Clark and Marty Davis continue their lives together, growing their family and raising their children, which include a couple of unexpected additions to their household. Their lives intersect with those of their friends as they share in the joys and sorrows of frontier life. With a new school finally built, the community decides it's time to find a teacher. Once that position is filled, the people realize that they are also in need of a full-time minster to see to their spiritual needs, but will the fancy preacher from the East be able to find a way to relate to the simple people of the West? Throughout everything Clark and Marty strive to help their fellow settlers whenever they might be in need, and deal with the bittersweetness of their growing children leaving them to create new homes of their own with their chosen mates.
I'm pretty certain I read Love's Enduring Promise years ago in my teens, but prior to picking it up again, I couldn't really remember a thing about the story. As a consequence and knowing that this was a continuation of Clark and Marty's relationship, I was kind of expecting an epic love story which isn't quite what this novel is all about. The book opens about two years after the ending of Love Comes Softly. It is still primarily about Clark, Marty, and their growing family, but more like a series of snapshots of their lives together over a span of approximately twelve years. It is also about how the community in which they live and the people within it grow and change as time goes by as well. I didn't find this one to be quite as romantic as the first book of the Love Comes Softly series, probably because it doesn't focus in on the building of one couple's relationship, but I suppose there was enough romance present in the multiple courtships and marriages among secondary characters and the next generation of the Davis family to loosely characterize the story as a historical romance.
Once again, I loved reading about life on the frontier, the sense of warmth and love that comes from family, friends, and community, and how they all share in the joy and sorrow, laughter and tears that life can bring. Most of the story is still told from Marty's point-of-view, but occasionally snippets of other character's perspectives pop up. Then Missie takes over some of the bits near the end, probably as something of a transition to the next book, Love's Long Journey, which will be her story. There are numerous mini sub-plots that highlight all the changes in the community. As more people come to the area, the residents welcome a new teacher, new preachers, and new neighbors. I particularly liked the part about the new preachers, because it highlighted a spiritual position with which I agree, that true spiritual sustenance doesn't come from big words or fancy sermons, but from an ability to sense an earthy oneness with God on a much simpler level. The people also say good-bye as some of their fellow residents move on and others pass on. I was very taken with a sweet side story about a young couple's much longed-for child not being exactly what they were expecting, but he ended up being a remarkable boy who was their pride and joy. There was also one of the many romances that ended in heartbreak, which also tore my heart open a little too, not just because of what the couple experienced but because of other issues which I'll address in a moment. Overall, every little piece of the narrative came together to make me feel like I was a part of this little frontier neighborhood.
I would have to say that Marty is still the main character in this book. She strikes me as a no-nonsense kind of woman who works hard, and would do just about anything for anyone. She can be pretty stubborn and independent at times. She can also be fairly exuberant in her faith, and is eager to share it with others, but I wouldn't characterize it as being particularly overbearing or preachy. Underlying everything is a loving woman who is a great wife and mother. I was rather disappointed that Clark didn't play as much of a role in this book, but what we get to see of him through his interactions with Marty and their family, I could tell that he is the same kind, gentle man with a heart of gold. He is a loving, attentive and protective husband and father, always thinking of others before himself. Clark is just an all-around great guy. Clark and Marty's family grows by leaps and bounds until their little frontier home is just about bursting at the seams, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their interactions with each of the children and watching some of them grow up and move on to lives of their own.
Overall, Love's Enduring Promise was a gentle book that was a joy to read, but there was one little part involving the secondary romance I mentioned earlier which left me rather troubled. It involved a white young man (a character I had come to care about a great deal) and an Indian girl (who was very sweet in her own right), which raised the issues of racism and prejudice. The couple was obviously very deeply in love and wanted nothing more than to be married, but not a single person in the story supported that desire (except for one short line from his sister who was immediately chastised by their mother for being naïve and having her vision clouded by her own upcoming nuptials). Marty came the closest by agreeing to meet the girl and talk to the boy's mother, but even she wasn't entirely on board with the relationship. What bothered me the most though was when the boy's mother essentially stated that it wasn't God's will for people of different races to be married and have mixed-race babies. I realize that prejudice of this nature was quite common back then, and that no matter what happened the couple would have faced a difficult road. However, they certainly wouldn't have been the first white/Indian pairing of the era, and since the only way to combat prejudice is for someone to stand up and say it's wrong, I couldn't help wondering if things might not have been different for them if well-respected members of the community like the Grahams and Davises had taken that stand instead of being wishy-washy about it. After all, they are supposed to be good Christian people and to me, that seems like the Christian thing to do. Admittedly, the girl's Indian grandfather wasn't any better, but since he had lost many family members in white attacks, I felt like he at least had a good reason for hating them. The main point I'm trying to make with my mini-rant, is that I felt the author opened a can of worms that ultimately went nowhere and then copped out on a very sensitive issue. However, I'm willing to admit that perhaps, I'm applying too much of my modern sensibilities to a historical fiction story that was written over thirty years ago. This was the one and only thing that kept me from giving this book the full five stars. Thankfully, it was a very small part of the overall narrative and otherwise, Love's Enduring Promise was an enjoyable, feel-good story that left me with warm fuzzies all over, and very much looking forward to revisiting Missie's book soon.
You May Also Enjoy
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook