Oklahoma author pens light romance set in Indian Territory
“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.