Pioneer Passage

The Journey of Cornelia Rose Book 3

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
468 Pages
Reviewed on 05/10/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Pioneer Passage: The Journey of Cornelia Rose Book 3 is the third but hopefully not the last of author J.F. Collen’s epic story of a journey across America, taken by Cornelia Rose and her family in the mid-1800s. Cornelia Rose has left her beloved family and her lovely home in Sing Sing, New York to dutifully follow her husband, Obadiah, who has recently been appointed a Federal Court Justice in the territory of Utah. To reach the great Salt Lake City required a dangerous and arduous wagon journey on the famous Oregon Trail where mountain crossings, deep river fords, restless Native Americans and dangerous animals await these intrepid emigrants. That is before we even consider the possible dangers awaiting the Wright family when they finally do reach Salt Lake City. Rumors abound that the Mormon Saints are determined to rule Utah as their very own Jerusalem and are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the United States Federal authorities out of their promised land that they called the State of Deseret. The wagon train is comprised of simple emigrants from all walks of life, some headed for the promised free farmland of the Oregon territory, some Mormon “Saints” who like the Wrights are bound for Salt Lake City, and some who head all the way across the great plains of the Midwest, bound for California and gold. With just deep and abiding faith in their Lord, some rudimentary maps and guidebooks plus the indomitable pioneering spirit of independence, this eclectic collection of families and individuals must somehow work together and navigate the travails that lie ahead.

Pioneer Passage is a truly delightful, meaty read that will satisfy any reader who enjoys an excellent adventure exceptionally well told. Having already read the second story in this saga, I was familiar with the principal characters of the Wright family and author J.F. Collen uses this iteration to expand on and emphasize the unique character and powerful faith of these early pioneers but more especially the women. Cornelia Rose is a woman ahead of her time; learned, well-read, opinionated, and skilled in the healing arts. Her need to be recognized, understood and listened to by men, especially her conservative and strict husband Obadiah, is a real highlight of this particular part of the story. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Cornelia Rose and her male admirers who were all clearly besotted with the young wife’s beauty, charm, wit, and intelligence. Her handling of their advances was both amusing and, for the period, possibly even somewhat risqué.

What I particularly love about this author’s style is her ability to convey a wonderment and understanding of the physical environment the pioneers were passing through. Her prose is melodic, almost to the point of musicality and her descriptions vivid and real enough to transport the reader right into the wagon, alongside Nellie and her family, as they negotiate the dangers of the trail. One can truly feel the barrenness and spread of the western prairies, along with the power of the crystal-clear night sky through Collen’s melodic prose. I loved this story, as I did the second book, and I can only hope the author does not intend to end Nellie’s journey with their arrival in Salt Lake City. A fantastic read that I can highly recommend and one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

K.C. Finn

Pioneer Passage is a work of fiction in the historical and family saga subgenres and serves as the third installment of the Journey of Cornelia Rose series. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author J F Collen. Continuing the adventures of Cornelia Rose as she follows the Oregon Trail for a new life in Salt Lake City, Cornelia must use all of her wits and heart to face the challenges of the dangerous journey ahead. With her medical knowledge at her disposal, she quickly becomes a key part of the wagon train during the expedition. But what awaits at the journey's end, and why does the quiet man in their group seem so familiar?

This is an excellent demonstration of how to continue a well-established saga, with new challenges and opportunities for Cornelia to grow and expand her character beyond what has been established in the first two books in the series. As depictions go of the pioneers of the old west, this book is very faithful to the dangerous experiences in which many lost their lives, but Cornelia’s determination to get herself and her fellow travelers safely through to the journey's end forms the beating heart of author J K Collen’s exciting and dynamic adventure. This adventure is filled with peril as well as twists and turns of a more personal nature for Cornelia, with Pioneer Passage expertly switching between sources of drama to keep the story constantly feeling fresh and dynamic. An excellent read overall, and one I'd recommend to all fans of historical fiction.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Pioneer Passage is yet another piece of brilliant historical fiction penned by J. F. Collen. The adventure continues for Cornelia Rose. It is the summer of 1857; Nellie and her family are westward bound seeking “the promise of a bright future.” Obadiah Wright, Nellie’s influential and well-respected husband, has been appointed the new circuit Judge for the Utah territory. The Wrights are members of a wagon train trekking across the prairie. Nellie is in the family way again. The heat and the dusty trail increase her nausea and exhaustion as she daily leads the oxen pulling their wagon. Throughout the journey, Nellie’s skills of midwifery and herbal remedies are repeatedly put to good use. Although weary of the trail, Nellie prayerfully finds solace and comfort in the beauty of her surroundings and in her beloved daughters. Nellie, as always, has an enchanting allure. Suitors and admirers gravitate to her charms whether on the riverbank of her cherished Hudson or on the arduous trail out west. However, her outspoken opinions and charms are not always appreciated by Obadiah, often causing an exclamation of “Tarnation,” to escape her lips. Nonetheless, the pioneering spirit beckons them to carry on. Through trepidation and delight, high waters, desert sands, and mountain passes, Nellie and Obadiah journey on in hope of reaching their promised land.

Pioneer Passage by J. F. Collen captures the heart and soul of the pioneering spirit. The wonder of reading historical fiction is to learn about history in a relatable and enlightening way. J F. Collen’s Pioneer Passage does not disappoint. The narrative is well researched and is an enjoyable, informative read. Collen’s eloquent writing style and beautiful descriptions draw you into the landscape. Full of brogue and the language of the era, the dialogues take you into conversations spoken long ago. As a lover of historical fiction, every “tarnation” and “mishap” I read made me smile. Collen creates an intimacy between her main character and the reader. By penning Cornelia’s innermost thoughts, Collen allows the reader to become more acquainted with her than her surrounding cast of characters. There is conflict from the outside and from within for the protagonist. She must endure the trials of the terrain, the threat of hostile indigenous people, the rumored violence of the Latter-Day Saints, and the unbridled forces of nature. The journey provides lessons to be learned in survival and in self-awareness. The flirtatious Nellie has come a long way, yet still has much to learn about her own feminine mystic. Collen skillfully pens the struggle of women to stay silent or to speak out during this time of history. Cornelia Rose pushes the envelope! Pioneer Passage conveys the truth that although the journey of life often seems relentless and riddled with hardships, with love as your guide, every day offers a cherished step closer to your promised land.