Author: Chautona Havig
Series: Ballads from the Hearth
Major Themes: Cowboys, Romance
Synopsis: When a cowboy falls in love with the banker’s daughter and then they have a quarrel, everyone must learn to forgive or many lives will be forever miserable.
For the past year, I’ve been enjoying Chautona Havig’s books. When I had the chance a few months ago to sign up to help her launch new books, I took it—it means I get to read them for free before they are published! I probably would never have read Jack otherwise; I’m really not into cowboy stories. However, I found myself enjoying this one, as I have her other books that I’ve read.
Jack is based on a cowboy ballad that Chautona’s father sang when she was a young girl. In the ballad, a lonely cowboy fell in love with a girl, and then they had a quarrel. He rode off in a huff, but eventually forgave her and came back—to find her dead and buried. Chautona took that story, and added in elements from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I have neither read nor watched that, so don’t know what inspirations came from it, but I do know this—there was much ado in Jack over what proved to be virtually nothing!
As the story opens, Jack rides into town with a herd of cattle, and catches the attention of the banker’s daughter, Hazel. They meet again that evening at a dance, and over the course of the next few months keep finding themselves together. As they, and a few other people, conspire to slyly convince Hazel’s sharp-tongued cousin Deborah and Jack’s friend and fellow cowboy Dirk that each is loved by the other, they find themselves in love. There is an enemy, however, doing his best to cause trouble.
I had a bit of trouble getting into the story at first. I’m really not sure if it was the story itself or the fact that I was so busy when I first got it, but once I got nearly halfway through I couldn’t put it down. I really loved a few chapters around the halfway mark about the bumbling sheriff. I was kind of glad no one else happened to be in the house at the time, because I was laughing so hard I nearly cried—and I didn’t want to slow down reading in order to explain what was so funny!
I won’t give away the ending, but it took me by surprise. All the way through, I expected one ending, and when it turned out quite differently I was left reeling for a bit.
One thing I always appreciate about Chautona’s books is the cleanness. There is never any language I’m not comfortable with—not even a hint of bad language. The romance is also extremely clean. Occasionally there will be a mention of a kiss, but she does not describe it in detail, and never goes into a bedroom with her characters. I love knowing that I don’t have to be on guard with these books! The bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout the story are great, as well. You will be left with a lot to consider about forgiveness after reading the story of Jack and Hazel. One of my favorite passages is where Hazel’s father is talking to her about Jack courting her. He says, “I just want you to walk into a marriage with any man with open eyes free of starry blindness. Every man has his flaws. You need to make certain that you can live with the flaws in the man you give your heart to.” Another passage I especially appreciated was Hazel’s father speaking to his wife, who did not appreciate Jack. He said, “But is what you want for her more important than what she wants for herself—what the Lord wants for her? Are our dreams for our children to supersede their hopes and dreams?”
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
WARNING: Jack’s employer has a brother who hates him and plots against him; at one point a man is shot dead in the saloon.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults