Five Star, Aug 31 2009, $25.95
In 1872 in Cincinnati, Ohio, her stepfather Karl Schussman informs Hannah Morris that she will marry Widower Wilhelm Hessler, a church elder with three offspring. Although she loathes leaving her mom behind with this martinet, Hannah boards the train to St. Louis to meet her beloved Lucas Bowman, a bi-racial son of a former slave raised in Paris where he became a physician.
They join a wagon train to California with Lucas pretending to be Hannah’s servant. However, in the Colorado Territory, Lucas saves the life of child bitten by a snake. The lad’s mother is extremely grateful while the father is outraged that a person of color touched his son. Hannah and Lucas are forced to leave the wagon train at night during a driving rain. They are fortunate to meet homesteaders Alma and Adam who help them settle in the farm next door. When the circuit judge arrives, the couple marries and over the next few years seems happy raising their children. However, when an angry Southern racist is murdered; just before dying he accuses Lucas of killing him to the sheriff. Lucas is arrested and stands trial.
Although the last chapter seems unneeded tying all the loose threads of what happens to everyone, the audience will relish this super Reconstruction Era bi-racial romance. The Civil War is over, but the prejudice remains the same as educated physician Lucas has to pretend to be a servant and is in trouble for saving a white boy’s life. Hannah is a strong individual as is Lucas. Readers will relish their efforts to build a life together in an America that may have legally freed the slaves, but economically and socially keep blacks apart and beneath the whites. Barbara Fleming provides a strong historical fiction tale.