Pearl is a young Chicago woman, daughter of a weathly socialite family, unhappily being "forced" into a marriage she will not tolerate. Leaving in secret, she takes a job as school teacher in the Dakota wild where we left off with book 1. Ruby has now created a reputable hotel and restaurant and determines to "look out for the girls" per her dying father's request.
However, her little sister, Opal, is another story. Precocious and friendly, a bit on the wild side, Opal is ripe for adventure and danger. Her love for her new home and the people is surpassed only by her love of horses. Ruby has NO idea this will lead to such lengths.
Belle is still a thorn in Ruby's side, a worldly woman who is bent on keeping booze, smoking and money skimming off the card games all of which become a real burden and pain for Ruby who loves God and wants to make a clean, respectable home for everyone.
Many are moving to this area and Snelling does a great job integrating their lives with those already here. Obviously the army and the cattle ranchers will be featured heavily along with the "girls" that Per left behind. Rand the rancher is a mystery character whom the author weaves into this story with great mystery and warmth.
A school of sorts is started, Pearl learns that riches and her former spoiled life do not compare with living simply, working hard and having real friends and peace of mind. She meets a young man with her same love of books and then suddenly, before she can make decisions and put down permanent roots her father appears out of the blue demanding she return to Chicago.
The first real Christmas is a highlight and touching part of this book, bringing in hints of further things to come. However, the personal lives of the characters are as different as night and day, yet somehow the same.
Snelling allows the reader to glimpse into folks in love, those harboring hate, lots of simplicity and the awfulness of head lice.
A few relationships are somewhat predictable and the writing is quite simple - otherwise, I would give the storyline and the book 5 stars. I am already anxious for book 3 in this series. Thank you Lauraine Snelling.