Small, nothing-nowhere, towns play a prominent role in two new novels by LDS authors. Carolyn Steele sets her historical romance Soda Springs in a frontier Idaho town of the same name consisting of about fifteen families who broke away from the Mormon church in Salt Lake, then underwent differences with their new self-proclaimed leader. When he moved on, they remained behind. Jennifer Griffith’s Asked and Answered is a romantic comedy set in contemporary Bisbee, Arizona, a former mining town, now desperately trying to attract tourists by exploiting tales of past residents rumored to be ghosts still hanging around the hotel and various businesses.
SODA SPRINGS by Carolyn Steele
Tessa Darrow is appalled to discover her father burning his uniform. He refuses to talk about it, but insists the family get ready to follow the Oregon Trail west. The trip from North Carolina west is harrowing and when they finally reach a tiny town in Idaho called Soda Springs, Tessa’s father is ill with smallpox, her mother and sister have passed away, and the rest of the wagon train has gone on without them. The motherly widow who runs the small general store/trading post takes pity on them, allowing them to move into her woodshed behind the store and even helps Tessa nurse her father. By the time he recovers it is too late to travel on to Oregon before winter sets in.
William arrives in town and is greeted with hugs and tears by Mrs. Holt, the woman who took them in. They’re surprised when he calls her “mother.” And even more surprised when he refers to Mrs. Holt’s sister as “Ma.” As they untangle confusing relationships, they learn about polygamy and the awkward relationship between the disaffected Morrisites and the Mormons.
Tessa has never experienced anything before like winter in the small town in the Idaho mountains. Attraction grows between her and William, but the obstacles in the way of a happy ever after for them seem insurmountable. She isn’t sure of his feelings and she can’t leave her father to go on to Oregon alone. When William leaves for Salt Lake, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see him again. The low key romance between Tessa and William isn’t the only romance in the story. There is another one that will also delight readers.
The setting and background surrounding this story are presented as a vital and essential part of the story and are handled superbly. Steele takes a little known aspect of the western migration and a splinter break-off group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and shows their motivation, hardships, and mixed feelings without harsh recriminations. She shows a first-hand knowledge of the weather, plants, wildlife, and terrain that controlled so much of life in those early settlement days. She shows too the interdependence of the people and the pleasure of simple experiences and entertainments. History buffs will find much to enjoy in this novel.
Professionally Carolyn Steele is a business writer, but she loves historical research and indulges this interest in producing historically accurate novels in her spare time. She loves ferreting out obscure historical details. She and her husband love to travel, especially when that travel includes visiting their four children and thirteen grandchildren.
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SODA SPRINGS by Carolyn Steele, published by Bonneville Books an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc., 264 pages, soft cover $13.33. Also available for e-readers.
ASKED AND ANSWERED by Jennifer Griffith
Asked and Answered is the second book in Jennifer Griffith’s Legally in Love series. Becca is only eighteen and a college freshman when she falls madly in love with Carson, who is a little older and headed for law school. She suspects he’s about to propose which both thrills and panics her at the same time. While getting her hair done her hairdresser suggests a few little tests to determine compatibility before she commits herself to marriage. Becca tries the tests and gets all the wrong answers which sends her running in a panic when Carson presents her with a diamond ring. He’s crushed and doesn’t understand what happened. Seven years later they meet again in the small town where Becca was raised by her grandmother, but this time they’re legal adversaries representing different sides of an important court case. Becca soon realizes she still loves Carson and does everything she can think of to get him out of her head and heart. Carson, though a smooth talking, handsome attorney who has a way with juries can’t get Becca out of his thoughts. Not even the ghost who supposedly haunts his hotel room can distract his thoughts from his former love-nor can the boss’s daughter whom he’s almost engaged to.
The characters in this book are a little exaggerated, but fun. The whole book is fun. The villains especially are delightfully black-hearted. The leading couple are remarkably naive. The grandmother is a first class manipulator. Becca’s secretary is almost as accomplished as the grandmother at manipulating. Becca’s “boyfriend” plays the hayseed very well, but is much smarter than he first appears. The persistent hotel concierge is one of the funniest characters in the story and Carson’s legal assistant keeps his eye on what’s most important–his own career. The ghosts don’t get to do much of anything but hang around in the background as an enticement to lure tourists to a town with no other attraction other than being a few degrees cooler than Tucson. Anyone who wants to put aside the outside world, relax and laugh, is going to enjoy this one.
Jennifer Griffith has published ten novels. Her unique sense of humor has garnered a great deal of praise for her work and her book Big in Japan has received considerable recognition. She is married and the mother of five children. She is an active member of ANWA.
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ASKED AND ANSWERED, LEGALLY IN LOVE SERIES BOOK 2 by Jennifer Griffith, self published, 308 pages, soft cover $12.99. Also available for e-readers.