by Sandra Ardoin
Are you ready for a new series from Karen Witemeyer? No Other Will Do, the first book in the Ladies of Harper Station series, is out and ready for your reading pleasure.
Emma Chandler is good with figures, a trained and experienced banker like her father, but men in the business world don’t take her seriously. So she buys an abandoned town and advertises for women longing for independence to populate it.
I’m taken by the premise of this series—a town created in Victorian era Texas by and for women. In it, women of a variety of ages and experiences work the land and own the businesses. They’ve all come to the town to escape unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous, life situations or to fulfill their dreams. There isn’t a man in residence until …
Someone wants to drive the women out of town.
Bertie fell silent for a moment, her brow creased, but then something sparked in her eyes. She lifted her gaze to her sister, then turned her attention to Emma. ‘If the sheriff is unavailable to assist us, what’s to stop us from hiring a man of our own to see to our protection?’ […]
Flora Johnson lurched to her feet, alarm turning her cheeks a violent red. […] ‘No men. They can’t be trusted.’ […]
‘But what if we knew of a man who could be trusted?’ Aunt Henry proposed. […] ‘A man who would rather sacrifice himself than bring harm to someone under his care.’
Emma frowned slightly. What was her aunt suggesting…? Then the answer came, and with it a fluttering in Emma’s belly she hadn’t felt in over a decade.
‘Such a man doesn’t exist,’ Flora snapped.
‘Yes…he does.’ Emma lifted her face to survey the women who depended on her for guidance, for leadership. […] ‘His name is Malachi Shaw.’
Malachi works for the railroad in Montana—an explosives expert—when he gets the telegram from the one woman who can make him drop everything to rush to her aid.
The book begins with a prologue that introduces us to Emma and Mal as young teens. He’s a orphan on the move, trying to survive. She’s his “angel,” the one who receives permission from her two spinster aunts to “keep him” after finding him cold and starving in their barn.
The aunts, Henry and Bertie, are entertaining—one the hardened feminist, the other the sweet little old lady. The town is populated by women looking for a better life or a community in which they fit in. They come in all ages and past circumstances—some lonely, some on the run and fearful.
Emma is a strong leader, but a sense of responsibility is also her weakness. She needs to be in control. But there is no control over her feelings for Malachi. Until she and the aunts took him in, Malachi was an uneducated and wandering thirteen year old. He owes everything to Emma and the aunts. As much as he wants her, he knows Emma is much too good for him.
As I said, the concept is fun. However, I found the first chapters moved a bit slow for me. The prologue is chapter-long and it isn’t until Chapter 7 that Mal and Emma are brought together. Much of the beginning is set up and backstory. Afterward, the story takes off and moves at a brisk and satisfactory pace. The backgrounds of certain other women—like Tori and Grace—are hinted at, but not disclosed.
Overall, if you enjoy Karen Witemeyer’s books (and I do), you’ll want to read No Other Will Do. But, like me, you may feel you want to get to the heart of Emma and Mal’s story a little quicker. Even with that, I’m looking forward to reading the stories of the other women.
The opinions on prologues vary. What’s yours? Do you like them or not? What about epilogues?