#BookReview: Leaving Independence by Leanne W. Smith

Historical Romance

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Abigail Baldwyn might not be a widow after all.…

Ever since she received word that her husband, Robert, was killed in the Civil War, Abigail has struggled to keep her Tennessee home and family together. Then a letter arrives claiming that Robert isn’t dead, yet he has no plans to return. Desperate for answers, Abigail travels to Independence, Missouri, where she joins a westbound wagon train to find him.

Leading a company along the Oregon Trail isn’t part of Hoke Mathews’s plans. But then the former cavalry scout gets a glimpse of Abigail—so elegant compared to the rest of their hardscrabble wagon community, yet spirited and resilient. Through every peril they encounter—snakebites, Indian raids, fevers, dangerous grudges—his bond with Abigail grows.

Abigail knew this journey would test her courage. Now it’s testing her marriage vows and her heart, daring her to claim a future on her own terms in a land rich with promise.

I feel like I’m cheating a little in counting Leanne W. Smith’s Leaving Independence as my first book of 2019. Strictly speaking, I started the novel last year and while I meant to finish it before the ball dropped, time got away from me so here we are.

In the spirit of full transparency, I also want to note that I listened to the audio edition of this book and am very pleased with my decision to do so. Nicol Zanzarella has a lovely voice and I felt the cadence and tones she employed complimented the story quite nicely. As of January 2019, the novel and its audio are also available through Kindle Unlimited so be sure to check it out if you are enrolled in the service.  

Personally, I found the love story predictable, but there is much more to the book than the relationship between Abigail and Hoke and I liked how the novel’s key twist played out toward the end. I was particularly impressed with the amount of historic detail worked into the novel (who knew pioneers churned butter by hanging it below their wagons?) and found myself drawn to Corrine who I was pleased to discover features prominently in Smith’s follow-up, A Contradiction to His Pride.

In terms of content, readers should be aware that the novel has less to do with the Civil War or Reconstruction than it does westward expansion. I found the religious elements of the story light and the romantic storyline tame but really appreciated the authenticity of the wagon train attack and the fact that Smith didn’t shy from the more difficult realities of the journey.

Hard to put down, well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Unlimited
Read: January 2, 2019

It took him several days and drafts to settle on the proper tone in his reply. Repentant? Evasive? Authoritative? Or nonchalant? He finally decided to strike a balance between them all – all but repentant. Repentant was struck from the list.