Kate’s loyalties bind her to the past. Henry’s loyalties compel him to strive for a better future. In a landscape torn between tradition and vision, can two souls find the strength to overcome their preconceptions?
Loyalty has been at the heart of the Dearborne family for as long as Kate can remember, but a war is brewing in their small village, one that has the power to rip families asunder—including her own. As misguided actions are brought to light, she learns how deep her father’s pride and bitterness run, and she begins to wonder if her loyalty is well-placed.
Henry Stockton, heir to the Stockton fortune, returns home from three years at war seeking refuge from his haunting memories. Determined to bury the past, he embraces his grandfather’s goals to modernize his family’s wool mill, regardless of the grumblings from the local weavers. When tragedy strikes shortly after his arrival, Henry must sort truth from suspicion if he is to protect his family’s livelihood and legacy.
Henry has been warned about the Dearborne family. Kate, too, has been advised to stay far away from the Stocktons, but chance meetings continue to bring her to Henry’s side, blurring the jagged lines between loyalty, justice, and truth. Kate ultimately finds herself with the powerful decision that will forever affect her village’s future. As unlikely adversaries, Henry and Kate must come together to find a way to create peace for their families, and their village, and their souls—even if it means risking their hearts in the process.
When I first saw the description of this book, I saw “mill owner” and immediately went to North and South in my mind. While it does have some similarities, it can stand on its own without the comparison.
I read some reviews that said they empathized with Frederica, Kate’s former friend and Henry’s wannabe fiancée, and I can see where they’re coming from—however, she is so insolent that I couldn’t find it in myself to sympathize. Along with John and Kate’s father. Not only are they prejudiced against Henry, but they are so misogynistic, sexist, and dismissive. Ugh, I just wanted to smack them both for being so abusive and manipulative. Especially her father. He is so cruel to her that I couldn’t justify anything she does to take his side. He blames her for the repercussions of his own actions. And the prideful weavers. At least with them I totally understand their plight; however, I cannot approve of the violence they both engage in and incite.
Aside from the romance and the working class struggle, this book also heavily features a female friendship. This isn’t very spoilery, as it’s mentioned early on, but Mollie, Henry’s sister, is pregnant and unmarried. I appreciated her optimism. At first, I suspected more heinous reasons for Molly’s secrecy, but was fairly relieved at the background in a way. Kate allies herself with Molly, even though her reputation could be tainted should Molly’s past come to light. Now, I have to say that I’ve seen some holier-than-thou reviewers practically demonize Molly, which I found to be absolutely deplorable. Ladd includes a message of forgiveness. As Henry says, “Everyone makes mistakes in their life. It is how you respond to them and learn from them that matters.” What did those other reviewers expect Molly’s family and friends to do? Shun and shame her? They wouldn’t be a very good hero and heroine then, now would they?
What this female friendship highlights is the plight of women, both then and now, both upper and lower class. Kate wants to be involved in the running of her father’s business. She has been allowed to assist, but since she’s “only a woman,” the business would go to her husband. And two men try to force this on her. Because of this, I knew early on that Henry would have to respect her as an individual in order for their relationship to work. And he does. He stands up for her to her father, her would-be suitor, the weavers, and even the mill workers.
I wish the romance were more prevalent in this one. It felt like the book only scratched the surface of their relationship. I suppose more room was provided for the strife between the mill owners and workers and the weavers, but I still would have liked at least a couple more sweet scenes between Henry and Kate.