My review of Protected by Paula Peckham

My monthly newsletter book reviews can be found on my Reviews of what I’m Reading page. But as I read more than one book a month, I leave other reviews here on my blog. They also get posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Here’s my review of Protected, Paula Peckham

All the adults and many of the children in the small group of pioneers travelling across the prairies to San Antonio have died of cholera within a few days of each other. Abigail, at 18, is the oldest survivor and when the others look to her for leadership she is at first horrified and then, reluctantly, accepting. But it’s only a day later when Abby realises the true dangers which can beset their young, female-led band. Persuaded to take on the guise of a boy to give greater protection to herself and the others, Abby finds the change in gender brings a freedom and independence which she could never have a girl. That’s wonderful – until Manny and Jonathon, cowboys returning to their homes in San Antonio turn up, and stay to help.
Manny bears external scars on his face from a childhood fire and internal scars from a lifetime of believing people shun him for his appearance. When he finds acceptance from the children and a blossoming friendship with the young man, Abner, he begins to understand that perhaps his defences can be loosened. That’s wonderful – until they reach San Antonio and Abby’s deception is revealed.

cover of Protected
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Paula Peckham’s tale of two young people dealing with their own grief, and learning to trust again, especially each other, draws the reader into the hearts of these relatable and well-rounded characters. She presents them warts and all, inviting us to share their very human struggles, to be annoyed when they act pig-headed and to rejoice when they see sense. Her secondary characters are pitched at just the right level of being real and interesting without taking the spotlight off the main players. Although the grandmother, Yaedili, could easily do so with her steely persistence delivered in a velvet glove.
There is plenty of action too. Running through the love story is the tale which starts with the early horrific events on the trail and reaches its dramatic conclusion at the end of the book. There is a light sense of ‘trouble to come’ throughout which ratchets up very quickly and races the reader through the final pages.
All this against a well-researched historic background which brings the settings – from the wide expanses of the prairies to the growing San Antonio and the farms and countryside round about  – alive.

A thoroughly good read. Thank you Ms Peckham.

Read my interview with Paula which first appeared in my May 2022 newsletter here.