cover image First Dawn

First Dawn

Judith Miller, . . Bethany House, $12.99 (379pp) ISBN 978-0-7642-2997-8

Miller, coauthor with Tracie Peterson of the popular Bells of Lowell series, offers a historical novel all her own. In 1877 Kansas, prospectors have developed two new towns: Nicodemus is to be settled by former slaves, and Hill City will be inhabited by white folks. The Harban family, hard-working African-Americans, are disappointed when they arrive in Nicodemus and find that it boasts only "wretched" lean-tos and eight small campsites. Similarly, Samuel Boyle, a white physician from Kentucky, moves his family to Hill City and is stunned when he finds that the supposed "town" is really just "a few houses and several sad-looking buildings." The womenfolk, especially, yearn for the comforts of civilization, and a few unmarried gals pine for beaux they left behind. But sustained by a strong work ethic and a firm faith in God, the pioneers begin to settle into their new environment. Boyle finds that his medical services are badly needed in Nicodemus, and as he shuttles between the two towns, he and his family begin to develop relationships with some of the black settlers. The novel has its share of implausible coincidences (apparently the sine qua non of CBA historical fiction), but these usher the story to its climax and a reasonably satisfying conclusion. (July)