Audrey, a college student who is easily bored with the tales of old, is faced with an assignment to write a paper on one of her ancestors. With the help of some old journals and her mother, she becomes enthralled and enchanted by the story of her grandmother and namesake of four generations prior.
The year is 1845. Audrey Donavan, a prominent Kansas school teacher and her husband, Jake had started out west with high hopes and big dreams, but after grueling days of wagon travel and hunger camps, Audrey found herself widowed and alone, but for her old confidant, the stout, gray haired, bearded Charley. The two would settle here where her departed husband was buried, as she could bring herself to go no further.
Charley had practically raised her from birth in Kansas as her father’s right hand man, the family cook and gardener, and whatever else was asked of him. Another big incentive for not traveling further west where there was more commerce and life would be somewhat easier, was that both Audrey and Charley lived with a fear of crossing the terrible river that had taken Jake’s life along with many others.
She and Charley, with the help of Pastor John, Sam and Hank, who happened upon them days later, had erected and started a mission and church for the local natives and the few white homesteaders in the vicinity.
Almost immediately upon her arrival, Audrey inherited a crippled orphan. Later the mission would take in two more “trail” orphans.
Now, two years later, the impoverished Audrey is getting by—miserably so, most of the time, but cannot bring herself to go back to Kansas as she increasingly witnesses the need for her to remain here. Her determination is unwavering through the laborious daily work requirements, the unscrupulous killing of a child she loved, an attack by a savage native in her quarters, and the kidnapping of her early-teen female student and friend, by a local ranger who plotted to marry the young girl for the government land benefits he would receive if he were to wed. But Audrey soon finds that it will take more than determination to rid herself of the highly inconvenient, persistently growing feelings she has for Dyami (D`omi), the native son of one of the local tribal elders.
Dyami is hired by the pastor to guard or watch over the mission after Audrey is assaulted on the property. In exchange for his services, his father has requested that Dyami be tutored in speaking English. When he is invited to join Audrey’s Saturday morning adult English class, his father refuses, insistent that his son be taught privately. This is a hard one for Audrey to swallow, but she bites the bullet and begins the private lessons, which are heartwarming and insightful moments into the spiritual depths of these characters.
Audrey is reserved and standoffish at best and Dyami is uninhibited and closing in on her much too fast for her taste. Thinking herself not ready for another relationship with a man—and certain not one with a native who could prove to be the uncivilized brute that she saw in many of the other local braves—she fights the feeling by avoiding him, canceling sessions with him, and keeping busy with work, but she can’t lose those thoughts of him. Her mind is full of him with every task. And his kind, gentle persistence and compelling good looks doesn’t help her one bit.
At a picnic on the grounds, Audrey watches as Dyami sets and wraps the broken arm of one of the mission children after he falls from a tree. She looks on again as he carries a bleeding young native girl to safety from the brutal home of her captor husband. Dyami then saves the day at the little mission schoolhouse when that same terror of a man comes to retrieve his young wife during the school day.
But a scene she vividly enjoys is when she spots Dyami from a distance while he is in the process of breaking a horse. An affluent horseman, he impresses her again with his gentle style of breaking and his ingenuous and humanely crafted rope bridal.
Dyami’s own horse, Taimi (tie me) is another strong character in the story. He is a loyal, well trained, extremely intelligent thoroughbred and Dyami’s best friend.
All at the mission are privy to Audrey’s attraction to Dyami—except Audrey. She refuses to meet them head on until she faces the fear of losing him. Dyami is arrested for his involvement in an injury sustained by the white rancher who terrorized the school, and taken across the dreaded river to a “natives only” slaughterhouse of a jail.
It is then and only then that Audrey comes to grips with her feelings for Dyami, even to the extent of crossing the terribly angry river to find him. The journey is grueling and the jail scene is horrid. Were Dyami a weaker man, he could not have survived it. But through Audrey’s spiritual teachings and his now strong faith, he finds comfort.
His rescue and the following days of caring for him as he suffers is heart-wrenching for Audrey, but she remains at his side. At first he is not coherent enough to know of her presence. Of course, she chooses this time while he is heavily sedated, to confess her love for him, knowing he will probably have no memory of it.
As they camp on the other side of the river until Dyami is well enough to cross back over, more trouble arrives in the form of horse thieves. The injured Dyami and Audrey are alone at the camp. The others have gone for food. Two men appear out of the wooded area surrounding them, having noted Dyami’s infirmities, and took advantage the situation. A frightening gun-led discussion ensues when Dyami sends Taimi galloping away in an effort to save him from the thieves, which only serves to bring the theives’ attention to Audrey. Dyami ends up striking a deal to give them Taimi (a significant monetary value to them) in exchange for Audrey.
Dyami recovers at the mission over the following weeks and there are many tenders moments between them—but now that he is going to be fine, Audrey goes back into her shell.
Finally she prays at the grave of her late husband and that night she realizes her love for Dyami. Seeking and finding him outside his camp, she divulges her feeling, which leads to a rushed marriage, due to circumstances, and a wedding night filled with more of Dyami’s wonderful words and ways.
This is going to be a cracking good read, Kay! Kind of a Janet Oke style of romance, with an extra dollop of action and suspense--way to go! I would suggest making a whole lot more use of that crippled orphan she adopts. It's wonderful the way a child character can bring out the "meat" of the other characters as they interact. A child also provides great potential for tenderness, humor, and added suspense.
Let us know when it's finished, OK?