My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice (2017) by Angie Dicken is a sweet and engaging novel that is part of the My Heart Belongs series published by Barbour Books. You do not have to have read any of the other books in this series to understand this book though. This book is very much a stand-alone novel. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 258 pages in length. With a full-time job and a sick kid this week, this novel took me a week to read. I received a free review copy of this novel in eBook form from NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 4.5 STARS. This novel is a Christian Historical Romance.
About the Book
Journey now to Castle Gate, Utah of 1910 where…
Forbidden Love Tries to Survive Old World Expectations
Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.
Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.
Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.
This is my first novel by Angie Dicken, but it certainly will not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I love Dicken’s attention to detail, and it is evident she did a ton of research for this book. I had no idea about the racial tension in Utah in the early 1900s. The animosity between the American miners and the Greek immigrants coming to Utah for work is palpable in this story. Throughout my reading of this book, I had to often take Google breaks to research Castle Gate. I got lost looking at all the pictures of miners with their soot-covered faces, the women and children trying to make a home while fathers/husbands left every morning for work uncertain if they would return home at night or not. And, I was drawn into articles about mine shafts collapsing and men losing their lives. I often questioned why anyone would be willing to go down a mine shaft knowing it was a precarious, dangerous place to work. Did they need the money that badly? Did they think they were mighty men who were invincible? Did they get an adrenaline rush from their job? I was utterly fascinated by this aspect of the book, and had a difficult time putting it down.
This novel follows Leanna McKee and Alex Pappas in 1910. Leanna is a recent widow who lost her husband in a mining accident. She is also a teacher at the local school where the miners’ children are taught. Alex Pappas is a Greek immigrant who came to America in 1902 with the goal of making enough money to send to Greece to pay for his very sick wife’s medicine. Unfortunately, he is unable to save her in time, and she dies. Both characters, Leanna and Alex, deal with guilt. Because of dashed expectations and a bit of financial betrayal, Leanna was very harsh towards her husband. She never gave him forgiveness for his misdeeds before he died. She wasn’t very loving towards him either, and this all causes her much grief. She doesn’t feel like she should ever be in another relationship because she doesn’t think she is good wife material. Alex also feels guilt over not being able to prevent his wife’s untimely death. He throws himself into work to provide for his mother and father, brother and sister-in-law, and niece and nephew. He never even considers remarriage because he, too, feels unworthy. I truly relate to both of these characters. Growing up, I had BIG dreams and expectations for my life, but life didn’t turn out the way I thought. Like Leanna and Alex, I had to learn that God is the boss of my steps, not me. He puts me on HIS path, not on my path. It took me a while to understand this, as it does for Leanna and Alex.
I had no idea about the racial tension in Utah at this time. There are many passages throughout this book that illustrate the utter hatred the Americans had for the Greek immigrants. These parts in the book are written so well I could feel the tension, and, a few times, I caught myself holding my breath. I don’t understand hating someone because of the color of their skin. I just don’t get it. My heart broke for Alex and Leanna about ten times over the course of this novel. BUT, it all ends very well. I didn’t know how it would end well, but Dicken did a fantastic job of tying this novel up nicely.
I really could go on and on about this book! There is SO much depth to this novel that I just did not anticipate. I am so thrilled to have read this book, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you are looking for an excellent Historical Fiction, purchase this book today! You will not be disappointed.