Waltzing in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly ~ Book Review

February 9, 2021


Kathleen Denly
Series: Chaparral Hearts, Book 1
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Publisher: Wild Heart
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Pages: 356

She's desperate to find her missing father. His conscience demands he risk all to help. 

Eliza Brooks is haunted by her role in her mother's death, so she'll do anything to find her missing pa—even if it means sneaking aboard a southbound ship. When those meant to protect her abandon and betray her instead, a family friend's unexpected assistance is a blessing she can't refuse.

Daniel Clarke came to California to make his fortune, and a stable job as a San Francisco carpenter has earned him more than most have scraped from the local goldfields. But it's been four years since he left Massachusetts and his fiancΓ©e is impatient for his return. Bound for home at last, Daniel Clarke finds his heart and plans challenged by a tenacious young woman with haunted eyes. Though every word he utters seems to offend her, he is determined to see her safely returned to her father. Even if that means risking his fragile engagement.

When disaster befalls them in the remote wilderness of the Southern California mountains, true feelings are revealed, and both must face heart-rending decisions. But how to decide when every choice before them leads to someone getting hurt?

I really enjoyed this book. It was captivating right from the start as we meet Eli who really is Eliza. She has lost her mother and blames herself. She is with her dad in the gold mines, poor, hungry and most of all definitely not being a lady. Her dad realizes that this is not the place for her and takes the chance of taking her to his brother in San Francisco. Eliza is none too happy about his decision and this is where the story truly begins for me. 
Eliza is definitely very close to her father and I think a huge part of it stems from blaming herself for the death of her mom. She doesn't want to lose him too and wants to make sure that he is well. When he leaves her with her uncle without her knowledge she is furious but it is truly for the best despite her Aunt Cecilia. Seriously her aunt is one of those characters that you despise due to her attitude. Now back to Eliza, it took me a while to get to like her. On the outside she seems like a selfish, self centered brat. But once you get to know her inner being, you understand why she is like that. 
We meet Daniel who is absolutely amazing! You know I am going to say it... he is definitely swoon-worthy! He is a true gentleman and even though he is engaged to Alice he can't help being drawn to Eliza. So when Eliza decides that she needs to find her father and boards a ship unchaperoned of course my man Daniel steps up to the job especially after he sees how the captain and the other men are eyeing her. (I told you he's swoon worthy) He treks it all over God's creation to help her find her father and during all of this you can't help but love Eliza because finally her shell is breaking and she sees that she can trust and open herself to something more than herself. That God is the person she needs to be trusting for everything. That was an amazing moment. 
I know you are thinking of Alice... but don't worry about her. I assure you everything does get resolved for her in the best possible way. I will say that Alice was a great addition to the story and I do hope we get to see her in the next book as I would like to know what happens to her brother and mother. 
This is Kathleen Denly's debut novel and I have to say I am very impressed! She not only did a great job at painting a picturesque setting in which you can lose yourself in but made some great characters that you can relate to.  I for one cannot wait to read the next one, which just happens to be on my bookshelf! 
My Rating: 4 Stars/ Really Liked this Story!
Swoon Worthy Level - πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’— (seriously when he asks her to dance....gah!)
I received this book from the author. I was not required to post a positive review. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
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Kathleen Denly lives in sunny Southern California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn't writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting. --This text refers to the 
paperback edition.


  1. Thank you so much for this lovely review!!! You'll be happy to know that Alice's brother, Richard, is the hero of book 2 in this series and one early reviewer of Sing in the Sunlight has called him her "favorite hero in all the Christian romance novels." Another early reviewer has said "Clarinda and Richard just made the top of my unforgettable characters list, and this book is definitely heading to my best reads list."