Rush is the newest historical novel from Jayme Mansfield. She weaves romance, determination, betrayal and suspense into a story that captures the reader’s heart while giving chills and intrigue.
Mary Louisa Roberts is a young woman left alone by her will-of-the-wisp husband, Aaron who leaves to find fortune for himself and his family in Colorado. He is soon reported killed under mysterious circumstances. Mary finds herself a widow with a seven-year-old son, Charles, and few prospects, save for an over-zealous sheriff named Murphy who shows disconcerting interest.
Mary, seeking her independence, decides to pursue her own fortune in Oklahoma and joins the 1893 land rush.
She files her claim to 160 acres and starts to build a life for herself and her son. And immediately runs into opposition from neighbors, the Cooleys, who want her land and the creek running through it for their cattle. They are relentless in trying to drive her off.
She also meets a young man, Daniel McKenzie. Daniel is a newspaper illustrator sent by his paper to cover the land rush. He admires her spunk and determination. When she leaves to get her son, Daniel builds a sod house for her and clears land for a garden. And encounters the wrath of Mary when she returns. She doesn’t want his help and resents his unwanted intrusion in her life.
Soon, Mary discovers she has the gift of teaching and runs an informal school for neighboring children. Her relations with The Cooleys improve when their youngest child, seven-year-old Anna, is drawn into the school through her friendship with Charles. Anna has not spoken in the two years since her mother died and is withdrawn except when she is around Charles.
Daniel returns after a year to do a follow-up story and discovers he has fallen in love with Mary. She is not ready to reciprocate.
Troubles arise as someone threatens her and causes damage in an attempt to drive her from her land. Someone is trying to drive her away, but it isn’t the Cooleys.
The intrigue and mystery build as Sheriff Murphy shows up full of romantic intentions, and Mary’s supposedly dead husband re-appears, ready to resume his role as husband and to take over Mary’s land.
The climax is gripping as Mary faces threats and emotions she never expected.
I highly recommend this book. The story is compelling and pulls the reader into the Wild West of 1893. Mary is a fascinating character with strengths and flaws. Her journey is at times harrowing and her determination for independence is inspiring. It’s both her greatest strength and her largest flaw.
Mansfield’s artistic talents shine through as she paints word pictures of her characters and the setting. Her characters are complex and she presents a story world that captures both the beauty and the hardships of the land and of the society that formed from the Land Rush.
By weaving in elements of her own family history, Mansfield brings a deep and personal realism to the page.