A turn of the Century historical novel, Stealing Jake, weaves a wonderful story told from both the protagonists’ points of view. Immediately we realize the conundrum facing the heroine as she must choose to rescue a street urchin from the gentleman he has just pickpocketed; and she must do this using her once erstwhile skills. Even more troubling, the gentleman is a Sheriff’s Deputy.Livvy O’Brien has come to Chestnut, Illinois hoping to start clean and fresh. In her former life, she had been a street orphan stealing to survive. Rescued by the compassionate Mrs. Brooks for whom she now works maintaining an orphanage, and having become a new Christian, she struggles to trust anyone especially the law—and with good reason.
Jake Russell eventually discovers that Livvy helped the children by returning his pickpocketed item without him being able to prove it had disappeared in the first place. He also harbors disdain for the very children she sympathizes with and strives to protect. They both have trust issues. Livvy also fears childbirth because, as a child, she watched her sister and new born infant die under her care.Both Jake and Livvy have lost significant people in their lives due to tragedy. Jake, not only lost Father and brothers in a mining accident; but he was trapped with their dead bodies for days and now suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—unable and unwilling to find himself trapped in a dark hole again. He needs his deputy job to support the rest of his family and has a loan hanging over his head that could cost the family farm.
There are many wonderful facets to Stealing Jake including children caring for children, those children being used and abused, good lawmen versus bad lawmen. Neither Livvy nor Jake is totally wrong in how they see the issues confronting them. Areas are grayer than black and white. Each needs to listen to the other’s heart and begin to understand their fears in order to help each other.Characters, like old Gus and Luke, along with a multitude of plot twists make for a fascinating read.