Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westward Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She lives in Lebanon, Missouri, with her husband and their four children.
This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way. Think Little House on the Prairie meets Francine River’s Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.
In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings. For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free.
But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she’ll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.
But despite Toni’s conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances. Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.
Time once again forced me to read a series book without having read previous titles. Thankfully Tracey Bateman has written in such a way that though the reader may not have all the backstory, you do not end up lost from skipping earlier books. This is a touching story of redemption, faith, growth, love and self-acceptance. Tracey sets this inspirational novel against the backdrop of the trials and stresses of a wagon train and women who are forced to fend for themselves by circumstances and choices. The two main female characters are running from choices and circumstances that were not ideal and forced them into situations that would not have been first choice otherwise. One of the main male characters who is central to the romantic conflict in this plot is half indian and as such sees himself through the white men’s eyes when he falls for a white woman. Both Sam and Toni feel they are unworthy of the other because of seeing themselves through other’s prejudices and the filter of their pasts. In their eyes love cannot overcome the obstacles of prejudice though neither of them believes the prejudices against the other are valid and they both are experiencing the unconditional love of their Savior and Lord.
Will Sam and Toni find the strength to not only admit their feelings for one another and allow true love to flourish or will they continue to deny who they are in Christ and the freedom that entails? Read this book to find out how their stories evolve. I look forward to the sequel Dangerous Heart and it seems the culmination of this trilogy as well as reading the backstory in book 1 Defiant Heart