Ok­la­homa author pens light ro­mance set in In­dian Ter­ri­tory

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BOOKS - — Betty Ly­tle, For The Oklahoman

“Hold­ing the Fort” by Regina Jen­nings (Bethany House, 344 pages, in stores)

The first thing you should know is that Regina Jen­nings is an ac­claimed Ok­la­homa author. She has writ­ten sev­eral books and was the win­ner of the Na­tional Reader’s Choice award and a fi­nal­ist for the Ok­la­homa Book of the Year Award.

She lives out­side Ok­la­homa City with her hus­band and four chil­dren. And, “Hold­ing the Fort” is the first in­stall­ment in her forth­com­ing Fort Reno se­ries.

The story be­gins in 1885, with Louisa Bell, or “Lovely Lola,” be­ing re­placed as singer at the CatEye Saloon in Wi­chita, Kansas, by a girl who will be more re­cep­tive to the owner’s ad­vances. With no job and very lit­tle money, Louisa de­cides to move to In­dian Ter­ri­tory, where her brother is serv­ing in the cavalry at Fort Reno. She imag­ines that she can surely find work there.

At a stopover, she meets a Men­non­ite woman who is headed to the fort to be a gov­erness for the fort com­man­der’s daugh­ters. Mrs. Townsend, the gov­erness, is ill and fears the cli­mate won’t agree with her, so she asks Louisa to de­liver some books to Ma­jor Adams to help fur­ther his daugh­ters’ ed­u­ca­tions. Louisa de­cides to rep­re­sent her­self as the gov­erness for the next few weeks.

Maj. Daniel Adams is a wid­ower with two daugh­ters, Daisy and Caro­line, who are grow­ing up wild. They need to be taught to be­have like young ladies. Daniel’s mother-in-law is try­ing to take them to her home in the city. He thinks a gov­erness is the an­swer to his prob­lem.

He’s sur­prised when he meets Louisa. He ex­pected an older, more ma­tronly woman. In­stead Louisa is beau­ti­ful and high spir­ited. He is sus­pi­cious and writes to the Men­non­ites to find out more about her. She is won­der­ful with the girls, and he finds him­self fall­ing in love with her, so when he re­ceives a re­sponse, he doesn’t even open the let­ter.

Louisa never at­tends church with the rest of the fort’s in­hab­i­tants. She doesn’t feel that God would wel­come here there, due to her past. Although all she did at the saloon was sing, she knows people look down on saloon singers, and she feels in­fe­rior to the church­go­ing women.

In ad­di­tion to ro­mance, Adams has to deal with Soon­ers who try to stake claims in In­dian Ter­ri­tory, caus­ing un­rest and at­tacks by Amer­i­can In­di­ans.

This book of­fers a good look at In­dian Ter­ri­tory in the years be­fore state­hood, with a back story of a sweet Chris­tian ro­mance.

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