A man raised in an orphanage, rejected by both his mother and father’s races, and only has his blood brothers doesn’t think he can ever have a wife and a family. A woman who comes from the dregs of society, a thief, and worse, never imagines that a man would look twice at her. But as Brett Liberty faces the gallows for the crime of being born, Rayna Harper helps make his last hours a dream come true as he pretends that they can have something real.
This was sweet, heartwarming in the romance and gritty and heartpounding with the action while set on the rough and tumble Texas frontier. I enjoyed this first time reading this author even though I did jump into the third book of the series. Definitely will go back for Cooper and Rand’s stories.
After, Brett and Rayna are rescued from a bigoted sheriff, Brett decides to take Rayna back to Battle Creek. He will help set her up with honest work and then head back to his horse ranch. And this plan crushes both Brett and Rayna because she wants to be with him and he wants her, too.
However, Brett is part indian and he will not subject Rayna to the dangers of being with a half-breed. It’s dangerous enough for him alone, but any woman with him would earn the slurs of the people around them or worse. The whites are reactionary toward indians because of the recent Comanche raids and the indians want nothing to do with him for the white blood in him. And then there is the long-time rejection of being a baby left at the orphanage door. If it weren’t for the men who he bonded with as brothers, Brett would have no one. Cooper is the town sheriff and Rand owns a ranch nearby. Brett is jealous they are happily married with families, but he is also thankful to see them have this, too.
Rayna is a bonepicker’s daughter. They are the poorest of the poor and are shunned like the plague by all other people. She grew up hard with a mean, sadistic man for a father who got rid of her mother and whored Rayna out for liquor and other things he wanted. She finally got away from him, but the taint of her past leaves her scrambling to survive until she encounters the honorable, brave, and handsome Brett Liberty. She understands why he rejects what they feel, but she is determined to wait him out. Rayna doesn’t want to be his burden so she takes the job as nurse to the town doctor and longs for the time Brett will let them be together.
In the meantime, Brett is surprised by the arrival of a woman claiming to be his sister and an angry nephew who, like Brett, is a half-breed. He doesn’t know what to make of this, but then he has the added complication of sick orphaned Comanches and the Sister who is helping to move them to an orphanage down south which stir up the local bigots. Fear is in the air as people worry that the children carry disease and others worry that Brett is bringing in more of the feared Comanche tribe. Fear leads to mobs led by Brett’s hard-hearted neighbor threatening him and the little band of Comanche children. Brett is forced to bring Rayna to help tend the sick children and call upon his brothers for assistance to hold off the men who would kill and destroy. And the danger just grows more intense as their situation becomes dire and nearly hopeless. Brett must stand strong and protect what he has come to love and think of his.
Alright, so this one was an emotional read as the themes of bigotry, interracial issues, child abandonment, abuse and neglect, and trust are explored against the setting of Texas in the Old West. I always find it at least a little exciting when I plunge into a book by a new to me author because it’s the unknown. This time was no different. I really liked the story, but there was something about the writing style that held me a little aloof at times. I can’t explain it beyond that. I liked the story, the characters, and the setting, but I felt apart from it, too. Not very far, but enough to notice.
So anyway, plot, pace, and development were good. Brett and Rayna both came from hard pasts and that was their point of connection. They were not bitter or eaten by their pasts and both just wanted to be given the chance to make a good life like the people around them. Seeing people put down because of the honest work they do for a living even if it isn’t a job anyone wants and seeing people rejected because they are of blended race or from a certain race brings pain because I can’t feel or understand this prejudice. And that is the foundation of this story. I thought the author told it well.
The romance was one of unrequited love as a result of their circumstances. I liked that both were honest about their feelings and wants even if Brett wouldn’t let them act on them. Couldn’t really get upset at him for his caution since he was nearly hanged just for being a half-breed and he had endured the slurs and the rejection and watched others hurt or slaughtered for it. Because he loved her, he was protecting her from all this. Rayna understood. She wanted to be with him and it hurt that she couldn’t. Rayna has a different way at seeing the world because of her own past. Brett is the first true and good person in her life and she knows that he is it for her. She wants to change her ways for him and be a better woman that has his respect. They were a beautiful couple and I was glad to see them share some happy, peaceful moments amongst the craziness of fighting to stay alive from the range war that Brett’s neighbor started up over the Comanche orphan children.
That brings me to the action side of the story. The author blended action and romance development well. For most of the book, the reader gets the action second hand so to speak, but near the end, it got gritty and darker. Hate does that. Brett and his allies fought hard and faced overwhelming odds. Losses were felt and I teared up at one point. There are villains in this piece that I would gladly do violence to if given half a chance. This wasn’t even about greed; just pure hate. Strikes a chord because of what goes on these days.
All in all, my first venture into this author’s books was a success and will definitely not be my last. I would recommend this book/series to those who enjoy Western Historical Romance that is only slightly spicy and has moderate level of grit.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #416 HR
Historical Romance #121
New to Me #199