A Gown of Spanish Lace
By Janette Oke
Bethany House Publishers, 1995
Ariana, the preacher’s daughter, is kidnapped from the schoolhouse where she teaches and taken to a camp of outlaws hidden high in the hills. Laramie, the boss’s son, is assigned to care for her with no explanation for why she is being held or how long she will be there. It seems like a simple assignment, but he finds himself oddly drawn to his prisoner. As he begins to push for answers he discovers truths about himself and his father that he never would have imagined, and which send both him and Ariana on a wild, dangerous quest. When the unthinkable happens Ariana is forced to examine whether she truly trusts in God’s plan for her life.
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This ranks as one of my all-time favorite books, and one of the first titles that inspired my love of historical fiction. Written by the wonderful Janette Oke, it is part of a series called Women of the West, though they are all standalone novels in that they do not have to be read in any order. The series is composed of twelve books, each following the story of a female protagonist who finds her faith tested and comes out on the other side stronger for it.
I first read this book when I was in my early teens, and though I loved all the books in that collection, A Gown of Spanish Lace still stands out as one of my favorites. The writing is simple and doesn’t make you work very hard, but the plot points were (and still are) striking to me. The idea of a romance developing between a captor and captive, the way the past is woven into the present through journal entries, and the ultimate twist that comes near the end made me reread it over and over, probably about five or six times over the last twelve or thirteen years.
Seriously though, the twist made my jaw drop. I remember whispering, “No…no!”.
I realize that this book is 22 years old at this point, but that’s the beauty of historical fiction, isn’t it? History is still the same now as it was in 1995 and it will still be the same, with the same relevant themes and applicable lessons, in 2035.