The Heroes of Heartbreak Creek , Book 2
Great Britain, 1871 (also, the U.S. and in Between.)
Miss Josephine Cathcart has two big strikes against her when it comes to finding a good husband. Her father was a base born coal miner who worked to become a wealthy mine owner; he should be able to buy her a husband, but the mines have played out and Cathcart made some bad investments. Her other strike is her illegitimate son Jamie, now seven and the delight of her life…and also the reason she's not welcome in Society. Josephine refuses to marry the repugnant candidate her overbearing father is urging on her, so her father scrapes together enough funds to take her to New York where her beauty might attract one of the new rich. Alas, that fails, and so do his attempts to find new investors in his schemes. The Cathcarts take ship for home.
After recovering from a bad experience, former United States Marshal Rayford Jessup puts his great skill with horses to good use. (In a later age, he might be called a horse whisperer.) Rafe gets hired by Angus Wallace, a Scottish earl, to accompany him to England and Scotland to buy thoroughbreds for his Colorado horse ranch. Sailing in Lord and Lady Kirkwell's party, Rafe sits down to dinner at the Captain's table…the same table as Josephine and her father. Angus had already met Cathcart when he procured horses for the Army, and he asks Rafe to learn from Josephine as much as he can about the Cathcart horses. With a great love of horse in common, Rafe and Josie hit it off. With the Wallaces off on a visit to their home in Scotland, Rafe and another of his traveling companions, former Cheyenne Dog Soldier Thomas Redstone, are guests at the Cathcart estate in England. (Neither Rafe nor Thomas is entirely comfortable at table with their hosts, much less in formal dress. And both would prefer sleeping in the stables.)
Rafe is to check out the Cathcart stable of horses and soon becomes involved with Josephine and her traumatized stallion who could recoup the Cathcart fortunes if he could be brought to run in an upcoming steeple chase race…and would also prove a valuable stud on the earl's Colorado horse farm. Romance and trouble follow the people and the horses.
Readers of the earlier Runaway Brides series and the first book in this series, BEHIND HIS BLUE EYES, will have already met the earl and countess and the enigmatic Thomas Redstone (who will be featured in the next novel). Those readers will already be aware of Ms. Warner's talented hand at creating likable and complex characters with meaningful traits and backstories. Although the present tale takes us away from Heartbreak Creek, it fits into the overall story world…a world that I highly recommend to lovers of romance and stories well told.