When Radford Grayson comes home after spending years away from his family, he doesn't get the warm reception he expected and tries to resist the overwhelming attraction he feels for his brother's fiancee. Radford is a former Union soldier who fought in the Civil War. In 1871, he returns to his hometown of Fredonia, New York with his four-year-old daughter, Rebecca. He wants to be reunited with his three younger brothers and help them operate the family's lumber mill business.
Radford's ex-wife, Olivia, left him and Rebecca to continue pursuing a career as a ballerina. Radford used to have a job with the railroad that required him to travel a lot. He hired nannies to watch his daughter while he was out of town. One of the nannies abused Rebecca and he was hoping that his family could provide a stable environment for her.
When Radford arrives in Fredonia, he sees that the lumber mill has grown substantially and his brother Kyle is in charge. Radford's other brothers, Duke and Boyd, are excited to see him, but Kyle is afraid that Radford will try to take control of the business now that he's back home.
In order to keep Radford away from the lumber mill, Kyle suggests that Radford help his fiancee Evelyn run her family's livery. Evelyn's father, William, fought with Radford in the Civil War and is too incapacitated to help with the livery. Evelyn and Kyle have been best friends their entire lives and plan on getting married in a few months.
Radford always thought of Evelyn as a tomboy, but now he sees her as a strong and attractive woman. Even though Radford would prefer to work with his brothers at the lumber mill, he agrees to work at the livery with Evelyn. He will also live with Evelyn and William in their home.
While Radford and Evelyn spend a lot of time working together, they get to know each other better and find it difficult to resist the attraction between them. Evelyn also gets to know Rebecca and becomes emotionally attached to the little girl. Rebecca starts to trust Evelyn and begins to get more comfortable with the other family members as well.
Radford suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has nightmares about the Civil War. Evelyn suggests that he gets help, but he believes that he can handle it on his own. Radford tries to relax by going out and getting drunk with his brothers. When he returns home, he sees Rebecca and they kiss. They both feel guilty afterwards and try to stay away from each other as much as possible.
When Radford visits the lumber mill, he overhears Kyle telling the other brothers that Radford isn't entitled to have a portion of the business because he didn't help them when they were on the verge of losing the family business. Kyle is also resentful towards Radford because he wasn't able to pursue a law career and had to run the lumber mill when Radford left town after the Civil War ended. Radford is deeply hurt by Kyle's comments and informs his brothers that he will give up his ownership stake in the lumber mill.
After kissing Radford, Evelyn realizes that she doesn't have passionate feelings for Kyle. When Evelyn tells Kyle that she doesn't want to marry him and only thinks of him as a friend, Kyle gets upset and runs off.
Evelyn tells Radford that she broke off the engagement with his brother and they proceed to make love. Kyle finds Evelyn and Radford as they are putting their clothes back on and starts fighting Radford. William helps Evelyn break up the fight between the two brothers.
William's health starts to deteriorate further. He knows that Evelyn and Radford are in love. William tells Radford that he should follow his heart and take care of Evelyn. He also says that Radford needs to reconcile with Kyle. When William dies, Evelyn is inconsolable.
Radford confides in Evelyn about some of the painful experiences he went through in the war. He is filled with shame because he deserted his regiment during their first battle. When he saw that they were flanked by Confederate soldiers, he returned to warn them. Radford had a hard time killing men and seeing his friends die.
Evelyn and Radford have a small wedding ceremony in front of family and friends. They are surprised when Kyle shows up at the reception. Kyle wants Radford to remain a partner in the lumber mill along with the other brothers. Kyle tells Evelyn that he wants her to be happy. Radford and Evelyn are excited about beginning their lives together as a married couple.
Best part of story, including ending:
Even though the North won the Civil War, Radford's story shows that everyone who fights in a war suffers to some extent. The book focuses on how Radford tries to become a whole person again and his attempts to create a safe and loving atmosphere for his daughter.
Best scene in story:
When Radford finally realized that he needed to release the burden he was carrying and confided in Evelyn, it was a turning point for the character.
Opinion about the main character:
Radford Grayson is an emotionally wounded man who is doing the best that he can to take care of his fragile daughter. Even though Radford's actions hurt Kyle, his character is written in such a way that the reader feels empathy for him and everything he is going through.
St. Martin's, Jun 2002, 6.50, 320 pp.
In 1870, Radford Grayson knows his fearful four-year-old daughter Rebecca depends on him, but guiltily he always has let her down, but vows not to this time. Knowing he needs the help of his estranges family, he returns to his hometown of Fredonia, New York desperate to provide a nurturing environment for his motherless child. He promised the youngster never to leave her again as even a few seconds apart mean apprehension and resignation of being abandoned for the frightened lass.
The first person he sees upon reaching the family saw mill is childhood friend Evelyn Tucker dressed in breeches. Evelyn is engaged to Radford's brother, Kyle, the dependable sibling. However, first Rebecca and then Radford reach her heart as she falls in love with the woe-some twosome. Father and daughter reciprocate her feelings, but her close friend Kyle is his sibling and her fiancÚ leaving any relationship between them potentially destroying a delicate balance of a fragile little girl.
This powerful Reconstruction Era romance will remind readers of Elvis' Love Me Tender . The story line is loaded with passion and emotion, at times quite overwhelming for the audience, as guilty consciences, silent accusations, and pointed recriminations cause frictional relationships. The cast makes award winning Wendy Lindstrom's tale into a triumph for Americana historical romance readers who relish a character study that hopefully leads to sequels set in Fredonia.
The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner