Maggie Lawrence came to the New World with her betrothed, Richard Shabedge, to do missionary work among the natives. Towaye, an Indian who had previously been taken to England as a slave, returned on the same ship. Maggie and Richard needed the approval of Richard's father, a minister who was already in the colonies, and had intended for him to marry them once they arrived. When it is discovered that a previous party of colonists, including Richard's father have disappeared, Richard decides to sail back to England with the news, leaving Maggie in the care of her uncle. The colonists split up with Maggie and her uncle remaining on Roanoke Island, but before long, the small group are attacked by a band of unfriendly Indians. Everyone is killed except Maggie who is whisked away and protected by Towaye. In exchange for saving her life, Towaye now considers her to be "his woman," but Maggie protests that she is still engaged to another man. Towaye may not let Maggie go to the other English settlement, but he does everything he can to make life for her in his village as pleasant and easy as possible. Maggie slowly begins to find opportunities to share God's message of love and salvation with Towaye's clan, and also begins to fall in love with the man himself. But can she ever allow herself to truly belong to someone who is so different from her own culture and beliefs, and what of her betrothal to Richard if he should return?
Where Morning Dawns is another inspirational romance that I first read in my teens and decided to revisit as an adult. I had forgotten that it is a speculative account of what might have happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke which was a fascinating element. Not many romances take place in colonial America, especially this early, so the setting alone was quite unique and made for an interesting reading experience. The author seems to have researched her time period well, giving the story an authentic feel. In fact, sometimes, it was a little too authentic for my modern sensibilities. Maggie initially thinks of Towaye as a heathen savage and her Christian mission seems to involve replacing the Indian culture with English culture which she thought to be a "better way." While I'll grant that some English/Christian ways were better (eg. Not killing an innocent person for revenge even if he was from an enemy tribe), there are other things that I think were better the Indian way (eg. Sharing the work and the food so that no one goes hungry). Thankfully, Maggie later had a couple of moments where she managed to engage the Indian culture rather than disparage it, which would be a more modern approach to mission work, but there were still times when I felt like the Indians were more willing to learn from her and accepting of certain aspects of "her way" than she was of theirs. In spite of some ups and downs though, the author managed to write a story that I generally liked in spite of itself.
The entire story is told from Maggie's third-person perspective, but in spite of that, I still had a little trouble understanding her at times. She was attracted to Towaye right from the start and seemed to trust him until he had to save her life, and then she became wary of him. Granted he was telling her that because he had protected her, she now belonged to him, and he wouldn't facilitate a return to her people, but for a long time, she essentially thought of herself as his prisoner which seemed a little extreme considering that he treated her so well. She even had what I would characterize as a TSTL moment where she nearly died in an attempt to escape him. After that, she did warm back up to him, allowed him to embrace and kiss her, shared a house with him, basically did everything with him that a wife would do except share his bed. Now I did understand that she was technically betrothed to another which was a binding oath and I admired her for sticking to her morals and beliefs, but I couldn't help feeling like she was tormenting the poor man. I'm not saying that she should have slept with him, but she wouldn't really so much as give him an ounce of hope that they might have a future together. Even after she realized she was falling in love with him and he had declared his love for her, she still stubbornly kept asking to be taken to the English settlement. She also didn't have a clue whether her fiancée would ever come back or if he still lived, nor did she love him like she did Towaye. I felt like she should have at least told Towaye she cared, and that if her betrothed didn't return by a certain time, she would consider accepting him as her husband. This finally happened, but not until I'd nearly lost patience with her. Then, even though they got their HEA, I still felt a slight bit of hesitation and perhaps some small regret on Maggie's part for what she was giving up. Maggie did frustrate me at times, but I don't mean to make her sound all bad. She had courage and strength of character, not only to travel to a new land but to stand up for what was right when necessary. I also admired her for putting aside her obsession with going back to her people, at least temporarily, to care for Towaye when he fell ill. She was also very good at teaching the children, and ended up being a good missionary in spite of feeling like she wasn't or that she couldn't do it without her fiancée. Maggie certainly had her moments where she made me want to shake some sense into her, but there were other times where I could relate to how difficult this type of change might be for her.
Even though there isn't a single scene from Towaye's point of view, I thought that Irene Brand managed to draw him fairly well through Maggie's eyes. Towaye fell for Maggie right away, and I loved how he always called her "my Maggie" even in the beginning. He was an incredibly considerate man who cared enough to make many cultural concessions in order to keep Maggie as happy and comfortable as possible. Everything he did, from taking care of her sore feet, to doing chores that would be considered "woman's work" in his tribe, to making sure she had as much of her English culture as he could provide were very romantic. Towaye also had the patience of Job to wait for Maggie as long as he did. The way he always asked, "Someday, my Maggie?" every time she denied him the one thing he wanted most, was a little sad but also very sweet. Even he had his limits though and eventually became angry and hopeless at her seeming inability to accept him. Towaye made lots of small changes throughout the entire book to both his beliefs and his lifestyle, and all of them weighed together, I felt were probably more than Maggie's compromises. That's not to say he was perfect though. As I mentioned earlier, he wouldn't allow Maggie to go to the English camp, partly because of his belief that she belonged to him, a life for a life, but I think the bigger reason was simply that he was afraid of loosing her. He also had one big slip-up when he decided to seek vengeance on an enemy, but even that generally turned out OK. Overall, Towaye was a really lovable hero which is why I had a hard time with Maggie putting him off for so long.
The Christian theme of this story was pretty overt, but I didn't really feel like I was being preached at like with some inspirational novels. I think this was because the tone hearkened back to a time when the message of Christ was more simple and straightforward without all the complicated rhetoric that often seems to accompany it nowadays. I think this made it much easier to appreciate even if the "culture war" going on between Maggie and the Algonquians made me a little uncomfortable at times. I would also say that Ms. Brand tied up the story in a perhaps, too-neat little bow, providing Maggie with everything she needed to avoid even the slightest pang of guilt over her choice. It might have been nice if Maggie had been challenged a little more in her thinking, but I guess since this is an inspirational romance, most readers would have balked if it had ended any other way. Overall, Where Morning Dawns was a pretty enjoyable re-read in spite of its flaws. It is the first in an untitled duet. The hero of the sequel, Come Gentle Spring, is I believe, related to Maggie in some way as they share a last name (perhaps her and Towaye's son, although I'm not certain). I can't recall if I ever read it or any of Irene Brand's other works, but I do look forward to trying them out now.
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