To Have and To Hold by Leigh Greenwood

To Have and To Hold by Leigh Greenwood
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (365 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

The Blaine brothers learned how to survive at a young age the hard way. But after a life of working odd jobs, Colby thinks he might just be ready to settle down. Until his fiancé jilts him for a man with more money.

Naomi Kessling is already plagued by nightmares and a violent past when her wagon train is attacked. Colby saves her life, but Naomi is convinced he’s been sent by the army to arrest her for a crime she can’t remember.

Colby will help her face her nightmares, but will her love be enough to break down the wall he’s built around his heart?

On the Santa Fe Trail, Colby Blaine most likely saves the lives of the people in the Spencer’s Clearing wagon train; but Naomi Kessling does not trust him. He wears a Union uniform. Her horrific nightmare that comes night after night has a man in a Union uniform and blood everywhere. Accepting Colby Blaine as their leader after they lose their guide makes her uneasy. He is not like anyone she has ever known.

Nineteen-year-old Naomi is a strong, independent, opinionated young woman who has run her father’s household since the death of her mother. Dr. Kessling depends on her as do her two brothers Ethan and Ben. She is a fixer of things that go wrong. She never expects others to do it for her. However, she is like the others from Spencer’s Clearing. None of them realize how difficult and dangerous life on the trail can be. As the story unfolds, she controls her fears and does what has to be done to help all of them survive life on the trail. Whether it is learning to ride a horse, crossing a rain swollen river full of debris even though she doesn’t know how to swim, tending the sick and wounded, or consoling the bereaved, she screws her courage to the sticking point and gets the job done. She becomes Colby’s ‘go-to’ person when he needs special help—he sees her worth and so much more.

Colby Blaine is a loner. He seeks isolation not wanting to be hurt like he’s been hurt in the past. His being abused by people who adopted him to make him fit an image they had of how he should be, plus, his one true love’s lack of loyalty and fidelity to him make him feel that for some reason he is not worthy of love. As his back story unfolds, one can see how these feeling came to be. However the urge to tell him to get over it; don’t mess up a chance for happiness is strong. He is capable, intelligent, open to learning, quick to solve problems, and handles people with respect and good humor most of the time. He is a natural leader that works to get the best out of the people he feels responsible for. The joy he gets from teaching Naomi new things that she need to know to survive on the frontier and from just spending time with her makes their time together seem so real one almost forgets To Have and To Hold is fiction.

The Spencer’s Clearing people are a strange lot. While they travel together and make decisions together, they are three distinct groups that don’t really like each other for some unknown reason. Their reason for leaving Spencer’s Clearing is somewhat of a mystery, but it seems to have something to do with what Naomi had done, something she cannot recall but she feels guilty and is sure it has to do with the recurring nightmare that makes her scream in her sleep.

Norman Spencer, the rich man of the group who feels he should order everyone around, and Cassie Greene, the young widow with a tiny baby and acts like a spoiled brat, are certainly memorable characters but for very different reasons. However, when the actions switches to Santa Fe, a unique story all its own unfolds with new characters—an antagonist to really, really dislike come to the fore, a remarkable, long-suffering soul to be admired comes on the scene, and adorable children who are told they are “misgotten” wiggle their way right into one’s heart.

The reader gets to see the true strength of character of both Colby and Naomi during this threatening, dangerous time.

Leigh Greenwood gives the reader all the things expected in a westward trek to new lands. He involves the reader in actions that make the heart jump up into one’s throat at times. Best of all he gives the reader a love that grows simply and steadily in every aspect of the hero and heroine—it reaches not only the emotional and physical but also the mental and spiritual—the forever kind of love that makes them strong and able to reach out to others with love and caring. To Have and To Hold is a keeper to be enjoyed more than once.

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