Set in Kansas in 1880, MORNING SKY centers on the Harban family in the town of Nicodemus (predominantly African American) and the Boyle family in Hill City (predominantly white).
Lilly Verdue has traveled west to see her sister's family, the Harbans. More than a social visit, she's fleeing a promiscuous lifestyle in New Orleans and turns to her only relatives in Kansas. Ezekiel, her brother-in-law and head of the family, isn't happy to see Lilly because he knows her arrival signals some sort of trouble. An expert at manipulation, Lilly takes a position as housekeeper and cook for the family of George Nelson, a banker in nearby Hill City. This is a challenge for Lilly because she has to care for their three children (she doesn't like youngsters), and as a lady of leisure she isn't much into cooking or cleaning.
Dr. Samuel Boyle moved his family out west from Kentucky and is the only physician for either town. His daughter Macia, who has fallen in love with the local blacksmith, is sent to New York City by her mother for a summer of education at the Ruthledge Academy of Arts and Languages, a school of distinction for young ladies. Each new student is forced to sign some extra "papers," which turn out to be a life insurance policy. Mr. Marvin Laird, a distant cousin of the Ruthledges, slips into their food or drink a drug that makes them sleep constantly.
When the Boyles receive a letter that Macia is sick, they send Truth Harban, their housekeeper and cook, to accompany their daughter home. Eventually, Truth uncovers this sinister plot to keep Macia captive. In coordination with Silas, the African American stable hand at the school, Truth devises a means for the three of them to escape and return to Kansas.
While Truth travels to New York, her older sister, Jarena, takes up Truth's duties at the Boyle home. Truth is engaged to newspaperman Moses Wyman, but Lilly decides that her niece is too young for this marriage and plots to put Jarena and Moses together. The scheming backfires and reveals the long-held family secret of an unexpected relationship between Lilly and Jarena. The theme of forgiveness is a strong aspect of this story. As Moses says about some of his past, "Now here's the most important part, Jarena: I wouldn't change one thing in my life. There's been pain and sorrow, but I know that God was always in control."
From my standpoint the litmus test for this second title in the Freedom's Path series is to see how quickly I fall back in love with the characters from the first book, despite months of not reading anything about them. It transpired in an instant, and I immediately plunged back into the world of the 1880s; the experience was seamless and rich with drama. With MORNING SKY Judith Miller has created a remarkable story worthy of your reading attention.
--- Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin, writer and editor in Scottsdale, Arizona. His latest book is BOOK PROPOSALS THAT $ELL, 21 SECRETS TO SPEED YOUR SUCCESS (Write Now Publications). http://www.bookproposals.ws.