When Sarah Carr's husband, Jamie, drowns, she is left pregnant and alone. She travels to her only remaining family, a brother- and sister-in-law. Instead of help, her brother-in-law plots to have her kidnapped and sent to the Colonies as an indentured servant. Though she doesn't know why God has sent this trial to her, she trusts he will bring her through.
While a servant for Mr. and Mrs. Woodhouse, Sarah meets Dr. Alex Hutton. Though they are attracted to each other, Sarah realizes she is a lowborn woman with no claims to such an honorable, well-bred man. New threats separate Sarah and Alex, but her strong faith comforts her. If she is ever reunited with Alex, will she dare to take a chance on love?
This is the second book in the Daughters of the Potomac series I've read. Gerlach opens Beyond the Valleyin the middle of the action and is able to maintain the readers interest with continued conflict along the way. She draws on Sarah's fears of uncertainty, tempered by her strong faith in God. What the reader finds in Sarah, however, is a reactive character instead of one who takes charge of her future. A damsel in distress type of story is fine, but it is definitely a different flavor of female lead than one found in Darcy, the female lead from Gerlach's second book in this series, Beside Two Rivers. If a reader was expecting Sarah to be as as fiery as her red hair based upon an earlier book, they would be disappointed.
I also couldn't get away from the feeling that all the conflict Sarah incurs is simply a way to move the plot forward. It served little purpose because Sarah's faith doesn't waver; she is the one who denies herself a relationship with Alex because of their different social classes; and for the most part, she isn't instrumental in changing her circumstances at all. There is little or no growth for the character, so the tragedies she is subjected to at the hands of others do little to make her sympathetic because you simply want to shake her and tell her to do something for herself.
That said, it's important to realize people's personalities are different. Some put their faith in God and allow him to figure out the details. A reader who has a similar personality might find this type of character refreshing instead of a take charge type of female lead who has faith in God but also believes she is in control of her own destiny. Any reader will also find much to like in the handsome Dr. Alex Hutton, whose kindness adds a wonderful element to this story.