Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Laura's Shadow by Allison Pittman
Series: Doors to the Past #9
on August 1, 2022
Genres: Historical Romance
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De Smet, South Dakota—1890
Young women growing up in De Smet live by two rules: don’t go out in a snowstorm and don’t give your heart to Cap Garland. Young Mariah Patterson only managed to obey one. Orphaned and having devoted her youth to scrapping out a life with her brother Charles, Mariah finds herself with no option but to marry the devoted—but dull—Merrill Gowan. Throwing caution to the wind, she seizes an opportunity to lay her feelings at Cap’s feet, even though she knows Cap sees the world through the torch he carries for Laura Ingalls. Mariah is certain her love for Cap will be strong enough to break both bonds, and she’s willing to risk everything to prove it.
De Smet, South Dakota—1974
Trixie Gowan is the fourth generation of living Gowan women residing in the sprawling farmhouse on the outskirts of De Smet. Well, former resident. She’s recently acquired her own bachelor girl apartment in Minneapolis, where she works writing ads for a neighborhood paper. She might live and work in the city, but her co-workers still call her Prairie Girl. Thus the inspiration for her comic strip—"Lost Laura"—in which a bespectacled girl in a calico dress tries to make her way in the city. The name is a quiet rebellion having grown up in a household where she’d been forbidden to mention the name, Laura. But when her great-grandmother Mariah’s declining health brings Trixie home for a visit, two things might just keep her there: the bedside manner of Dr. Campbell Carter and the family secret that seems to be spilling from GG’s lips one conversation at a time.
Set in the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this dual timeline story draws in a few minor characters from the Little House world and tells a bittersweet tale that touches four generations of women. I loved the Little House books as a child and have recently picked them up again as an adult so I was excited to see a new to me author setting her tale of unrequited love, secrets, and a later generation romance in that world.
Laura’s Shadow is part of the Doors to the Past collection of standalone stories written by various authors who each set their historical fiction in a famous living or fictional character’s world.
In 1974, Trixie Gowan lives in Minneapolis and works for a small newspaper as an ad artist and part time comic strip artist with her ‘Lost Laura’ comic about country girl living in the big city. She’s happy and content with her life just as it is, but then she gets a call from a big syndicate paper about Lost Laura and a call from back home in De Smet, SD. Her great grandmother has taken a turn for the worst. GG has been proper and reserved, but adamant that there is no mention of Laura Ingalls Wilder in her hearing all Trixie’s life, but Trixie learns that GG has kept secrets and now, at the end, she unfolds this little by little.
In 1890, Mariah Patterson lives with her brother Charles and holds a secret torch for handsome, fun Cap Garland. Oscar ‘Cap’ Garland whose mother ran the boarding house where they stayed for a bit, who comes to their small town to play baseball with his De Smet team, and who is kind, but has eyes for another young woman, Laura Ingalls. Laura is part of the social set and a pretty, vivacious girl while Mariah is tongue-tied and a wallflower. Oh course Cap doesn’t return her love. Instead only good, kind Merrill Gowan waits in the wings wanting a woman who doesn’t want him.
Laura’s Shadow tells a bittersweet story for Mariah and shows Trixie that she can have something more than contentment if she looks around and takes notice. All along, I felt sorry for Mariah because she refused to give a different man a chance and I suspected she was mixing up infatuation with love because she didn’t really understand love and had never felt it since her mother died when she was young and her pa was an alcoholic who also died while she was a teen though she is close with her brother.
The big secret was not that hard to work out though there are some details to fill in that gave nuances to the story. I liked seeing how going home and learning Mariah’s story started to make a difference in Trixie’s life. She, unlike her GG, had the high school sweetheart ready to hand and suddenly notices the comfortable and close relationship with Ron back in the city. I don’t enjoy love triangles, but I never really felt that there was a competition for Trixie once she gave it some thought. It was funny to see her quirky grandmother and mother trying to manage Trixie’s affairs.
The four generations of women portrayed in this one along with the two different types of romances in the time frames were wonderful character and relationship developments.
As to the setting of the classic children’s story and the real historical place, it was obvious the author did her homework and brought it all to life nicely. The author portrayed the people who were often minor characters of the stories, but also the real life people they were in their activities and connections.
All in all, I was glad to have come across this one. It sits within several genres because of the dual time line- historical fiction, women’s fiction, inspirational fiction, and even romance so it will likely have appeal to a wider range of readers who want more in the world of Laura.
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