I fell in love with this couple and their family in Outlaw Hearts. I couldn’t have been more pleased when I realized there was a sequel. I was not ready to let them go and I’m glad the author wasn’t either. Jake and Miranda Harker and their family saga set in the last days of the Old West makes for some of the best Western Historical Romance that I have ever read.
This is a sequel, but it is written in such a way that newcomers can do fine if they accidentally pick them up out of order. Fair warning, the reader will want to go back to the beginning. Personally, I was glad to get them in order so that I had all that history with the family to build upon when things happened in this one- made the experience all the more poignant and sweet.
The story opens about a year and a half after the end of the first book. Jake is now settled into his job of US Marshall and his family is settled around him in Guthrie, OK. The land is seething with trouble- many outlaws hide out here, the Indians are restless with the treaties being broken, and more and more settlers are pouring in. Jake and his son Lloyd have their hands full as do the other marshals.
Jake and Lloyd go after some bank robbers and this sets in motion a feud situation since the outlaws come from two local families that skirt the law constantly. Jake and Lloyd had to use deadly action to stop them and now the remaining clans want revenge against Jake and Lloyd.
Back home, Jake worries about Randy because she is hiding something about her health, a young writer from Chicago wants to tell his story and it will dredge up the darkness of his past, Evie is his angel daughter living with her kind husband, Lloyd decides that it is time to move on after the loss of Beth and he has a lovely widow woman ready to give him and his young son a chance, but Katie isn’t sure about his dangerous job.
Evil men ride the outlaw trail and threaten Jake’s family. It will take Jake bringing out the man he once was to fight for his family and take down a ruthless bunch. Through it all, a love that began 26 years before is as strong as ever. Jake draws strength from his wife and Randy relies on him utterly. If only they can be strong enough when circumstances force them to be apart.
Alright, this sequel did its job and utterly enthralled me with how much it carried on the strengths of the first book and made an older couple and their family story hold me in its grip and not let me go even after I closed the last page. I was bittersweet over seeing it end because I hate saying good-bye to such well-loved characters.
The story sits comfortably in its wild, rough, boisterous western setting. The author paid attention to detail and got it right without the details overpowering the story. The pacing was well-done with gentle home scenes switching to harsh and dangerous action.
There is continued character development as Jake still fights the demons of his past and worries about the safety and wellbeing of his family. Miranda quietly faces her fears of what is causing her health troubles even as she desperately wants to be there for Jake who needs her as his anchor in the difficult time. Lloyd and his wife have to also settle with their pasts if they are to enjoy a happy future together. And a young man from the city finally comes into his own as he observes, interviews, and engages in Jake’s life.
The romance was as incredible as ever. Jake and Randy may be at middle age, but Jake is as lusty and in love with his wife as ever and Randy is right there with him. They are each other’s reason for existence and no matter what there is trust, loyalty, determination, and understanding to go along with their love.
In conclusion, it was absolutely amazing and I felt so part of the story feeling and experiencing everything. Western Historical Romance fans really need to pick this one up as soon as possible.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.