Book Review: Love Covers by Julia David

Synopsis (from Goodreads): The town of Greenlock shuns the daughter of the mortician. How deplorable, that Lauren has to take over the duties that are her father’s. Day after day the work creates loneliness in her tender heart that spurs despondence.
Then a voice speaks from the morgue basement. A rough and tumble outlaw who’s supposed to be dead is still alive! For some unfathomable reason, Lauren agrees to help him stay dead. 

Elias had escaped from Lennhurst Asylum, where he was born and raised. Since he had no family or future, he was taken from his prison sentence, enlisted in the recent Civil War and trained to wield explosives to further the cause. From running and surviving all his life, all Elias could ever promise anyone was loyalty. Love was out of the question. When Lauren mentions her longing to see her mother and sister in Colorado, for loyalty’s sake, he offers to take her on the arduous wagon train journey. Of course, it wouldn’t be proper not to be married while traveling together. Therefore, Lauren and Elias, so vastly opposite, agree to pretend to be married during the months of difficult travel. 

Loyalty versus love. Can these two find truth and acceptance in their hearts? Can love cover a multitude of sin? 

Love Covers is a gratifying love story of lives changed, and of healing and restoration while on a dusty trail west. 

Genre: Historical Fiction (1860s Wagon Train), Christian Romance

Every time I read one of her books, I’m left wondering How does Julia David continue to come up with such unique, touching stories? Seriously, her books deserve to be much more popular than they are for their individuality alone! Love Covers is like nothing I have read before, shocking (in a good way!) in the story it tells, and yet distinctly Julia David’s work.

If Elias and Lauren had a tagline, it would probably be “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Each has survived extreme difficulties and unusual family situations since childhood, but they have only barely survived. At the start of the book, they are frayed and hollow. Their plot to join a wagon train heading west is a desperate attempt on Lauren’s part to make a better life for herself and reconnect with her mother and sister, and on Elias’s part his way of repaying a debt he owes Lauren.

In order to protect themselves from judgement on the trail, the pair claim to be married. This is obviously a foreshadowing of how the situation will ultimately resolve, but I don’t mind knowing this part of the ending so early. I must wonder though, how many situations will Julia David find for an unmarried couple to claim to be married? This is not the first of her books which uses this type of situation in order to foster romance; see my review of Burgundy Gloves. I have nothing against this plot device, it just surprised me to read it again so soon, especially in light of how vastly different her books are otherwise.

I have raved before about this author’s creation of wonderful characters before, and I will do it again. Lauren and Elias start out as people I would want to steer clear of: Lauren is bitter, brash, desperate and empty, and I must admit that if I faced her as she is in the opening pages I would be at a loss as to how to interact with her. Elias is a wanted criminal, and I did not share Lauren’s sympathies or hope towards him. As they travel on the wagon train, however, they begin to change. As they experience freedom, dependable friends, and prairie air they are also introduced to God in a way they had not known possible. While the Gospel is never clearly presented and I have a few niggling issues with the way theology is used and almost manipulated for certain situations, the foundation is there and is what Lauren and Elias need most.

Of course, as Lauren and Elias spend so much time together and learn each other’s personalities in new ways, they fall in love. The romance and respect displayed is admirable in a situation where those around them already believe them married. It understandably takes the entire journey to break down the walls and fears created by their past experiences and self-preservation; I appreciate that their romance is not sudden, and that they must work together to figure out how things are going to work. Furthermore, Elias respects Lauren’s mother and her requirement that he wait to marry Lauren once they reach the end of their trail. This proves an uncommon maturity and loyalty, despite the fact that he lacked examples of anything positive in his childhood.

Diversity is also a major component of this story. For example, Lauren is the daughter of a mortician, which is not exactly the most common back story. Elias grew up in an asylum without his parents. Lauren’s parents are separated, which is rare for the time. In the wagon train alone there are Mormon sister wives, an African American couple transporting former slave families to new lives, and a family wanting to breed and raise dogs for money. None of these things are common in historical romance stories, though they certainly are realistic. These characters are well written, too; although some are not as fleshed out as others, such is the nature of a story. The reader learns some about each situation, but not everything. The representation adds rich support to the story.

What can I say to wrap up this review? Love Covers is highly unconventional, intriguing, and satisfying. The story and characters are incredibly unique, and expertly written. Julia David has created another pure historical fiction romance that is anything but ordinary.

This is the first book in the Leaving Lenhurst trilogy, although it does not look like the later books are published yet. There is no cliff hanger, though; everything wraps up nicely but not in an annoyingly perfect manner: Elias and Lauren marry after finding Lauren’s family, and they start an optimistic life together.

Disclaimer: I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated are my own.

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