by Maggie Osborne

November 2002
ISBN: 0804119902
Reviewer Graphic Button Ballantine Books
Mass Market Paperback

Imagine a handsome man finding a picture of you and falling in love at first sight. Thatís a dream weíve all had, right? Then you meet, are both attracted and available, so there should be wedding bells soon! But, wait a minute... there is more to the man/soldier, than just a ruggedly good-looking face and broad shoulders.

The soldier, James, has quite a dilemma. It didnít help that he took ten years to approach Della. His honor demanded that he deliver the letter from her dead husband and the man in him yearned to meet the object of his obsession, but he also has a terrible secret. Now, they must journey from her prairie home to her home in the South. To make matters worse, the more he comes to learn about the woman Della has become, rather than the face in a frame, the more he realizes she will be lost forever when he reveals the terrible truth about himself.

I just love stories like this. I became totally focused on James as he tried to ease Dellaís hardships by taking the long journey to Atlanta to the daughter she was forced to leave behind. It reminded me of the cinema movie, "Bounce" with Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. While reading, one keeps waiting for his opportunity to tell her, but he continues to deceive Della. The author uses the entire journey to demonstrate one situation after another that indicates how the two could never suit each. They lived such opposite lives for so long, he with a gun, and she, in a safe little world she carved for herself on the prairie, planting her garden, growing huge prize pumpkins, living life day to day.

The pacing of the journey was great, and I couldnít put it down, but then, I truly love when people are traveling outdoors and fighting the elements together. Della was a strange character, in the sense that she appeared a simple prairie widow from the civil war, but turns out to be a very deep, complicated character. The subplot of James' past, which kept appearing as they traveled, was a great touch. There's also a great ending to the story that reminds me of reading a mystery, but this is definitely a romance. There is hardly any sex, but good sexual tension and dialogue between characters. The lasting hardships of the civil war are laced nicely throughout the tale, and subtlety portrayed. The transition from southern belle and lawyer to poor prairie widow and wandering lawman are believable.

I would highly recommend this to social studies teachers who want to convey the reality of how lives were changed during this period. I really enjoyed this romance. Iíve read other Maggie Osborne novels, and she has never failed to satisfy my need for romance and adventure - this time under a Prairie Moon.

Reviewed in January 2003 by Suemarie.

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