A Promise for Ellie: Daughters of Blessing #1
When a fire blazes in a structure on the prairie near Blessing, North Dakota during the 1900s, everyone in the entire region is mobilized to fight it. In the prologue, Andrew Bjorklund, his father Haakan, his mother Ingeborg, and his sister Astrid race to gather their tools and head to a neighbor's place. The drama gives a miniature picture of how this family works as a team.
Ellie Wold lives in Grafton, North Dakota, about an hour (by train) from Blessing. Because of her adoptive father Olaf's beautiful furniture business, they moved from Blessing to Grafton two years earlier. Yet Ellie is constantly thinking about Blessing and, in particular, Andrew Bjorklund. She plans to return to her old school for graduation and a wedding to Andrew. Since the couple has been separated, they've been writing letters to one another and long to be together. Andrew has been making plans to build a barn and has mail-ordered a pre-made house. But then Haakan gets a "feeling" that their plans should be delayed for a few months. Knowing the godly character of her husband, Ingeborg supports this direction. Andrew is confused and angry about the delay from his father yet has no choice but to abide by the decision. Ellie doesn't like the delay either but tries to be optimistic, saying that soon enough they will have the rest of their lives together.
Ellie, Andrew and a few other classmates graduate from high school and make their plans for the summer. Another graduate, Toby Valders, has continual tension with Andrew and makes sarcastic verbal jabs with the nickname "Prince Andrew." Moving temporarily to Blessing for the summer, Ellie helps Andrew's sister-in-law, Penny, run the local store while Andrew is consumed with chores on the family farm. The men in the area raise a barn on Andrew's property. Then every spare moment, Andrew is working to put the finishing touches on his barn or prepare the foundation of his new house. The busy summer puts the young love between Andrew and Ellie to the test. Because they don't see each other often, they struggle at times to communicate when they're together. The tension builds with some occasional interference from Toby Valders.
Ultimately, Andrew's barn catches fire and Ellie sees Toby running away from the destroyed barn. Believing Toby started the fire, Andrew catches Toby and pounds his head into the dirt, knocking him unconscious and almost killing him. The sheriff arrives and arrests Andrew for assault; if Toby dies, the charge will be changed to murder. The time in jail allows Andrew to read the Bible and reflect on his actions.
Lauraine Snelling writes with well-drawn characters who are put into common yet difficult circumstances. This first book in the Daughters of Blessing series is highly recommended.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on November 13, 2011