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My rating: 4 stars / I really liked it
Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won't be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can't help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.
Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she's the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.
I loved this rugged setting for Tessa's story. The landscape and harsh weather is a huge element in the book and I was able to picture it vividly. Tessa is a proud and opinionated young woman, but with a kind heart as she strives to help not only the children, but the men of the town as well, further their education to improve their life situation. Although the living conditions are not ideal, she quickly connects with several children and members of the community. One family in particular she is drawn to is the adult brothers Alex and Michael, along with Michael's children. I loved the chemistry between her and Alex and the fun banter they shared. A sense of humor is something I find very attractive in a hero ;) She feels conflicted throughout the story since she has a deep aversion to lighthouses and the sacrifices it takes to run them, but she can't help feeling like a part of the family and coming to their aid as often as they come to hers. I felt that the secrets she's hiding from her past didn't match the characteristics she portrays in this book; to fully understand the situation I think reading the previous book in the series, Hearts Made Whole, would be helpful. However her past does come into play during the climax of the plot so it needed to be included. And talk about an evil villain! The injustices and tragedies he is responsible for as he preys on the members of the community made me so mad. In the afterword of the book the author shared that Mr. Updegraff was based on a real person in history- that makes it even worse! (Although that guy's ending was different and more violent than in the book). I don't often find afterwords interesting but this one is filled with fascinating information about which characters and landmarks are inspired by real history. You won't want to miss it!