A timeless and heartwarming romantic historical fiction amidst a dramatically painted panorama of pioneer life in America’s heartland.
Recently widowed, easterner Jane Weber hopes for a secure, quiet position as a housekeeper to a physician in the newly forming Dakota Territory, never imagining the many turns that life has in store for her.
Dr. Patrick Kinney welcomes Jane’s application because she did simple nursing chores during her late husband’s illness. Arriving in Flats Junction she is met by the auburn-haired doctor, the independent and rather acerbic general store proprietress Kate, and an enigmatic Sioux landlady, Widow Hawks.
Each evening when she leaves the doctor’s house after their companionable supper, a cowboy named Bern walks her to Widow Hawk’s strange dwelling. To the doctor’s delight, Jane displays talents as a cook, gardener, and secretary. But, still depressed after a dutiful marriage and sudden widowhood, she cannot fathom that the Doctor would show an interest in her as a woman, believing instead that he is courting Kate.
Soon she begins to perceive some fault lines in the pleasant exterior of Flats Junction, notably the violent prejudice of some people, including Bern, against Native Americans like her newfound confidante, Widow Hawks. And soon, too, Jane will have to reveal that she is pregnant with a child conceived shortly before the death of her husband.
After a series of traumatic events force Jane to acknowledge her strong feelings for Patrick, she resolves to leave Flats Junction and start her life over yet again. But she doesn’t reckon on the good doctor’s equally strong feelings or the lengths he will go to in winning her over.
Author Sara Dahmen has clearly researched the era, vernacular and settings of her richly complex story. She brings into focus the joys and deprivations of life on the American frontier, the rigid proprieties that pertained in relations between the sexes, and the cutting edge of racial hatred that rankled towards the local displaced and marginalized American Indians.
She sheds light on fascinating small details of everyday life in 1881—cookery, clothing and medical care. Dahmen also conveys a keen awareness of the sometimes desperate needs of a woman’s heart, as her heroine wavers between her unexpected passion for Patrick and the possibility of a respectable, but unexciting, match with someone else.
Captivating and vividly portrayed, “Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, ” is a delightful read that is refreshing and original as it is entertaining.