Westward bound on the Oregon Trail, Lorena Emerson is alone after her uncle is killed by a thief trying to steal his money belt. Ignoring the wagon master’s advice to go home, she rounds up others needing help, and they join a later wagon train and are soon slogging through dust and mud and steep mountain passes. It’s a long way to Oregon, and because another woman needs her help, Lorrie again goes her own way, leaving the wagon train and the Oregon Trail to travel onward—off the beaten path—with her small group of wagons. She’s helped by members of her wagon train, people she meets along the way, and the mule, Jake, an integral part of the story. You’ll meet them as they join in her travels and encounters with enemies she also meets as she searches for a new home and supplies as winter reaches out its icy hands…. Settling the frontier isn’t easy!
Her uncle, a lawyer, has taken her off to a new start. They’ll move west to Oregon and start a new life without the greedy relatives who want her inheritance. Things start to go wrong a lot sooner than expected. Thieves try to take her uncle’s money belt. Her uncle ends up dead and so do the two thieves. Now the wagon train master tells her to go back home. She can’t go on alone. Oh yeah? Lorena Emerson may never have been on her own before, but she’s determined to go west and make herself a new life. Now she just has to figure out how…
Ms. Smith writes a good western tale. She points out the hardships and the glories that are all part of life on the trail. She also has good and bad people populating her stories so there are challenges for her characters. I really liked Lorena. She started shy but she bucked up and defended herself. She’s a strong woman with a good head for planning and organization. The men in her life are mostly nice and good friends with her, but it takes a while for her to find love.
Wagon trips were hell. There were food shortages, wagon problems, sometimes illness, and no rest for anyone. When Lorena starts trying to get a group together to travel with her, she never realized she was developing a small, mixed family. She finds a young brother and sister and a Negro couple, and finds another wagon train that will let them join them. The problem is that there is a pregnant woman on the new train that is having problems from the travelling. When Lorena hatches another idea, the pregnant woman and her family joins Lorena’s little family and they look for a place to settle.
The characters are strong, work hard, defend themselves and offer each support. Lorena needs that since she never learned how to cook! Now she’s got free meals everywhere.
The pace is strong, there’s plenty of hard work and action to keep your interest and, while there are sad spots, for the most part this is a positive story about life in the west and how settlement changed it.