Journey of Honor, a Love Story, is an historical romance that is written by first-time author Jaclyn M. Hawkes.  It’s the story of a young man, Trace Grayson, who leaves the South and his medical career behind to travel west with his best friend, a black man named Mose. 


It’s not that he has any strong desire to go adventuring, but Trace is being pressured to marry the spoiled daughter of his wealthy, bigoted neighbor — the same man who had nearly beaten Mose to death when he was a child.  After four years of hauling freight west, he ends up in St. Joseph, Missouri, looking for one more wagon to complete the freight wagon train he and his partners own.  They are anxious to start on their westward journey before the season grows too late for safe passage through the mountains.


Finally a wagon is found, one driven by an elderly Dutch couple and their beautiful, blonde granddaughter, Mormons anxious to travel west as far as Salt Lake City in the Utah Territory.  Convert Giselle Van Komen, or Elle, has been viciously attacked by a mob and raped by the mob’s leader.  Her grandparents are anxious to move out of the reach of the mob and protect their young charge.  They are also carrying a large amount of cash from the sale of Church properties that Brigham Young’s agents were able to sell. 


Pregnant and scared, Giselle is accused by the mob leader, who has followed her and caught up to her and her grandparents, with theft.


To prevent the delay of the wagon train and being familiar with the mob leader’s bad character, Trace marries Giselle so he can claim responsibility for her.  His action not only means the wagon train can move out as planned, but also prevents her from being jailed or smuggled away by the man who wants her and the child she carries. They agree the marriage will be annulled as soon as they reach the Salt Lake Valley.


As the wagon train moves west, the man who wants Giselle trails them and causes trouble.  She and Trace draw closer to each other, and she begins placing her bedroll beside his under a wagon at night.  They just get the situation with the mobber resolved when another crisis occurs that leaves them with a Native American, who wants to buy Giselle, following the wagons.  Illness, death, and weather create havoc for the pair until the rest of the train must move on without them.  Trace becomes interested in the Church, but is turned off by some of the Church’s practices.


I won’t comment on the ending, but it doesn’t contain a lot of surprises including that the girl who was pursuing Trace five years earlier beats him to Salt Lake in a buggy — and this in 1848, just one year after the first Mormon wagon train entered the valley.


The romance in this book is pretty much what a romance reader expects, but I found the idea of a young couple in love sharing a bed and sleeping in each other’s arms for many months without ever going too far a little unrealistic.  I also found the politically correct abhorrence of blacks not being allowed to hold the priesthood out of place with historical facts of that time period.  In addition, all mention of race issues occur off stage, and the matter isn’t given enough importance throughout the book to merit making it a major stumbling block to Trace’s conversion.  


The issue of polygamy is not handled well either.  Neither point is delved into sufficiently to further the story, nor is given realistic historical weight. 


Readers of serious history will probably not be satisfied with this novel, but it has a melodramatic flair that will appeal greatly to light romance readers, beach book fans, women who are more interested in feelings or emotions than technicalities, and some western fans who love outdoor adventures.  Descriptions of places and interactions with livestock are well done, and human emotions are depicted well too.  There is also a touch of humor that will appeal to many readers.


Journey of Honor by Jaclyn M. Hawkes, published by Granite Publishing, softcover, 209 pages, $14.95