Hidden Truths by Jae takes place 17 years after Backwards to Oregon ends. In our opinion (Brooklyn, Tara and Sheena), you don’t need to read Backwards to Oregon to read Hidden Truths, but it adds depth to the story.
Hendrika Aaldenberg has nothing left after her best friend Johanna dies, she loses her job, and is kicked out of the boarding house she’s been living in. Nothing left, that is, but the ticket from Boston to Oregon that Jo was sent by a man expecting his mail-order bride. With nothing but her meager belongings in a carpet bag and trepidation for taking a dead woman’s place at a stranger’s side, she hops on the train to begin her journey.
Nora and Luke Hamilton have made a good life for themselves. Their daughters are grown and the ranch is making quite a bit of money. From the outside, they are the perfect family. But you can’t judge a book by its cover—everyone has a secret. Luke, Nora, their children Amy and Nattie, and Hendrika have all told lies out of love or necessity. Eventually the truth will have to come out.
Brooklyn: Hendrika is my favorite character. She’s extremely strong for surviving all that she has and then plucking up the courage to travel to a far-off place where she knows no one. She does whatever she needs to do to survive. I love that people (and even Hendrika herself) describe her as plain or forgettable, which to me is beautiful. Every woman in lesfic is always stunning with perfect teeth and hair or is breathtaking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to read about beautiful women, but I could relate to Hendrika on a whole other level because of her “plainness”.
Amy is like her father. She has been taught that women can do everything men can. She won’t let her gender stop her from doing what she really wants—to run the ranch one day. And Nattie doesn’t get a big role but I liked her. She has an open mind and is kind and quick to accept.
Tara: I don’t think I can choose just one character! I agree about Rika. I loved her courage and that she’s not the typically beautiful lesfic character. I think that also works well because if she were beautiful, it would have been easy for her to find a husband in Boston or possibly to find work in a brothel. Her grit and determination to contribute at the ranch despite having no experience was admirable and I liked watching her and Amy getting to know each other.
Speaking of determination, I was also a huge fan of Amy. She knows that she has to work harder than any of the men to get even a fraction of the respect, but she doesn’t let that stop her. Her struggles with her attraction to girls is sweet and sad and something I found easy to identify with.
I loved seeing Nora and Luke again, having fallen in love with them in Backwards to Oregon. I was also glad to see Tess back and I maybe got a huge crush on her partner, Frankie. Frankie’s gender expression was interesting and handled well and I’d love to know more about women doing that in past centuries.
Sheena: Amy and Rika are not your typical romantic leads. Amy is stubborn, capable and terrified of her feelings for women. She far prefers horses to people, spending endless amounts of time and patience on them while not giving even a little leeway to people.
Rika is hardened and no-nonsense from a life of labour, tragedy and expecting bad things to happen. Everything has been a struggle for her.
Yet somehow this oil and water combination of characters come together to form the perfect couple in the end.
Also, it was so lovely to see the main characters from Backwards To Oregon also get their own storyline in this book without it being about strife in their relationship. Jae is a genius for accomplishing all of this so effortlessly.
The Writing Style
Tara: Hidden Truths is very well written. It’s longer than most lesfic books, but I appreciated what that meant for both the plotting and the thorough, satisfying character development for Rika and Amy.
Sheena: It is rare that I enjoy sequels as much as the original but with this book the story is really its own rather than just a follow up to the first. The story themes are not even the same which means that this is a beautiful experience all on its own.
I absolutely adore the way Jae created the world. I felt like I was right there with Amy and Rika as they rode horses and worked on the ranch. I could feel the morning sunshine on my skin and smell the sweat and hay.
Sheena: Hayden Bishop is the perfect narrator for this series. Something about the way she creates the characters and the tempo and cadence of her narration just adds to the beauty of Jae’s original work.
Brooklyn: I loved Hendrika. A lot. She works hard and she tries hard. She starts out as nothing memorable but in the end she turns out to be unforgettable.
Tara: The character work was the best feature for me. Jae also did a great job exploring the effects of secrets, regardless of the reason for keeping them.
Sheena: The characters and setting for the story is so vivid that I feel like I know them and I have visited Hamilton Horse Farm. The audiobook is brilliant and so perfectly narrated that I couldn’t ask for a better addition to my library.
Brooklyn: In the end, Amy gets a little stubborn and even starts to run away from her problems. That upsets me a little because in my experience I can’t just run away from life or its problems. I admire a girl who can take anything head on, like the gorgeous Hendrika.
Tara: I could happily read a book just about Tess and Frankie, and there isn’t one.
Sheena: None, although Tara does make a good point
If you liked Backwards to Oregon, you must read Hidden Truths. If you haven’t read Backwards to Oregon, then you should read both of these books. They’re perfect for when you want to sink into a book all weekend.
Sheena: If you enjoy audiobooks then this is a beautiful addition to your audio library and at 16 hours of listening it is good value.
Jae’s words and Hayden Bishop’s narration come together to form perfection.
Also, I highly recommend you get Backwards To Oregon in audio also narrated by Bishop.
Excerpt from Hidden Truths by Jae
Hendrika unscrewed the jar and paused. “You should wash up and change first.”
“That’s why I came up here.”
“I’ll wait.” Hendrika turned and faced the door.
Amy stared open-mouthed. She expects me to undress with her right here, next to me? Shivers raced up and down her spine.
“Oh, how thoughtless of me.” Hendrika turned around. “You probably can’t open all the tiny buttons on your dress with your burned fingers. Here, let me help you.”
Amy jumped back. “No, no, I’m fine. See?” To prove that she needed no help, she lifted her hands to the buttons and started to open the first one. Her fingers trembled, though, and refused to cooperate. She fumbled with the button.
“I see,” Hendrika said. “Why are you being so stubborn?”
Their gazes met.
Amy dropped her hands. Her refusal of aid was arousing more suspicions than any reaction she might have if she let Hendrika help her undress. “All right,” she murmured through a tight jaw.
Hendrika stepped closer until Amy thought she could feel her body heat. A slight touch to Amy’s neck and seconds later, her removable collar fluttered to the bed.
Amy’s limbs wanted to follow and lie down too. Her knees felt weak. She stared at Hendrika’s fingers as they wandered down the button line and opened each of the eight tiny buttons.
One, she counted, just to distract herself.
The gentle fingers barely touched her.
Two. Three. Four.
On their way to the fifth button, Hendrika’s fingers brushed over Amy’s bosom. Her breath caught. Her skin felt as if she were once again standing in the middle of the burning barn. She lost her ability to count.
Finally, the last button opened, and Amy pressed her forearm against her chest to keep her dress from flapping open.
“Do you need help with the corset too?” Hendrika asked.
“No!” Amy took two hasty steps back. “I mean… no, thank you.”
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Beyond The Trail – Short story collection that connects Backwards To Oregon and Hidden Truths
Lessons In Love And Life – A Short Story set after Hidden Truths
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9783955331191
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
- Audiobook Publisher: Ylva Publishing
- Narrator: Hayden Bishop
- Jae Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Hidden Truths by Jae. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.