Beloved Over AllBeloved Over All,” is a work of historical fiction, based on actual characters by Irene Sandell, an award winning author. In this novel, Ms. Sandell delves deep into early Texas history, fusing fact with fiction to tell a story of endurance, survival, tortured lives, and loves lost. Follow along as the author eloquently expounds on the life of three pioneers seeking a new life on the Texas frontier, an often unforgiving land during the mid-1800s. Survival was foremost in the minds of these settlers. Forces of nature were merciless. Illness and death a fact of life. During the Indian wars, tribes fought against the U.S. Calvary, desperately trying to hold on to land that had been theirs for generations.

Ms. Sandell excellently portrays these pioneers who were willing to risk all for their part in settling Texas. Published in 2015, this fast-paced and captivating book won the Will Rogers Medallion Award and Women Writing the West Willa Literary Award.

Stella Carter,  a white woman who along with her common-law husband, a free black man she’d loved since a young girl, flee Kentucky post Civil War fearing for their lives as racial tensions rise. A new life running a trading post in Texas during the Indian uprisings soon finds them fighting for their lives. In an instant, Stella becomes a widow taken captive by the Comanche and indentured as a slave.  Ms. Sandell brilliantly and respectfully describes the plight of Stella’s tortuous seven years in captivity and the brutality she endured.

Benjamin Walters will eventually find himself a part of Stella’s life. As a young boy, he is easily swayed into doing someone else’s deadly deeds.  Running from emotional torments, Benjamin heads towards Texas, turning his life around and eventually joining the Calvary, where his skills as a sharpshooter are welcomed.  With words, Ms. Sandell expertly paints a vivid picture for the reader. She’ll have you following along with the hardships of the troop’s daily lives, the conditions of the forts, their bravery and fears in battle, and their frustrations over often-time inept leaders. Benjamin’s experience in the Calvary has him growing up fast in order to survive the hardships of pioneer life.

Henry Prescott would also become a part of Stella’s life. He was a young man from Arkansas, who found himself associating with unsavory characters on the wrong side of the law. Realizing what he’d become, he changed the course of his life and headed to Texas. Taking on odd jobs in order to survive, he ultimately wanted to be a cowboy. Learning the ropes wasn’t going to be trouble-free. Hardships prevailed, and nefarious characters lurked on every trail.

History is not often kind; some say it’s even brutal. But, those willing to take risks of settling the west is well portrayed by Ms. Sandell. She does an excellent job of uniting three lives that were ultimately destined to meet on the stunning, yet often unforgiving plains of the early Texas frontier. This book has many fascinating details, including characters who became an actual part of Texas history.

Next, I recommend reading Ms. Sandell’s book, River of the Arms of God, where she follows up with Benjamin Walter’s family saga. Another great read.

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