My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
First of all, let me start by saying I didn’t know what a moonbow was until I read this story and went to check it out online. I never saw a moonbow but now I seriously want to! There were many such references in A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz which I absolutely loved. I mean WOW!
A Moonbow Night is my third Laura Frantz book, and boy this was one explosive novel! It’s a clean, slightly Christian themed historical romance and her latest release. Previously I’ve read The Mistress of Tall Acre and The Colonel’s Lady; I loved the first, was very frustrated with the other but I knew I’d like to try another of her book soon. This one definitely takes the cake! It wasn’t just the writing and the historical research (loved how she integrated the Daniel Boone and family as a part of the storyline) - Ms. Frantz excels in both gracefully - but also the story itself. So many things were happening; sometimes warm and fuzzy that’ll put a smile on your face, while other times something really, really heart-wrenching! It says a lot when it took me about the first 40% of the book to get into the story cause I found all the references made quite confusing.
Sion Morgan, a Welsh descendant surveyor, was on a mission to survey the areas around the Shawnee Rivers (pardon my geography; I don’t live in the US). He had to check out this backwaters, where the lands are equally full of temptation and danger, for the approaching settlers. Sion knew it would be one of the most dangerous jobs out there, with the Indians on the hunt for human scalp, but he was very dedicated. He had a small group of men helping him, which included an elderly man called Nate, their mapmaker, and not so helpful, Cornelius Lyon and Cornelius’s manservant Aidan. Two chain bearers as well.
Sion has been on the trail for long months. Since tragedy struck his life a year ago where his wife, Harper, heavily pregnant with their first child, died in an Indian attack, he hadn’t looked back. He felt guilty because he wasn’t with her when it happened; he was busy elsewhere with another survey work. Even if Sion wants to try and forget, Cornelius won’t let him be. Being Harper’s bother, it was his job to taunt and push Sion to the brink as much as possible but without much success. Sion was irritated at him but he was a man with an iron will. Cornelius was what you’d call a ‘problem child’. It was only because of his exquisite skill at mapmaking is why Sion puts up with him, also because he felt guilty that now his brother-in-law had no one to call family.
On the way to the treacherous paths loaded with mountains and valleys equally, Sion’s tracking brings him to the point where he must move forward to the unknown. Yet he had no guide to show him around. You can only imagine what may befell if you didn’t know the area at all. Sion wasn’t about to put his men in more danger than they already were. He got information from someone along the way about an inn called the Moonbow Inn where one Widow Tucker reigns supreme. Her inn seats in an area where there is no human habitat. She and her family pretty much tamed the wild and settled in. And the inn was quite famous amongst the travelers who passed by, not only they were looking for a place to rest but also because Widow Tucker’s cooking and hospitality was legendary.
Sion had no idea what to believe but he was desperate. And a wee bit curious. It was on search for the Inn that he comes across an Indigo skirt in the forest, running away from him on fleeting foot. He had previously felt someone was watching him, trailing him. What he didn’t know it was Temperance AKA Tempe Tucker, Widow Tucker’s only daughter. She knew that valley like the back of her hands cause she’s been living there for a few years and her father had trained her well to get about. She’d heard-tell of the surveyors and was rather wary of them. More often than not, they bring trouble and Tempe’s family didn’t need those at the moment.
Sion and Tempe’s first meeting was amazing, to say the least. Before that, Sion and Cornelius had a boating accident where he’d temporarily lost his dog and Cornelius. He finds them both in the Moonbow Inn, pertaking Widow Tucker’s hospitality. It was also the mysterious Indigo Skirt’s abode. But what lured Sion in the most was the divine smell of food. What he ate with men on the trail was... best not to think of it. Meeting Tempe only made his day brighter. The spark was there from the beginning, though neither was willing to acknowledge it for good reason. Tempe was wary of strangers, especially the surveyors while Sion had no need of an entanglement with a woman at this moment in his life. Even if inside he’d want a glimpse of Tempe as long as he was there he knew he can’t think of anything beyond his work. He still had a long way to go and he didn’t know where this is gonna take him to.
When you get to read more about Tempe’s life, you know she’d sadly suffered. Coming from a well-to-do family, to going down to hiding up into a wild territory can’t be good for anyone. But Tempe had thrived, even if her brother Russell hadn’t to that extent. We go back to her engagement to James Boone, Daniel Boone’s eldest son and their hasty, sweet yet very short courtship that never blossomed into a wedding. James was brutally murdered by the Indians right before that. The same incident left Russell lame, both emotionally and physically. Needless to say this horrible incident shattered many people’s life, including Tempe’s.
I’d like note that there’s flashback of Tempe and James’s meeting, courtship and rather detailed, if not overly graphic, description of James’s murder. On one hand, I could’ve done without reading it. On the other, I was so glad the author explored Tempe’s past and gave us a glimpse of her devotion to James, which ran deep even now that he’s gone for years. First love never dies, a sentiment was very true for her. She still grieved for him and didn’t think she’d ever marry, even if her mother wanted her to marry and move away. She wouldn’t even listen to any discussion on any man showing slight interest in her (most who had travelled past the inn and knew them). Until Sion though, Tempe’s thoughts hadn’t veered towards that area. Even though she still wanted to die and be with James –it was rather sad and alarming that she couldn’t quite move on from the shock of losing him so suddenly –Sion Morgan made her think of other things. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t suicidal. She just thought she didn’t fear death as it’ll only reunite her with James. But later, things change significantly for Tempe when she and Sion begin falling for each-other. It was something to behold.
Tempe’s father was in hiding for a crime he committed back in Virginia. He lived separately on a rockhouse, went out of hiding only when they needed provisions. Tempe, her mother and their help Paige, grew most everything one can grow there. They even herded a few cows and goats for milk and butter. But there were some things that they couldn’t grow and definitely couldn’t buy from anywhere nearby. There was no human civilization hundreds of miles around the inn, even if it was graced by the travel weary folks. The income of the inn saw that they had the money to buy what they needed. Russell was an excellent blacksmith, but he could make many other things as well. His skills came handy around the inn. However he wasn’t happy. It always seemed he was in a trance of sorts and won’t talk much. He’d ignore Paige who was quite besotted with him. It hurt Tempe and her mother but they didn’t know how to reach to him. Russell never talked about that fateful day to anyone, PTSD dogging him even now.
Then finally, one day, Russell simply opens up to Tempe as if it proved too much for him to keep it locked within. It was from his halting narratives that we finally learn what had transpired that nightmarish day.
What brings Sion and Tempe together was his need for a guide. And there was no one better than Tempe. Even the grizzled old men acquiesce that she was the best. He was a little desperate to carry on with his surveying, even if it meant accompanying a woman in their little group. Even if it meant he would have to protect her as well, especially when Cornelius was showing too much interest in her. It was more because he was, as usual, goading Sion into doing something rash. Sion couldn’t hide his interest in Tempe even if he tried to. Thankfully though, even though their budding relationship had a rocky start, soon Temp had only eyes for him. She admired Sion for everything he was, and he did. He was admirable in every way; from his towering height to his dark goodlooks, to his natural affinity for leadership, and not to mention, his inherent goodness that he tries to hide behind his rough exterior. I’m not sure why some reviewers said there was no romance. Their romance was slow burn that you get to savor despite the treacherous path they were walking, with Indians still on the hunt for more scalps now that there’s a reward on white men’s scalps. How horrendous! Gave me shudders when I read some of those incidents even if only by mention. But the truth was, the whole undertaking was so dangerous that they didn’t know if they’d make it back to the civilization or not.
True to the premonition, in the end the Indians do attack their little group at one point and kidnap everyone except for Tempe. There was one that she thought was a friend of Russell’s, betrays them. Yet for some reason, he left Tempe behind. But if they killed Sion and everyone else, what’s the point of his supposed? Tempe had doubts but she didn’t know why Raven left her off. She had come to be fond of Nate and Aiden and this was a nightmare she was dreading but hoped she would not have to go through. And she couldn’t lose another man she loved, wanted to be with, now that she’d come to realize, more than she’d ever wanted to be with James. If with him hers was the sweetness of the first love, with Sion it was more matured, more intense. They’d kissed a few times and knew they would do anything for each-other, to be with each-other.
The last few chapters were very intense, grueling and very much full of suspense. I didn’t know what was going to happen to them, or IF they’d even make it out. No, not everybody made it out, and those deaths left me extremely sad. But I was also tremendously happy that Tempe didn’t have to bury the man she loved once again. My review doesn’t really capture the heart of it, but when I say “The Last of The Mohicans”(albeit 20yrs. after the setting), I think you’ll get a bit of what I mean. I did have a feeling that I was watching the movie, which I loved, all over again. The story wasn’t exactly the same but, oh, the feeling I had! I cried and laughed and felt this huge relief when Sion was finally rescued. I admired Tempe who was a crack shot, her only competition being Sion himself. I admired her strength when her father, at first, refused to help her and she simply went out riding, her mind full of Sion and the men and how she could help. She didn’t care if she lived or died, she was quite badly injured too. She couldn’t think of losing Sion and you feel her desperation pouring out of the pages. Her father was a coward really, even if he later had a hand in rescuing Sion. If you read the story you’ll know why I said it. And TBH, I don’t know WHY anyone would say Tempe had no personality. She was amazing! I loved them both, her and Sion, who was really hot in his own way. :P
When A Moonbow Night ended I was crying in happiness even when I was sighing with Tempe who was finally content to become Tempe Tucker Morgan. James was still a part of her life but she had someone else to look up to now. Her life was finally complete, the emptiness she’d carried all these years inside her, gone. Sion also could rest his guilt regarding the death of his first wife, looking forward to a new life with Tempe. He did acknowledge that with Tempe it was a love-match. There was good news about Russell and Paige too, and I was SO so happy for them all. No wonder this was a 5 star book!