I honestly didn’t think anything could topple Short-Straw Bride from its firmly-entrenched position as my favorite book by award-winning author Karen Witemeyer, but I think A Worthy Pursuit may have done just that. It’s close though – Short-Straw could still claw its way back up to share the pedestal – but the bottom line is that Witemeyer’s latest release is nothing short of fantastic!
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.
Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother’s death. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.
When the teacher he’s after produces documentation that shows she’s the little girl’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her. Should Stone break his perfect record?
Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.
Packed with the perfect blend of romance, emotion, faith and action, plus twinkles of humor, A Worthy Pursuit is a more than worthy read. The characters – main and supporting alike – are lifelike and skillfully developed with a depth of heart and history that feels like they are part of a series rather than merely a stand-alone novel. The message of orphans (of all ages) finding a place to belong and be loved resonates sweetly and subtly. The fast-paced action drives through the book with all the drama of Lily’s beloved dime novels but without the cheese, and the romance…. ohhhhh be still my heart, the romance!
Before I get all distracted from swooning, let’s discuss the great characters. The children will win your heart immediately, their exceptional abilities and understandable insecurities making them endearing supporting characters. “Dead-Eye Dan” and “the gnome” are nice foils-as-friends and add comic relief – plus they give Stone the opportunity to grumble which we all know we love in our heroes. (Why do we love that?) Charlotte Atherton has been burned too many times – enough that she hides behind a stiff, schoolmarm exterior instead of risking her heart again to anyone but the child prodigies in her care. And haven’t we all been there? Maybe not those exact details but the gist of it – being hurt and walling ourselves off. In Charlotte’s case, thank goodness for Stone who decided that if she was going to build a wall he was just going to have to build a door.
Speaking of Stone – *dreamy sigh times 1000*. Larger than life, he is able to fight off a bobcat with his bare hands and later tenderly hold his woman with those same hands and watch the Texas sunset. Much later – because Charlotte isn’t an easy sell on this whole “wooing” thing. Even then, during the sunset watching, she doesn’t realize he’s wooing her. But woo her, he tries. (Side note: I love the word “woo”. Isn’t it fun to say? Woo. It’s also fun when added to “hoo” – as in WOOHOO! Which you might find yourself cheering in this book a time or three. Like, for instance, when Stone sets his mind on a pursuit and declares that nothing will stand in his way. WOOHOO!)
At the core of A Worthy Pursuit is a message for orphans of all ages and walks of life. No matter who else has given up on you or walked away, there will always always always be One who calls you beloved. One who calls you His child. One who longs to wrap you up in His larger-than-life the-original-dime-store-hero scarred Arms and whisper that He will never leave you or forsake you. His pursuit of you is relentless… because He wants you to know that no matter what life has held for you, His love for you makes you worthy.
I give A Worthy Pursuit 5 out of 5 stars and a spot on my favorites shelf! (I see you down there, Short-Straw. There’s room on the shelf to share. Climb on back up.)
You can buy A Worthy Pursuit (Bethany House, June, 352 pp., $14.99) at all the usual places. When you’ve finished reading the book, go check out Karen Witemeyer’s website for a hilarious deleted scene and a feature on the making of the cover.
(I received a copy of the novel from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)
P.S. – Looking forward (with a couple of shameless fangirl claps) to Karen’s newest novella coming out sometime early next year. The Husband Maneuver will continue the story of Dan and Marietta, a couple of characters we meet in A Worthy Pursuit. There is clearly some palpable chemistry between them, and I was so hoping we would get to see what happened to them after Charlotte, Stone, and crew left Marietta’s ranch. The novella will be included in a book titled On Bended Knee: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry. Doesn’t that sound delightful? I’m hooked!
About the Author: Christy Award finalist and winner of both the ACFW Carol Award and HOLT Medallion, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.