At Love’s Command Adapted for Blog Post
Though I do not plan to make a habit of posting my reviews on this blog, I am making an exception with this one and will most likely do so for others from time to time.
I spent some time pondering how to write a review of Karen Witemeyer’s Historical Romance book At Love’s Command. After seeing so many negative reviews of this book based on the fact the main character in the novel was a soldier at the massacre at Wounded Knee, I knew I would need to address certain issues within the review.
I do not debate the horrors of that incident. The facts are brutal and historical. I do, however, find the possibility of remorse and revulsion on the part of some soldiers involved both acceptable and quite likely. And I take into account that At Love’s Command is not a historical treatise but a work of fiction.
As Christians (and At Love’s Command is a Christian Historical Romance) we are called to extend grace. The story begins with the massacre (the prologue) and Witemeyer doesn’t shirk from painting the action realistically and brutally. What she does beyond that is posit the idea of several soldiers who shrank back when they saw what was happening and were, from that time forward, changed by the deeds done on that day. They were repentant.
Those who have written negative comments are correct in that the massacre should not be minimized, but, as a Christian, I like to think if I met soldiers who had been there and were truly horrified by what happened and were repentant, I would, as Jesus would, extend them grace. I believe that is the focus Witemeyer employed in her writing and I also believe she, too, should be extended such grace.
Within our culture today, we are bombarded with the idea that we must identify individuals as part of a group and only as part of that group, with no allowance for individuality. We are either oppressors or the oppressed. In doing so, we fall into the logical pitfall of gross generalization and the ideological camp of Marxism which is anathema to Christianity. God sees us as individuals and, as his people, we are called to do the same.
Several reviewers of At Love’s Command have approached the character of Matthew Hanger as an “oppressor” and nothing more. Witemeyer is not extended the grace to present him as a fallen, fallible, and repentant human being. This is sad. Especially since the book is historical fiction.
So, having placed my review in proper perspective, I will proceed to review the book itself on the merits of the book alone.
I do not read romance as a habit but do so from time to time. All the hype caught my attention. The story begins with Matthew Hanger and his fellow soldiers as the massacre begins. From his perspective though he is a hardened soldier, the brutality is wrong and sickens him. He attempts to save a few of the people slated for slaughter, but in their fear, they run from him. This impacts him as a human being.
Chapter one picks up with the main story three years later. The guilt of what happened in 1890 still follows Matthew and his fellow Horsemen. Utilizing what they had learned in the army, they now take jobs helping people in need of their specific skill set. Think A-Team type help. They have earned a reputation and are quite successful at their chosen line of work. One specific aspect of their commitment sets them apart. Since Wounded Knee, the four have chosen to avoid killing their foes even if it puts them in jeopardy.
When one of his men is wounded while capturing a ring of cattle thieves, Matt meets Dr. Jo. Dr. Jo turns out to be a woman. And what a woman! It doesn’t take long for Matt and Jo to begin to respect one another while struggling against their common attraction. And thus, the romance begins.
Josephine is strong, intelligent, and independent. A woman who knows her own mind and has no qualms about standing up to ex-soldiers who try to boss her around. When her brother is kidnapped for ransom, she doesn’t hesitate to enlist Hanger’s Horsemen to rescue him.
With a few twists and turns along the way, Witemeyer crafts a story of heroic action, personal growth, and romance that will entertain and touch any reader, but most especially, those who enjoy historical romance. Do not let the negative reviews dissuade you from reading At Love’s Command. It is worth the read.