s time to throw your hat in the marriage ring!)
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Snag Your Copy
About the Author
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. A transplant from California, Karen came to Texas for college, met a cowboy disguised as a computer nerd, married him, and never left the state that had become home.
Winner of the National Reader's Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and a finalist for both the RITA and Christy Awards, Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She also loves to reward her readers. Every month she gives away two inspirational historical novels to someone from her newsletter list and offers substantial bonus content on her website. To learn more about Karen and her books, or to join her subscriber list, please visit www.karenwitemeyer.com.