Susan Andersen’s latest release, The Ballad of Hattie Taylor, is a love letter to sweeping rural dramas like The Thorn Birds or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books that straddles the line between historical romance and historical fiction ... This is a romance for the patient reader. Andersen covers a robust span of time as she explores the integral life experiences of her main characters ... Andersen’s detailed approach to crafting a sense of place shines, particularly as she depicts the passing of each season ... The Ballad of Hattie Taylor oozes nostalgia even as it vacillates from a lively, page-turning coming of age story, a tender romance that emphasizes care and patience, and a harrowing tale of one woman’s experiences on the American frontier. Hattie’s happy ending with Jake is hard won, but her infectious optimism will have readers with her every step of the way.
Around the turn of the 20th century, an eleven-year-old red-headed orphan arrives in a small town, and her irrepressible curiosity and outspokenness shake things up. There are echoes of Anne of Green Gables in Andersen’s first historical novel, which is both a spirited romance and a complex coming-of-age story, but it aims to comment primarily on how societal pressures stifle women – with mixed results ... As a feminist romance, the story offers conflicting messages. Hattie is a multifaceted, resilient character who credibly works through personal pain and emerges even stronger. Yet a subplot about her beloved career goes unaddressed, and part of the conclusion is disconcerting for many reasons. Descriptions overemphasize the brawny physicality of both Jake and Moses, and for a sensitive friend, Jake can be inexcusably clueless; he doesn’t feel like Hattie’s intellectual equal. To the author’s credit, though, the story holds nothing back, however awkward the situation. This blatantly honest approach is admirable, and the strong plot keeps the pages turning despite the inconsistencies. By turns, it will have you grinning, cringing, shaking your head in sorrow, and swelling with pride at Hattie’s courage.
Andersen (It Had to Be You) loads this addictive historical romance with charismatic characters and well-handled drama ... Andersen [...] does a good job handling Hattie and Jacob’s transition into lovers, though some readers will be turned off by the age gap and familial relationship between them. A powerful plot, vibrant characterization, and stirring dialogue make this romance a delight.