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Defiant Heart by Tracey Bateman

Reviewed by April Gardner

"...light and fun yet still retains the realistic hardships in the lives of the characters."

In Book One of the Westward Hearts series, orphans Fannie Caldwell and her two young siblings have spent the last three years as indentured servants under a cruel master. Desperately wanting a better life for her brother and sister, Fannie devises a plan to secretly join a wagon train heading west. Her plan immediately runs into trouble when the handsome yet bullheaded wagon master Blake Tanner refuses to allow an unmarried woman on the train. But Fannie's determined – she'll escape and go west with or without help.

As life on the trail tests everyone's endurance and faith, Fannie soon realizes the perils of being a single woman on the frontier. Witnessing Fannie fending off one scare after another, Blake slowly recognizes how much he cares for this alluring young woman. Will Blake sacrifice his own dreams and guide Fannie to safety? Or will Fannie's stubborn independence keep her from finding true love?

~back cover of Defiant Heart


Because she excels at every genre she puts her pen to, Tracey Batemen is one of my favorite Christian novelists. With her, the only sure bet is good quality. Everything else is up for grabs, and she’ll surprise you every time.

In her historicals, The Freedom of the Soul and The Color of the Soul, Bateman’s writing is impacting and touches that place deep inside that weeps for those hurting. Defiant Heart, on the other hand, is a quick, easy read. It is light and fun yet still retains the realistic hardships in the lives of the characters, and in 1850’s Kansas, there’s plenty of hardship to go around.

The setting, a wagon train, is one that hasn’t been touched on much recently, so I enjoyed the ride (pun intended). Bateman had me right there next to Fannie on the wagon feeling every bump, smelling horseflesh, and hearing the buzzing of prairie flies.

Defiant Heart is an in-depth study of life on a wagon train, complete with a host of smelly, dirty-minded bad guys who won’t take no for an answer. A hearty filling of reluctant romance with a dashing wagon master rounds it out nicely.

As much as I enjoyed “Defiant Heart”, I was a bit weary of the modern-minded female character in a historical setting that horrifies members of society with her attire and “stubborn independence”. But because the plot was so well developed and energetic, I found myself to be quite forgiving.

The novel comes full circle and closes neatly, which makes me wonder how Bateman will pick up the story line in the next installment of the series. Whatever route she takes, I’m certain to enjoy it. With Bateman, it’s a given.

April GardnerApril W Gardner writes adult and middle grade historical fiction. Her first novel, Wounded Spirits, releases with Vintage Romance Publishing in November of this year. She is a member of ACFW and reviews for Title Trakk, At Home With Christian Fiction, and FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours. A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her darling Hubby. A homeschool mom, she fills her mornings talking fractions and phonics with her two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. Visit April's Website or her blog, A Writer's Journey. You can also get to know April on Facebook and Twitter.