A Life Once Dreamed – Rachel Fordham – Revell – Published 4 August 2020




Six years ago, a shocking secret sent Agnes Pratt running in search of a new start. She found it in Penance, a rugged town of miners and lumberjacks in the Dakota Territory, where she became Miss Aggie, respected schoolteacher and confirmed old maid. But the past has a way of catching up with people.

When childhood friend and former sweetheart James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor, Aggie’s pleasantly predictable days suddenly become anything but. James wants to know why Agnes left behind the life they had dreamed of creating for themselves–but he is the one person who can never know.

In the shadows of the Black Hills, can a healing light be shed on the past? Or will the secret Agnes can’t seem to outrun destroy her chance at happiness?

My thoughts

Rachel Fordham returns to the 1880s frontier in her latest novel, A Life Once Dreamed. This is a historical romance that plunges readers into a setting where disease can wipe out families, birth holds many dangers and morals dictate social standing. This is a story about belonging and acceptance and finding your true family.

Agnes Pratt left Boston six years ago. She left behind the love of her life, but she knew they could never had a future together. Now she is teacher in a small frontier town. When James Harris appears in town as the new doctor, it brings up all their past and Aggie’s hurt. But she refuses to share the secret of why she left him all those years ago. When two disasters chance the course of their lives, Aggie and James will need to decide if what they share is enough to overlook all the obstacles that stand between them.

The setting Fordham creates feels very realistic. Times are hard and facilities basic for the people of Penance. The arrival of a doctor is cause for celebration – for everyone that is, except Aggie. Seeing James again shows her that her feelings haven’t changed, a love that is built on years of friendship and shared adventure, which we readers learn about through reflections, flashbacks and letters. Aggie closely guards her secret, even from readers for a good part of the book. I didn’t guess the direction her secret would take the book until the first disaster. I won’t spoil anything here.

While the connection between Aggie and James is petty undeniable, there is another love interest Aggie considers in the book. I personally much preferred Sam. He is an honest, decent man, simple and without James’ flashy or arrogant judgment or behaviour, but his story is his own (hopefully something we see in a future book) and James goes through growth and learns a great deal.

A Life Once Dreamed has plenty of tense moments and emotions and action that keep the plot moving quickly. Fans of Fordham’s other books will enjoy this story about belonging, family and acceptance.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Adult fiction

Genre: Christian Historical.

Themes: Romance, teachers, doctors, children, illegitimacy.

Representation: White characters. Heterosexual relationships. Christian faith.

Published: 4 August 2020 by Revell.

Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 336 pages.

ISBN: 9780800738662

Find it on Goodreads