4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Graham family has gone through a terrible tragedy. Their parents were murdered and their youngest brother is missing as a result of the same attack. Now Matthew, the oldest, has taken on the responsibility of raising his siblings and becoming the head of the family.
Thus begins the Graham sibling's saga. For Matthew, one of the ways he can honor his parents is to continue on with their wishes – including expanding their farm by taking advantage of a land claim. He travels to Houston to sign the papers and finds out that the land grant is for a family, and he has to have a wife. Flustered, he blurts out that his wife's name is Hannah. The land grant office gives him 30 days to bring her back in to sign the paperwork. Now Matthew must find a wife named Hannah, and do it quickly.
By simple chance, he runs into Hannah Foley in the local mercantile. Literally. When he finds out her name is Hannah, he is dumbfounded. Strangely intrigued. And determined to marry her.
When Matt proposes to Hannah, she knows it's likely the best offer she'll get. She's not a beauty, and has no other offers. But she wants to marry and longs for a family. So she accepts.
I really liked both Hannah and Matt. Like any 25 year old, Matt pulls some bonehead moves. He has in his head how a marriage is supposed to work in 1839. The man makes the decisions, and that is that. Oh, how I loved the conflict that produced. Because Hannah is no wilting flower. She is used to living her life without relying on a man to make decisions for her. I loved that she curses up a storm. That she feels responsible for her grandmother. That she takes on all of Matthew's siblings as her own. Having a big family is what she's always wanted.
I liked the sense of family that pervades the entire book, both Matt's and Hannah's. This family argues, teases, laughs, fights, and loves deeply. And somehow, Hannah becomes as integral to the Graham siblings as they are to each other. Hannah's relationship with her grandmother warmed my heart. Her grandmother is quite a character, and totally calls it like she sees it. She helps Hannah work through many of her issues with common sense and understated love.
The romance between Hannah and Matthew grows slowly, and especially given the times, completely works. Matthew comes to completely appreciate and love Hannah, and she also loves him. They come to rely on each other and really like each other, which only reinforces the very hot attraction between them. That mutual respect and genuine liking of one another made the slow fall into love more complete and lovely.
The one thing that hit me as I was reading that threw me and made me really sad, was the realization that the Graham sibling's children would likely be drawn into the Civil War. The novel takes place in 1839, and Matt is the oldest. So once the youngest has children and they are young adults, they will likely be fighting for the rebel army. I don't want any of them to die!!! Yes, I know I'm crazy, but still.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Emma Lang (and her alter ego Beth Williamson). I love that she writes American western historicals. One of my favorite genres. Her historicals always feel authentic, have strong characters who can have tremendous flaws and who make you root for them to be happy.
Anyhoo… this is a wonderful start to a new series, The Circle Eight. It releases on January 31. I can't wait to find out what happens next in the continuing story arc to discover what actually happened to the Graham's parents and youngest brother. The oldest sister, Olivia gets her story next, with the mysterious Texas Ranger Brody Armstrong as her hero. Mmmmm.
If you are a fan of Emma Lang's previous books, or of Beth Williamson's western historicals, you won't want to miss this first book in a new series. I loved it. Order it now.