At Love's Command (Hanger's Horsemen, # 1)
By: Karen Witemeyer
Publication: June 2nd 2020 by Bethany House Publishers
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger's Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler's bullet leaves one of them at death's door, they're the ones in need of saving.
Dr. Josephine Burkett is used to men taking one look at her skirts and discounting her medical skills. What she's not used to is having a man change his mind in a heartbeat and offer to assist her in surgery. Matthew Hanger's dedication to his friend during recovery earns Josephine's respect, and when she hears of her brother's abduction, he becomes her only hope for rescue.
Matt has stared down ruthless outlaws, betrayal, and injury, but when a bossy lady doctor crawls under his skin, his heart is tempted to surrender. And when she is caught in the crossfire, he may have to sacrifice everything--even his team--to save her.
I've been exploring the historical fiction genre over the last couple of years. I occasionally read one here or there in the past, but as with most things in life, my expectations of the genre were quite different than the reality. Lately, I've been devouring new (to me) authors, new books, and new periods. At Love's Command was one of them.
Josephine is a woman in what's considered at the time as being a man's profession. She's a doctor who has had to earn the respect of the town she is working in. She doesn't stand for any man to talk to her like she doesn't know her own mind or like he knows better than her. Jo gave up on the idea of having a family for herself because not many men would be accepting of her profession. But she's never been drawn to a man who just might make her crave more from life than the calling she loves.
Matthew joined the Calvary after his family was slaughtered by Indians (Native Americans). But after the battle of Wounded Knee where his regiment decimated an entire tribe of Indians--men, women, and children. Matthew and 3 of his fellow officers need to atone for the innocent blood spilled. They attempt to right wrongs using non-lethal force. Matthew recognizes a kindred spirit in Dr. Jo. He does everything in his power to block the effect she has on him, but when she hires his crew to rescue her brother from a band of outlaws trying to use him for ransom against her father, Matthew is thrown into a relationship with Josie that he can no longer ignore.
All in Matt and Josie progress quickly as far as the amount of time they spend together for their relationship to reach the level it does so quickly. Granted a good bit of that time is heightened by high stakes and pressure situations. But there can't be more than a month spanning the entire book. Probably less. This type of thing doesn't usually bother me, and it didn't in this case either. But I do know that many readers take issue with fast relationships like this.
One of the biggest compliments that I can give Karen Witemeyer and At Love's Command is that I'm already excited about reading books focused on each of the other Horsemen. I feel like I know each one of them just enough to feel connected and intrigued. I want to know more. And I already like them all. I would read a sequel in this series immediately if I had it available. Plus I'm anxious to find out which Horsemen book 2 will follow and technically no book 2 has even been announced yet.
I connected to Matt and Jo on a personal level because she struggles with trying to control her life and he struggles with knowing that even with God in control, sometimes bad things still happen to us and those we love. My favorite quotes centered around these areas, but here are my favorite quotes from the entire book:
-Yes, God was capable of protecting Josie, but there was no guarantee that he actually would. And it was that uncertainty that drove Matt step after grueling step. He supposed a more faithful man would take comfort in knowing that God’s will would prevail, and whatever happened would be for the best. But Matt believed there was an evil force with a will of its own at work in the world too. A force that inflicted pain for its own sadistic delight. A force that would steal a five-year-old boy’s parents and sister from him and make him bear witness to the atrocities. He didn’t believe their murder was God’s will. A God who spoke commandments against murder wouldn’t condone such an act. Yet this same God had done nothing to stop it.
-Forfeiting control to an almighty God should be easier than giving in to a gang of outlaws, yet he still struggled. He wanted to trust, but he’d lost loved ones before, and the little boy inside the man was terrified that history would repeat itself.
-I’m afraid, Lord. Afraid to completely surrender. Afraid that if I have no control over the outcome, it won’t end the way I desire. Afraid you’ll take Matthew from me. Lean not unto thine own understanding. Josephine’s heart pricked. That was it, wasn’t it? She trusted her own understanding more than she trusted God’s unfathomable wisdom.
-How quick she was to grab for the reins the instant the path the Lord led her down took a turn she didn’t favor. Where was her trust? Her surrender?
-Control was nothing more than an illusion, a lie to trap the competent in their own capability. One that created such a dependence on self that it clogged the conduit of wisdom and power flowing from the Omnipotent until only a trickle of living water found its way through.
-Help me, Lord. Clear out the debris of pride and fear clogging my soul and let your river of living water flow through me unhindered. Help me trust that you are at work. That you will fight for Matthew, for justice. And should the worst happen, that you will fight for me too. That I might believe in your goodness even in the pit of despair.
At Love's Command had a lot going for it. Even though there was a mystery to solve or outlaws to overcome, the relationship between Josie and Matt felt like it was at the heart of the story and moved the events along rather than the story or other characters driving the bus. The side characters pop off the page just as much as the leads, and I can't wait to dive into each one's story. At Love's Command easily gets 4 Stars. Have you read At Love's Command? What did you think? Let me know!