I enjoyed reading this book, and appreciated the bit of history of the western U.S. that Carolyn Steele so skillfully put in as well.
Tessa Darrow is an extremely likable character, and I found myself rooting for her in all her adventures and misadventures. From the beginning of the story until its very satisfying conclusion, I followed Tessa hoping that everything turned out well for her. Her father was a character I didn’t like quite so much. But he was believable, and ultimately sympathetic and redeemable. And I outright cheered for him in one instance when he responded the way he did in a situation that involved a married man hitting on Tessa.
I thought William was a great character, believable, likable, balanced, and a worthy love-interest for Tessa.
Mrs. Holt was another character I particularly liked. I appreciated her mix of common sense and compassion, and I was very pleased to see how things worked out for her. She was certainly someone who deserved a happy ending! Overall, the ending was quite satisfying to me. I was very pleased with it. Even Sarah, William’s childhood friend got a wonderful ending which she deserved after all the trials she had endured. The shallow, narrow, selfish men got their lasting comeuppance, and the good guys got their happy ending. Or perhaps I should say happy beginning!
From beginning to end, I loved every moment of this book. From the first page, readers know that there is a secret, and maybe danger coming. They know that something is about to change in the lives of the Darrow family.
I knew I wanted to do the blog tour for this book just from the short synopsis. Civil War time in the South, a journey to the West, a love triangle, and learning something new about LDS history? That sounded like a perfect book to me.
And it really was. Soda Springs is told from the perspective of a teenage North Carolina girl, named Tessa. One night, she saw her father burning his Confederate uniform. Little did she know what was in store for her and her family after that alarming night.
Carolyn Steele knows how to expertly paint a landscape with words. She also knows how to acclimate the reader to time period, culture, and history in an interesting and authentic way. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy a great story and at the same time learn about how other people lived and why. This book, though not a true story, centers around a real place, and a real settlement. After I finished the book, I knew I wanted to read more about the Morrisites. I was pleased to find that the history I found, matched with the history in the book. It was so interesting, though also unfortunate. I was also excited to find that though most of the characters in the book were fictional, two were real Morrisites who lived in Soda Springs, Idaho.
For me, a great book has characters you really can look up to, who are also human. A great book makes you giggle, cry, fall in love, think, and sometimes strongly object. A great book makes you sigh in contentment when it is over. Soda Springs does all that and more.
There is so much tragedy in the novel, but it doesn’t overpower it. You may be shocked or cry a little, but you move on as the characters did and make the best of the situation at hand. Family relationships, friendship, hard work, service, self-reliance, and perhaps, most importantly, hope, helped the characters push through their trials. One of my favorite quotes in the book was, “Were it not for hope, the heart would break.”
Steele truly created complex characters. Their strengths were evident, but so were their weaknesses. I found myself stepping into different characters’ shoes, such as Henry Darrow’s, and I could understand why he sometimes acted the way he did. For the most part, I was able to forgive characters for bad behavior, because their hearts and heartaches were so clearly portrayed. Everyone is human. We all make mistakes, but we all have great potential. That is a message from this book, as there were not only physical journeys to make, but also inner ones.
I don’t want to tell too much of the story, but let’s just say friendships are made and grow. There are many hard and desperate times, but also good times. People leave, and some come back. Tessa has to do a lot of waiting. Life isn’t always happy for her, and she wonders what will become of her. In the end, all is well.
I strongly recommend this book. I also recommend going to the author’s website, http://www.carolyn-steele.com/, and reading her blog post called “A Journey through Soda Springs.” I wish I had seen those pictures while reading the book, because they make the book that much more real.
I know I will read Soda Springs again and again. I really hope there is a sequel, because I want to know what happens to everyone as the years pass. Thank you for sharing this work of art with us, Carolyn Steele!
I often think when I read books, such as this, that I would love to live in a simpler time. These people are hardworking and life is full from sunup to sundown--busy with surviving and taking care of basic needs. Our time now is filled up with so many distractions, but in the 1860s, life was hard, yet very satisfying.
Soda Springs captured me heart and soul. I loved reading about the sudden decision that Henry made to move his family from their "posh" plantation in North Carolina to Oregon and the heartbreaking tragedies that ensued because of that decision; I loved reading about the day-to-day life and the way Tessa grew up and learned to survive in an extremely small town in Idaho; I loved reading about Tessa's feelings, coming-of-age, and determination to make the best of life; and I loved the sometimes shocking surprises that pop up throughout.
Tessa is in the midst of growing up and sometimes acts childish and sometimes very mature, which is typical. Her emotions can occasionally get the best of her, but for the most part, she's a very likable, generous, and kind soul. I love her relationship with her father, Henry, and Mrs. Holt, a kind, yet no-nonsense woman in town. In fact, Mrs. Holt is one of my favorite characters.
Spanning several years, Soda Springs tackles some tough topics, such as effects of the Civil War, religion, disease, kooky characters, and life on the frontier. I enjoyed it all and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good historical romance.
Content: no language; mild violence (disease, death, etc--not extremely graphic); mild religious elements (necessary to the story, but not preachy); mild romance (kissing). Clean!
*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*
This is exactly the kind of book that I like to read! It's historical fiction with a touch of romance. I read Carolyn Steele's first book, Willow Springs, and knew that I would enjoy this one, and it was kind of fun that I grew up not that far from Soda Springs and have been there many times. It was fun to learn more about the history of the area.
I was sucked into this story rather quickly. I loved the character of Tessa, and the way that her childhood was abruptly taken away captured my attention. Tessa was such a strong young woman to go through the loss of both her mother and sister and then have to nurse her sick father back to health in a strange place.
I loved the characters of Soda Springs too. There were several parts of the story, whether it was making clothes for chickens or the gruff way some of the characters interacted that made me laugh out loud.
I loved that this book had a hint of romance, but it was mainly about the growth that both Tessa and her father made from the beginning of the story to the end. This book is an amazing example of just how historical fiction should be!
Soda Springs was an interesting place to visit. Some of the characters were actual people while most were fictitious. Author Carolyn Steele vividly paints a picture of the people, lifestyle and landscape. The plot was very realistic yet at times became a little too much for me to handle. Tessa and her father suffered much because of his decision to head west and their relationship was often strained. At one point in the story, Tessa was offered a marriage proposal by a man twice her age who was actually the father of one of her suitors. This sudden twist in the story had me cheering as Tessa's father practically threw the guy out on his ear but the plot slowed while Tessa waited for the man she really loved to come home. She showed great faith in not knowing if he would return at all. The story ended well for everyone involved, so that's always a good thing in my book.