by Elizabeth Clarke

August 2004
ISBN: 0-8439-5391-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Leisure Books
Mass Market Paperback

Charlotte vowed never to marry. Growing up with an abusive father had shown Charlotte all she wanted to know about men. She didn’t want one. Unfortunately, for a woman to have a place of her own she must give herself in marriage. When Francis Dalton proposed marriage it was obvious to Charlotte what she must do. She and her sister, Lucinda married the Dalton brothers and joined the wagon train bound westward to Oregon.

Francis Dalton is a meek man, unsuspecting that his wife is not satisfied in their relationship. He is unaware of the attraction Charlotte feels for the trail scout, Luke Ashcroft. Perhaps it is the lack of husbandly attention that drew Charlotte to Luke. Whatever it is, it must never be more than a fantasy. Charlotte would honor her vows, regardless of whether the marriage had been consummated or not.

Trials escalate for Charlotte on the trail. Her husband is caught stealing money from another wagon. The council sentences him to death by hanging. Now, she is a widow left at the mercy of her harsh brother-in-law. Charlotte is a strong woman. Strong in character and opinion. It is her opinion about slavery that makes enemies out of some of the other travelers. Marcus, her sister’s husband, can see the attraction that Charlotte feels toward Luke. As a result, his current lack of respect for her only deepens.

Luke can see the unhappiness in Charlotte’s eyes. He wants to help her carry her burden without getting emotionally involved. He’d already lost one wife and son. He couldn’t put his heart at risk again. Charlotte has dedicated her life to protecting her sister. It was time someone protected Charlotte. Could he be there for her without involving his heart?

Elizabeth Clarke has written a story about taking risks. While the setting is the trek westward, the focus of the story is on the characters and their growth. Secondary characters help the story move along at a quickened pace. The harsh realities of that time period are evident without overwhelming the primary purpose. The love story. Luke Ashcroft’s Woman is an emotional read. Experiencing Charlotte and Luke’s determination and passion is a reader’s delight.

Reviewed in October 2004 by Rho.

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