Cover by Cynthia Lucas
Love’s Serenade is a compilation of two books both written by Madeline Baker. The first book is Loving Sarah followed by Loving Devlin. These poignant stories were so connected it was fun to read them. These emotionally charged characters were so fully developed that I actually felt as if I had been there as the actions took place.
In New Mexico, in 1869, Sarah and her family were attacked by Indians. Her husband sent her to hide but, before he and their six-year-old son Danny could get there, he was killed. The little boy was kidnapped. There was one Indian who was supposed to find and kill Sarah. However, when Toklanni saw her, he knew in his heart he couldn’t kill her.
Devlin, known by his Indian name Toklanni, was a half-breed. His father was an Indian who had taken a white woman as wife. He was raised partially in each world. Therefore, he could speak English and his native language. Problems arose when he started leaving food and clothing in baskets on her porch and fell in love with Sarah.
Baker presented us with two characters that were so different from each other but they were so compatible. These strong people were a study in survival. Both had lived through struggles and trials. They slowly fell in love with each other. The conflicts they endured were so realistic. When the books transitioned from Loving Sarah to Loving Devlin, the hardships escalated.
This book was uniquely different from most that I read. It was one that I will not forget. The myriad circumstances faced and the additional characters were interestingly captivating. I recommend that anyone who enjoys historical romance especially back in the age of Indians fighting whites and each other. You will definitely not be disappointed.
Reviewer: Brenda Talley
It was there again, a large oak basket filled with fresh meat and wild vegetables. Sarah Andrews stared at the basket for a long moment, as if it might tell her where it had come from. There were no other white people in the immediate area and she was certain the Indians were not in the habit of providing for their enemies. It seemed to be a riddle without an answer.
Her heart filled with gratitude, Sarah carried the basket into the kitchen, quietly blessing the unknown giver who had put fresh food on her table once again.
As she sliced the venison, Sarah wondered anew who it was that brought her food several times each week. Without her unknown provider, she would have died of starvation long ago, for there weren't enough vegetables left in the garden behind the cabin to sustain life, and she'd long ago eaten all of the dried and tinned food Vern had brought from town. The only thing left was a sack of dried apples.
In the beginning, she'd considered trying to walk to Pepper Tree Creek, but the thought of crossing over fifty miles of the desert alone and on foot, defenseless against snakes and predators, frightened her almost as much as the very real possibility of encountering Indians along the way and she always changed her mind.
Sarah quietly cursed the savages who had killed her husband and kidnapped her son. The Indians had burned the barn, stolen their horses and cattle, taken Vern's rifle and all their supplies. To this day, Sarah didn't know why her life had been spared.
She'd been in the root cellar when the attack had occurred. She had heard gunshots, a bloodcurdling war whoop. And then she'd heard Danny's terrified scream, the same scream that haunted her dreams. "Mommy! Mommy, help me!" Filled with dread, she'd hurried toward the stairs only to find an Indian blocking her path, a war club adorned with feathers and what looked suspiciously like a scalp clutched in his hand.
Terror had frozen her in mid-stride. She had stared at the Indian, repulsed by the weapon in his hand, by the hideous war paint that covered every inch of his face, distorting his features so that he looked like a demon from hell. In that instant, she'd known she was looking death in the face.
But nothing had happened. The Indian had looked at her as if he were seeing a ghost and then, to her surprise, he had scrambled up the ladder and disappeared.
By the time Sarah made her way outside, the attack was over, the Indians were gone. She had found her husband's body sprawled face down in the dirt, a single arrow protruding from his back. Her six year old son, Danny, was nowhere to be found. She had searched for him for over an hour, refusing to believe what she knew to be true. The Indians had taken her child, her only child.
Resolutely, she had set out after them, but a late summer shower washed out the tracks, forcing her to give up the chase, and she'd returned to the cabin to bury her husband along with her dreams...
Sarah fried the venison and boiled the vegetables, grateful to have something to do. Sitting at the small raw plank table in the narrow kitchen, she ate without tasting the food, automatically lifting the fork to her mouth until her plate was empty.
Occasionally, she thought of not eating, of just curling up in bed, closing her eyes and waiting for death, but she didn't have the willpower to starve herself when food was available, and she didn't have the courage to slit her wrists. She'd never had any courage at all. And now all she had to sustain her was hope. Hope that the cavalry would find her next time they made a sweep through the area. Hope that they'd find the savages who had taken Danny.
After dinner, she put the basket outside the front door, knowing that tomorrow or the next day it would be gone and the following morning it would be there again, filled with food.
She hadn't expected it to be refilled the first time she set it out on the porch. She'd emptied the basket and put it outside simply to get it out of the way. It had been gone the next day. For a little while, the mystery of the basket had helped take her mind off her troubles. She'd wondered who had left it in the first place, and who had taken it. Two days later, it had appeared on her doorstep again, filled with food.
For a time, Sarah stood at the front window, staring at the charred ruins that had once been the barn. It was a blackened shell now, cold and empty, like her life. She lifted her gaze toward the sky, watching the late summer sun set in a riotous blaze of crimson that reminded her of blood...Vern's blood.
Turning away from the window, she went to the homemade calendar that hung beside the fireplace and crossed off another day. Three months, she thought. Three months without Vern, without Danny. Three months of no one to talk to, no one to care for. Three months of solitary. How long would it take before she went mad? How long before the Indians came back?
Going into her bedroom, she gazed at the small tintype of her son that stood on the narrow table beside her bed. Danny, her baby, at the mercy of godless savages. How frightened he must be! Did anyone comfort him when he cried? Was he getting enough to eat?
Thoughts of her only child being ridiculed and abused brought quick tears to her eyes. He had never known anything but kindness and love in his short life, never been away from her for more than a few hours. If only she could see him for a moment, assure
herself that he was alright, that he was still alive. She'd heard stories of children being raised by Indians. It sickened her to
think that her son might be forced to become a warrior, to ride against his own people, to commit the terrible atrocities she'd read about in the newspapers back home. She thought of her son, her own flesh and blood, taking a scalp....
"No!" She shook the horrible thought from her mind, refusing to dwell on it any further. Surely a merciful God would not allow such a thing to happen.
Later, kneeling at her bedside, she prayed for the soul of her husband, comforted by her belief in an afterlife and her conviction that Vern had been a good man who would be welcomed into heaven. Poor Vern. Theirs had been a marriage of convenience. He had wanted a wife and she had wanted a way out of her father's house. When Vern had proposed, she had accepted, so eager to get away from home she'd never stopped to think what it would be like to be married to a man almost old enough to be her father, a man she didn't love.
During the eight years of their marriage, she had developed a genuine fondness for her husband. Vern had been a kind and gentle man, thoughtful of her needs, her likes and dislikes. When she took a liking to a high-backed sofa she saw in a mail-order catalog, he had ordered it for her, even though they couldn't really afford it at the time. In the good times, he had surprised her with gifts: a fancy blue bonnet she had no occasion to wear, a pretty apron, a hand-painted fan. In the bad times, he had promised her that things would get better. And he had given her a son...
She was sorry now that she had never loved Vern. He had deserved so much more than she had given him. She had tried to love him, but she'd never been able to give him the heartfelt devotion and affection a man deserved from his wife. The fact that he'd never complained only made her feel more guilty.
Blinking back tears or sorrow and regret, she prayed fervently for a miracle that would return Danny to her arms. And then, as she had every night since the attack, she asked God to forgive her for hating the heathen savages who had ridden out of the foothills early one summer morning and taken away everything she'd ever loved.