Abe Franklin has never felt comfortable among Mormons, being an adopted Indian has made life hard for him, and he always feels like an outsider. After a mob of saints hangs a black man before he can go to trial for shooting a bishop, Abe decides he has had enough of the hypocrisy and longs to get out of Utah. He convinces his mother to come with him when he finds them a new home, but she gives him one condition. He must find them a place where the saints are strong. So, Abe sets out to California, and finds himself, through an unlikely series of events, settling in Snowflake, Arizona.
There he finds a young school teacher named Maddie, who catches his eye when she recites a poem. She struggles to let go of the love she had for her fiancé, who was murdered, and love the man she is currently engaged to. She must decide if she will settle for a good marriage of convenience or take another chance at romantic love. Abe and Maddie form a bond, but Abe cannot make the mistake of falling for a good Mormon girl twice. He knows that his feelings about the church will lead to their eventual misery. So, unless Maddie can help Abe realize, despite the harshness of his upbringing and bitterness toward the saints, that he believes in God they will both lose love for a second time.
I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning. I suppose I didn’t relate to Abe and Maddie as well as I did to Lizzy in Lyon’s previous book House on a Hill. Abe seemed to be too modern minded for the historical time period and that threw me off. His first point of view chapter felt too preachy for me to really get sucked into the story at the start, but I ended up enjoying his character later on. I also felt for Maddie as she tried to heal from the death of her fiancee. While on the surface this seems like the typical LDS romance plot—girl converts boy to gospel and they marry—Lyon’s characters have layers that made it feel unique and fresh. I liked the fact that Abe wasn’t converted the “traditional” way, as in reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. He had a unique history and set of challenges to overcome in order to accept the gospel and the conflict was interesting. The author spent of lot of time building an honest emotional bond between Maddie and Abe that really makes their love story special to the reader.
In contrast to House on the Hill, this book in not about the construction of the St. George temple, but about those who sacrificed to travel to the first completed temple to make sacred covenants there. Some humorous anecdotes about the building and history of the temple are shared, but they dance in the background of the story. This ended up being an enjoyable read for me, and I’m glad I finally sat down and read it since I read House on a Hill ages ago. In would recommend both books to readers interested a good, clean historical romance.