Jubilee Stallings ekes out a living on her small Indiana farm in 1850. Whenever her abusive husband disappears, she is left to fend for herself, but that’s the way she prefers it. When Rafe Tanner shows up saying he purchased the farm from his cousin, eighteen-year-old Jubilee has nowhere to go. Rafe’s news of her husband’s death doesn’t frighten her as much as the prospect of losing her only home. In sympathy for the young orphan girl, Rafe offers a proposal: a business marriage. The two of them will work together to keep the farm running smoothly. When he learns how his cousin treated Jubilee, he is irate. The girl is skittish and uncomfortable around him despite his best efforts to earn her trust.
The pair visit Rafe’s large family and masquerade as a love-struck couple, sharing a room and long talking into the evening getting to know each other. Throwing a wrench into everything is Rafe’s ex-fiancée who married his best friend but still wants Rafe’s attentions. But Rafe sees how miserable life with her would have been, and how wonderful life with Jubilee could be. Will she ever trust him enough to speak what’s on her heart?
A book makes an impression when I can’t stop thinking about the characters when I put it down (and I wouldn’t have put this one down if it hadn’t been such a long week). Jubilee’s plight is heartbreaking. A young girl, barely a woman, who has experienced more tribulation in her life than anyone should finds herself without a home. There’s really no option for her when Rafe proposes the business marriage. Rafe is a good guy—one you want in your corner. His intentions are good and he’s nothing like his cousin, but he has to work hard to prove himself to his new wife. I loved Rafe’s family—even with their meddling. The heart of the book lies in letting go of the past and trusting (both others as well as God). Raw and real, this debut from Peggy Trotter is one that will captivate you from the first pages.