Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
For nobleman Carl von Reichert, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.
Annalisa senses that Karl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic--unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love--but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.
This book was an enjoyable read partly because of I have some Austrian/German ancestors who settled in Indiana – near to the setting of this book in Michigan. I remember my great-grandma; she was born about the same time as this book’s time period – 1880. As the youngest of twelve children on a large farm, she only spoke of what a wonderful lifeshe had. In fact, my ancestors were the first to build a mill where all their neighbors brought their grain.
In this book, Annalisa Werner’s life sounds anything but wonderful. Her stern, drunken husband doesn’t know how to love his wife or daughter. He and the town villain, who considers them all dirty, ignorant Germans, keep attacking Annalisa’s hard work and dreams – trying to tear them down. My own great-grandma’s reminisces about her parents tell of a loving, hard-working couple who danced together often. However, Hedlund’s German characters treat their wives as beasts of burden, servants with no input into their lives. Even the cousin – that Annalisa’s father requests from to the old country to be her new husband has more say over her life than she herself is allowed. In fact, his intention is to move Annalisa away from her home to start over in the West.
I liked reading about these early Americans. Their pride in owning something of their own – no matter the cost in sweat and blood – is inspiring. I liked the way Hedlund helps readers to see their harsh lives through the eyes of Carl Richards, the disguised nobleman. I loved the way Carl’s little acts of kindness surprised Annalisa and made her love him. His admiration for her strength, loyalty, and faith – looking beyond her beauty – made his attraction to her deeper. Taking the time to tell a story, lugging the water for a hot bath, working to exhaustion and blisters rather than giving up, praying and trusting to God (but working harder still) and more …were all reminders for me of kindnesses that I can do for my family and friends. I liked Carl’s inventions too – wish there had been more!
Young adults and adults will appreciate this story of German immigrants. I guess story plots and life have some easily anticipated troubles; sometimes the narrative situations seem cliché, but I enjoyed the love story and the unexpected, sometimes humorous, insights introduced through Carl and Uri.
*Reviewed by Colleen*
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.