Friday, May 15, 2020

At Love's Command by Karen Witemeyer #BookReview

Book Description:

Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger's Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler's bullet leaves one of them at death's door, they're the ones in need of saving.

Dr. Josephine Burkett is used to men taking one look at her skirts and discounting her medical skills. What she's not used to is having a man change his mind in a heartbeat and offer to assist her in surgery. Matthew Hanger's dedication to his friend during recovery earns Josephine's respect, and when she hears of her brother's abduction, he becomes her only hope for rescue.

Matt has stared down ruthless outlaws, betrayal, and injury, but when a bossy lady doctor crawls under his skin, his heart is tempted to surrender. And when she is caught in the crossfire, he may have to sacrifice everything—even his team—to save her.

My Thoughts:
I grew up watching westerns and frontier movies like McClintock!, Rio Bravo, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Escape from Fort Bravo, Unconquered, The Searchers, The Proud Rebel, and Red River. In At Love’s Command, Karen revives the world of 1800s Texas, full of outlaws, cavalrymen, and heroes and heroines with backbone. Reading this story took me back into that western story arena I love.

The Characters:
Matthew’s character lived through a heartbreaking childhood and the Battle of Wounded Knee, both of which formed him into the compassionate-but-aloof, take-charge character he is. Josephine has attained her dream of becoming a doctor but, at 28, is an “old maid” by the society standards of her time. I related a lot to her desire for a family and wondering what the future holds. Karen creates a fun brotherhood between Matthew, Mark, Luke (“Preach”), and Jonah. Watching them interact on the page brought back fun memories of watching "compadre" westerns like The Sons of Katie Elder, High Chaparral, Open Range, and El Dorado.

The Romance:
With Matthew’s tough background, he’s reluctant to allow anyone close—anyone but his “brothers,” who survived battle alongside him. But when he finally admits he’s not getting Josephine off his mind anytime soon, he woos her with a gentle, honest pursuit. I love to see this in stories. Ladies admire men who have the tenacity to initiate a conversation, a friendship, then a relationship. Even if a couple finds they aren’t suited, a true lady will admire his courage to be intentional in finding out if they are a match. This is one trait that makes Matthew a heart-melting, stand-out storybook hero. But their relationship isn’t without its struggle. Josephine has reservations about involving herself with a man who makes his living with his guns. She’s dedicated her life to making the sick and injured well. There’s also the little matter of her brother, whose circumstances of being kidnapped by outlaws endanger Josephine and Matthew and everyone they love.

In the beginning, we’re concerned about Matthew’s gunshot friend, then the romance develops rather quickly between Josephine and Matthew. They are both adults past the normal marrying age, and with Matthew being in a line of work where time isn’t guaranteed, once he opens up to the idea of a woman in his life, he wastes no time making his interest known. Emotional and romantic development make up the second quarter of the book, but the pages still turn fast all the way through until the ending. Action-wise, the story starts off with a bang, then really picks up again around the midpoint.  

Spiritual Thread:
The characters struggle between keeping a tight rein on their circumstances or surrendering control to God. A theme that echoes in the heart of every Christian.

Celebrity Comparisons:
Matthew, I envisioned as a bearded Eion Bailey. Josephine, a no-makeup Evangeline Lily. You can see Karen’s own photo inspiration (hers are great, too!) for the couple in this post from her Posse Facebook page.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I have stated my honest opinion in this review.

What are some of your favorite westerns?

Have you seen all the western movies mentioned in this post?

What are some more Christian historical romances that remind you of great western movies?


  1. Oh,this sounds good. Love the thorough review, Natalie!

  2. Sounds like a good read. I’ve seen several of those movies as my daddy was a big fan of westerns. Thank you for sharing your wonderful review.

  3. Mine, too, Lucy! Glad you enjoyed the review. The book is wonderful. Thank you for coming over!


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