May 30, 1865: During the War, I watched over too many young boys in the hospital, comforting them as they cried out for those they loved, as they whispered their final thoughts to me. Keeping a record of their names, families, and last words seemed a small tribute to their sacrifice – until the war ended, and I found a new mission in life.
I would visit the loved ones of those poor soldiers and deliver their messages so that some comfort could be found even in grief …
But Laurel Covey never expected to find a man like Creede Forrester – an ex-gunslinger who rode all the way from Texas to Virginia in the hope of finding his son and ended up saving her from a band of ruffians. It pains her deeply to tell him of his boy’s death, and she believes that in his heart, Creede blames himself for driving his son away. But there is something more to this rugged, weary man. Something that draws Laurel close to him … something she cannot resist …
Comment: I got interested in this book back in 2014 but I only got it several months ago and this month I finally decided to read it. I was hoping for a sweet historical but I was surprised by how much depth it actually had and overall the story is a bit darker than I anticipated simply because it deals with feelings not as easy or simple.
In this book we meet Laurel Covey, a war widow who used to work as a nurse in a Confederate campaign hospital. She has seen much suffering and has made a promise to those soldiers who wanted to leave a final message to someone: she will deliver those messages in person.
On the way, Laurel meets Creed Forrester, a hardened man who has lost his young son in the war and who happens to help her when she needs. Although Laurel doesn't have a message for him, he wished he could have one so he goes along Laurel for the rest of her journey to help and protect her and to eventually get home, since her messages will end there. But the journey proves quite emotional for both and they see each one has inner depths and thoughts they wouldn't expect...
This story was a good surprise because it's a story that one can read well and offers quite a range of emotions. I thought this would be a standard historical but obviously the war theme can provide a lot to be read within the lines.
It's both hard and easy to put distance between ourselves and the war situations because it happened so long ago and we weren't in there but the real life scenarios do help us create an idea of the suffering and desolation that follows a war because it's happening we today we can watch in the TV. I can only imagine what it is to be next to soldiers who have seen and suffered so much and still maintain a impassive face. I really liked how realistic Laurel seemed to me by the way she coped with all this.
Laurel is a fascinating character. She clearly suffers from PTSD but she is in a time where that concept was not even considered and it's poignant to see her struggle to process and accept what happened. She tells herself she can't feel things for anyone or anything - failing, of course - because that puts her out of control of her emotions and she fears if she keeps attaching herself, she will only suffer more. I liked her personality, I liked her way of dealing with everything because it's understandable and believable.
Creed provides a different side, he is a mourning father, he also feels as much guilt as Laurel by not having been able to stop his son's death but he is dealing with it. He feels he should help Laurel not only because he is attracted to her as a woman but because she is doing something he can understand, morally.
I think the relationship between these two was consistent and believable, considering the things they were going through so that made the story feel more appealing. However, it was a little bit awkward how they seemed confident in one another after knowing each other for such a short amount of time. This is a minor aspect because the plot is complex enough to engage the reader and only by picking can the reader complain. The way things progressed between them was also well done, I think, because they only start to admit stronger feelings towards the end of the book. I also liked the HEA, how hopeful it was without being too sugary. It was an HEA made of promises, some more obvious than others, but still positive.
The plot isn't complicated to follow, Laurel's idea is commendable and beautiful to try. Some people liked hearing what she had to say, others not, some places were welcoming, others not, but the idea was there and it was done in my opinion.
It was also interesting to have (and learn) some details about the civil war. From a foreign POV, it was interesting to have some things explained in a manner that was part of the story but not there just because of it.
All in all, this was a nice read. Some parts weren't as captivating, there were some scenes I wasn't as focused, so they seemed to lack some impact but as a whole, this was a good story.