From a Distance
By Tamera Alexander
Bethany House, 2008. 381 pgs. Romance
Elizabeth Westbook’s father is a Senator for the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. He is a man of means and influence. Although she loves him feisy Elizabeth is eager leave his shadow. Elizabeth travels from Washington to the Colorado Territory in order to establish herself as a first rate photographer. Elizabeth’s father thinks she is going to form a school and be the teacher. But Elizabeth’s real dream is becoming the first female staff photographer at Washington’s Chronicle. Wendell Goldberg, her employer at the Chronicle, wants Elizabeth to take spectacular photographs of the wildlife in the Rockies. Daniel Ranslett traveled from Tennessee to Colorado to escape his past. He was a sharpshooter for the Confederate Army in the Civil war and struggles to recover from his psychological wounds. Elizabeth and Daniel spark when they meet but can’t seem to get along. Elizabeth finds her adjustment to rugged Rockies difficult. Photography was difficult in the latter half of the 19th century and she struggles to maneuver her equipment as well as work with the necessary chemicals without damaging herself physically. Elizabeth also learns how to work with the self-sufficient people she meets. It is something of a culture clash between her refined eastern ways and their western independence. Daniel Ranslett acts as protector and guide for Elizabeth on a journey to photograph Mesa Verde. It is on this expedition that the two overcome their initial differences, find more complications in their relationship, and fall in love.
Tamera Alexander writes a lot of plot lines. At one point Elizabeth encounters and photographs a murdered man and the novel changes course from a historical romance into a mystery novel. Elizabeth employs a former slave as an assistant and racial tensions are still raging several years after the close of the Civil War. In addition Elizabeth has a mysterious physical ailment that she hopes the thin Colorado air will help. Alexander also introduces many minor characters for future books in the Timber Ridge Reflections series. I found Alexander's lack of focus distracting. The strength of the novel is Alexander's attention to historical detail. Alexander depicts life in the territories before the turn of the century with accuracy and emotion. The romance between Elizabeth and Daniel was also fun to follow. There is believable chemistry and conflict between the two. They were strong, well-developed characters. I liked reading about them. However, I felt that there was too much going on in this book. Alexander bit off more than she could chew with the different plots.