This installment finds the widows of Coal Valley suing the mining company for negligence, but this bold step forward stirs up even more conflict for the town. Meanwhile, our heroine, Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), must return to her hometown to visit her ailing mother. Jack (Daniel Lissing) agrees to escort her and uses the opportunity to reconnect with his brother who also lives in the area. It's a story of triumph, acceptance, and romantic longing, but one naturally fraught with snippy comments and judgy pioneer ladies.
As you'll recall, the town of Coal Valley has been in a state of mourning (and limbo) since most of its men were killed in a mining disaster. In an era when men typically assumed responsibility for matters of importance, the women of Coal Valley are left in the awkward position of adopting these duties. Not only are they uncomfortable defying social norms of the day, their lack of practice and confidence in making decisions often shines through. This makes for a fair amount of cattiness in a town where women seriously need to rely on one another. Never is this more obvious than when the ladies of Coal Valley learn that the illustrious prosecutor Sam Madison is (wait for it!) also a lady. I can't remember the last time a whole town was so disappointed to have a smart person on their side.
The claws come out again when Elizabeth takes cooking lessons from Rosemary (Pascale Hutton), and when she arrives home to a houseful of sisters. Judgments about Elizabeth's unconventional lifestyle abound, petty rivalries blossom, and competition for any man's attention is fierce. For a bunch of God-fearing folks, the people in these movies really aren't very nice. Even worse, the two nicest people, Jack and Elizabeth still can't seem to communicate their true feelings for one another. Their friendship and flirtation continue, but neither will make it clear that they're interested. It's like mutually unrequited love gone amok.
Though it's a little unsatisfying that Jack and Elizabeth never define their relationship, we do see a sweet romance develop between Abigail (Lori Loughlin) and forensic investigator Bill Avery (Jack Wagner). More importantly, the citizens of Coal Valley win their case and change their name to Hope Valley. We can only hope (no pun intended) that this goes a long way in knocking that chip off their shoulders.