Ev’s RITA® Reader Challenge is for this novel, which finaled in the Best First Book category.
Plot Summary: On a stagecoach traveling through New Mexico Territory, Jessica Thornton is a long way from the cool mists and lush gardens of her native England. An authoress and milliner, she carries the weight of a scandalous secret-a horrible shame that has brought her to the West on a desperate search for the only family she can trust: her brother.
No one prepared Jessica for the heat and the hardships. And no one prepared her for a man like Brady Wilkins. For, despite the rancher’s rough-hewn appearance and her own misgivings, Jessica must put her life in his hands after their stagecoach crashes. And she begins to see the man behind the callused hands and caustic wit. A man strong enough to carve out a home in the wilderness, brave enough to fight for his own, and passionate enough to restore her faith in herself-and in her heart.
And here is Ev’s review:
I read all kinds of historical romance, just not westerns. This book could change that. This novel reminded me once again there are truly gifted storytellers still to be discovered. It’s a simple, yet not so simple story of two careworn souls finding each other. Brady and Jessica are Warner’s gift to the reader, fully realized and wonderfully wrought on paper. I laughed, I cried, felt their pain, and gloried in their love.
“Give me your hand.”
She looked over to see Brady holding out his hand, palm up. “Why?”
“So I can hold it.”
“Why do you want to hold it?”
“Because the sun’s down and I’m afraid of the dark. Or because you’ve been ogling me like a buyer at a cattle auction and I figured I’d give you a treat. Or because I like doing it. Just give me your damn hand.”
She gave him her hand. His palm was warm and rough against hers, his fingers long enough to encircle hers in a sturdy grip. It made her feel secure and safe and petite. “I was not ogling,” she said after they had rocked for a while.
“I was noticing. There is a difference.”
He leaned closer until his shoulder rubbed against hers as they rocked. “And what did you notice?”
Warner’s singular writing just enhances the reader’s experience. In the landscape of her story nothing is out of sync, no emotions unfounded, nor actions unconnected to the character’s reality. There are worthy secondary characters, a truly sick villain bound on revenge, and I’m happy to report, brothers with stories to be told.
If you expect instant lust with immediate, graphic sex with page-turning, shoot-them-up cowboy action, then this one is not for you. But if you want to view the precarious life of a rancher in the New Mexico Territory of the 1860’s and experience the wonderful evolution of real love between two remarkable people, then this one IS for you. This why I read romance.