Friday, July 01, 2011

HEARTBREAK CREEK by Kaki Warner

HEARTBREAK CREEK – Kaki Warner
A Runaway Brides Novel, Book 1
Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 978-0-425-24122-6
July 2011
Historical Romance

Heartbreak Creek, Colorado; 1870

Edwina Whitney Ladoux and Prudence Lincoln grew up together on the Rose Hill Plantation in Louisiana. They are close as sisters; in fact, they are sisters. Edwina’s mother was mean, perhaps a little mad. Prudence’s mother was a slave, but loved by all. Prudence is a year older and, though she sometimes took the punishment for Edwina, they protected each other…and still do. They are the only family either has left since the late war. They eke out a living with a garden plot, Edwina’s sewing and Prudence’s occasional jobs. And now they have no home; the plantation is taken by the bank for the back taxes. The times are not easy in the South, especially for Prudence, a beautiful woman of mixed blood. Edwina feels they would have a better chance elsewhere. Seeing the inevitable, she had answered an advertisement for a mail-order bride. Declan Brodie in Colorado wants a wife—a sturdy English-speaking woman to help with mountain ranch and four children. Drinkers, whores and gamblers need not apply. As a precaution, Edwina stipulated a courting period of two months in case they found the marriage needed to be annulled, then went ahead with a proxy wedding before taking a series of trains to Colorado. Pru thinks Edwina has acted in her usual emotional, impulsive manner, but here again, the two women have each other’s backs.

What Brodie finds waiting for him in town is a skinny beauty in a funny hat for a wife and her “companion” who will come along and teach her to cook. (Prudence does not want Edwina to tell of their family relationship. She feels it would bring dishonor on their father, who always treated her as a daughter. Pru is the practical one with an insatiable thirst for education; she devoured their father’s entire library.) When she first realizes the big, hulking man who meets them is her new husband, Edwina is glad of the delayed consummation pact.

What follows is a highly entertaining tale of a bride raised in luxury and a huge, broody husband with four wild children, the youngest a female, though you couldn’t tell that at a glance. They gradually get to know each other: he to see that she’s trying her best, she to be surprised by the feelings his masculinity brings forth. On top of Edwina’s and Brodie’s differing backgrounds, her first marriage was a disaster, the whole one day and night of it. His first wife ran away with another man, both later found killed by Indians. These bits of their pasts will not make this marriage any easier.

Supporting characters are varied and interesting in themselves as well as in their dealing with our hero and heroine. There are Brodie’s friend, Thomas Redstone, a half Cheyenne whose tribe was decimated; Lone Tree, a vengeful Arapaho; the four children, RD, Joe Bill, Lucas, and Brin, all of whom are definite individuals; the two ranch hands, and various townsfolk. Of importance are two women Edwina and Pru befriended on the train to Heartbreak Creek and who decided to stay in the fading mining town for reasons of their own.

I first read a Kaki Warner novel when assigned to review CHASING THE SUN, from her Blood Rose trilogy, and found it wonderful. This new series promises to be as good if not better. Ms. Warner brings her characters and their eras vividly to life. I highly recommend HEARTBREAK CREEK and eagerly look forward to the next Runaway Brides novels.

Jane Bowers

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