A Life Once Dreamed – Rachel Fordham

A Life Once Dreamed by Rachel Fordham
Published by Revell on August 4, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
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Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie's pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves--but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can't seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

Fan-favorite Rachel Fordham brings to life the dusty streets of an 1880s frontier town in this story that affirms where you come from matters far less than where you're going.

A Life Once Dreamed by Rachel Fordham is a mildly enjoyable—although somewhat predictable—journey to an 1880s frontier town in the Dakota Territory. Fordham provides a glimpse into a past long gone for her readers, and she does so with an appropriate mix of humor and drama. Agnes “Aggie” Pratt has run away from her hometown and all its connections in order to escape a previously unknown secret that she believes could impact the rest of her life and the future of the man she loves.

James Harris answers the town’s request for a doctor, shattering the peace Agnes once felt in the small town of Penance and reminding her heart what it means to love. He not only comes to serve the Penance community but to get answers to all the questions that he’s struggled with for the past six years. The handsome doctor’s ultimate goal is not to remain in Penance but to bring Agnes back to their hometown as his wife instead.

A Life Once Dreamed progressed quickly, but not always quickly enough for my taste, and it was well-written and easy to read. I appreciated this, as well as the hints of comedy Fordham spread throughout the book.  The plot was also easy to follow; I could put the book down for a couple hours then pick it back up with no struggle to dive back into to the story.

Unfortunately, that is where my praises conclude for A Life Once Dreamed. Agnes’s “big secret” wasn’t much of one. I had it correctly pegged from the very first mention. The whole book revolved around the fact that Agnes fretted about said secret, and she did not want to share it…with anyone. Throughout the novel, there are rather blatant arrows that point to what it is. When the author finally reveals this “big secret” to her readers, the surprise factor isn’t there—at least, it wasn’t for me. I found it lackluster and anticlimactic.

There also wasn’t enough character development for me. Yes, Agnes and James change before the story’s end, but…I don’t know, I was left wanting more from both of them. There were also a few characters that I felt served little purpose; they were included to repeat ideas from other characters, and also to add words and frankly, some needless subplots in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy A Life Once Dreamed, and I will probably seek to read more books by Rachel Fordham. This one just wasn’t my favorite.