Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman

Claiming Mariah is one of those novels that grabs your heart and does not let go. Even after ending the last page, I pressed that lever on my e-reader, hoping for more. Hillman has a gift of creating characters that feel like your friends, as she spins this romantic tale amidst the gritty, western scenery of Wyoming Territory in 1882.

The heroine, Mariah Malone, has been struggling to keep her family’s cattle ranch above water financially since her father became ill. When the rancher died following that lengthy illness, Mariah was left alone to support her grandmother, her sister away at school, and the ranch that just seemed to keep losing money year after year.

Just before her father died, Mariah carried another burden as well—discovering her father had swindled a business partner years ago. On his deathbed he told Mariah he wanted to ask the man’s forgiveness. In an effort to honor her father and hopefully make amends, she sends a letter to his former adversary. But it is too little, too late. Her attempts to rectify the situation only bring the man’s sons to her doorstep, demanding justice—as well as ownership of the ranch. Even worse, the oldest brother, Slade, informs Mariah that her father is responsible for his father’s death. The humiliation of her parent’s past sends Mariah into an emotional and spiritual tailspin.

She faces leaving the only home she has ever known. Has God deserted her as well as her family?

Claiming Mariah is such a well-crafted tale of the Old West that I often felt as if I was watching a movie. Hillman’s descriptions are intricately detailed: I could practically feel the heat, smell the hay, and hear the squeaking of leather saddles. The author’s palette of words paints with vivid strokes.

The romance between the characters is a painstaking journey of forgiveness and overcoming emotional and spiritual obstacles. And the filament of faith and healing weaves throughout, not just with the main characters, but with the cast of personalities both young and old that fill out this novel. Like thread woven on linen, it becomes a memorable piece of artistry that leaves me hankering for more. I earnestly hopes this is the first novel in a series.

Author Bio:

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of! Claiming Mariah is her second novel and was released on January 1, 2013. Her digital books are published through Tyndale House. 

From Reviewer Elaine Marie Cooper: I’ll ignore the fact that author Pam Hillman chose the name “Cooper” for the antagonist in Claiming Mariah. The wonderful protagonists in this gripping read of the Old West more than make up for this apparent lapse of judgment on Hillman’s part.  :)

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