First off . . . I cannot say enough nice things about this book.
I loved all of Karen’s previous books, but THIS one tops them all, in my opinion. I will try to refrain from extreme gushing and will attempt to make sense in this review. As the heroine, Charlotte Atherton, would likely point out, a rational argument goes a long way toward influence. It won’t do to let my emotions get the better of me.
(Though, for the record, I am definitely STILL sighing and squealing over the story.)
A Worthy Pursuit
It’s probably no surprise, then, that I give A WORTHY PURSUIT . . .
5 out of 5 Dime Novels
I chose dime novels in lieu of stars because they play a major role in the book . . . or, rather, the characters in the dime novels play a major role. Literally. But I won’t give away spoilers on that end! You’ll just have to read it to know what I’m talking about.
A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.
Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.
When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?
Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.
What I Adored . . .
Sometimes you can tell from page 1 that you’ve found a winner. It’s like the tension, chemistry and your anticipation crackle and buzz beneath the surface as you read the opening chapter. That was my experience with this book, and I sadly don’t get to experience that feeling as often as I’d like. It was chockfull of action that tempted me to devour the book as fast as I could–but I knew what a gem I had, and I knew I’d never get the chance to read this book again for the first time. So I made myself take tantalizingly slow bites, and it was worth it.
The Characters –
Stone Hammond. Can we just talk about him for a moment? I knew I liked the Western romance genre–I’m often there in my own writing–but then this bounty hunter . . . er, retriever . . . came along, and my hopeless romantic reader heart absolutely fell to pieces. He’s a solid, big man whose strength, determination, and fierce loyalty rival his tenderness, understanding, and compassion. In that sense, he reminds me of Karen’s hero, Levi Grant, from To Win Her Heart. One major difference, however, between these two heroes is that Stone is all cowboy–and he’s completely comfortable using his pistols or throwing his knife if he needs to stop the bad guys. Speaking of cowboy, there’s a scene where he breaks through the trees on his giant horse, riding low in the saddle with his duster flapping in the wind. I won’t explain more about the scene, in case you haven’t read the book, but for the record, this is my favorite moment in the entire novel. The image is branded in my brain, and it’s the moment my reader heart fell in love with the hero–and quite possibly when Charlotte fell in love with him, too. 😉
Charlotte Atherton. I’ll get into her prim-and-proper, carefully collected personality more when we discuss themes, but the thing I adored the most about her was her love for the children in her care. Not only did she risk her life to keep them from harm, but she raised them with firm guidance and gentle love. These children were her students at Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, and while she cultivated in them a passion and freedom to grow their talents, she also cultivated their humility. A great balance.
Lily Dorchester. A beautiful, passionate, exceptional child with a penchant for adventure. Just a lovely girl. Occasionally, she stole the show, but I think that was intentional, and I wouldn’t have written her any other way. Her character innocently demanded attention, and she won my heart.
The Romantic Chemistry –
The chemistry between Stone and Charlotte is evident from the first page of their meet-cute. And what a meet-cute it is! (Again, sorry, no spoilers.) Their dialogue and inner monologue are what really sell their chemistry throughout the story. Oh, and some of Stone’s lines near the end?! Love. His raw honesty and confession of love made me nearly shout at Charlotte to drop her guard and let him in! But I completely understand why she couldn’t–why her past really made them earn their happily ever after.
The Themes –
Major themes in this book include finding joy in the ‘hard’, letting go of control, trust, and worthiness. The one I want to focus on is worthiness. This is a word near and dear to my heart, and it’s at the core of every story I write. We are worthy of God’s love–not because of any special talent we hold, and certainly not because we earn it, but because we are made in His image. I really identified with Charlotte as she tried so hard to make herself worthy. I think of lot of people can identify with that. Because of events in the past, Charlotte had meticulously built a glass house around herself, full of perceptions about the outside world, how it viewed her, and how she could react in a way that made her worthy of respect and love. Enter Stone Hammond. He is quick to notice and respect her natural strengths and not necessarily the ones she has carefully constructed, and thus, chips away at her defenses until she finally shows her true self. I loved the raw vulnerability in this theme, and I could go on and on, but I won’t. The point is, her feelings of inadequacy and his unconditional acceptance really spoke to my heart.
The Setting and Western Imagery –
I touched on this earlier with the duster-wearing cowboy scene. This book exhibited much of what make Westerns great–gun fights, heroic rescues, larger-than-life characters . . . all while steering clear of stereotypes. I found it fresh and exhilarating.
The Humor –
Stone has some one-liners that made me giggle. And there are a few scenes with the children that made me laugh out loud . . . disturbing everyone at 1 am, mind you.
If you like inspirational Western Romance, I highly recommend this book for its characters, heart, and message. When I finished reading A WORTHY PURSUIT, even though it was 3:30 AM, I almost turned to page 1 and started again. I loved it so much!
You can buy the book/ebook in multiple places. Here are a few:
Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award, and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance because she believes in giving the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at www.karenwitemeyer.com.