This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on July 7, 2015
The last book in a series and an anticipated one at that. I was excited to get Cheyenne warrior, Thomas Redstone’s story. His thing with Prudence has been coming to a head for a long time. The story builds on those that came before it and ties up things perfectly. This is a hard fought for romance between two people that are in the racial minority and come from such diverse ways of life that there is a possibility that they can’t be brought together. It is also the triumphant story of a fledgling and hopeful western town and its leading families. I experienced all the ups and downs of this journey of the heart and was left satisfied with the end.
As I said this is the last book in a trilogy that is a spin-off of an earlier trilogy (personally I just see them as a six book series b/c they are tightly connected). There is an assumption that the reader read the others, but in a pinch it can be read out of order since the main plot is clear enough.
The story picks up where the last one leaves off except the spotlight shifts to Thomas and Pru. Thomas has been patiently waiting for Pru for years and his patience has nearly run out. Back home in Colorado, he rescued her from the Arapaho, they grew close and there were feelings, he laid it all out there for her about his feelings, and then she left to go back east and work to teach school for blacks and work for reform so they had more education opportunities. She refuses Thomas several times putting her work first. Thomas is on his way back from England and has decided to call it quits because he is lonely, his heartaches for his woman, and he can’t take any more of her putting him off. He just wants to get a bottom line. He stops through Indiana prepared to deliver his ultimatum to Pru and suspects that he’ll be going home alone and trying to get over the love of his life.
Pru knows that she is on her last chance with Thomas. If she denies him again then they are through. She loves him, but her work is important and she is on the verge of having those with political power recognize it. Unfortunately, she is forced to work with a politician who gives her the creeps and has his own agenda. He is using Pru to get the funds and power that her reform program will generate if Congress accepts it and nothing, not even Pru herself, will stand in his way. He makes it clear that those she holds dear are in danger as is her secret work on the Underground Railroad if she doesn’t cooperate. Prudence is terrified that Thomas will get a whiff of the tight spot she is in and get himself in trouble over her. She leaves the school headed to Indianapolis broken-hearted, but hoping that if she isn’t there, Thomas will give up and go west to home.
Thomas arrives and finds Pru absent, but in her place is a spunky little black girl who happens to be blind, but intelligent. Lillian adopts Thomas on the spot and helps him understand the situation so they rush off to help Pru. Lillie’s instant acceptance is amusing and unnerving for Thomas who isn’t sure about this ‘adoption’, but he stoically goes with it. Thomas struggles to understand what is going on since he is a Cheyenne Dog Soldier and still figuring out how to navigate the white man’s world. Pru’s constant need to do ‘just one more thing’ and putting total strangers first when she could be working back home hurts him and tells him more than any out and out rejection that she will never be his. Still, he doesn’t trust the white man with the cold, dead blue eyes and he will stay long enough to protect Pru from this man.
Pru sees what is happening and realizes that she is getting into deeper danger with Thomas and Lillie right along with her so she works to extricate them and finish what she set out to do. What she can’t predict is Thomas’ response and willingness to ride it all out with her and what choice she will make when it is all over.
The story is a slow developing piece. There is a bit of everything going on in this well-drawn authentic historical piece that starts in the post-civil war eastern part of the US and then moves to the sweeping and rugged landscape of a small revitalized town in the west. There is a large cast of characters and several plot threads, too. This was not an issue because the author kept things neat for the most part. This is where starting the series in order is a good idea or all the names and situations would get confusing as the narrative bounces between several players in the final two-thirds of the book. The story is two-pronged as it both presents the romance of Thomas and Pru and the final chapter of the Heartbreak Creek group of founding families.
The romance requires a lot of patience. The love is there, but the priority on the relationship is out of balance. Thomas and Pru’s backgrounds are one huge barrier because Pru thinks that Thomas expects her to go indian and live out in the wilderness, not paying attention to the changes in him as he worked toward transitioning for the future and assimilating some of the white man’s ways while still retaining his core identity. Thomas is convinced that Pru will just keep stacking up reasons not to come home even though he understands some of her need as a half-black woman to help the former slaves. It was a well done and authentic bit to see how the cultures clash and meld even in the past and how it affected those caught between two worlds and transitioning into a new era like they both are.
The emotional part of the romance was strong, but the tender feelings and passion does get buried in the other stuff going on a lot of times. But, for those who need their moments, Thomas was a strong, commanding male who oozed sensuality in a natural, organic way. He would get a certain expression or tone of voice and Pru would go all swoony and compliant. Thomas is a natural protector and just wanted to care for and love on his woman so it was tough to see him constantly chasing after her and getting her out of jams that she got into with the villain. Thomas dealt with that dude pretty masterfully, too. Pru has the furthest to come as far as waking up and getting her act together before she loses out on a deep loving relationship even though she is a woman with powerful goals, compassion and need to help those that have no voice.
It was lovely to get all the time with the whole cast back in Heartbreak Creek and that epilogue had me teary-eyed with joy. It was the perfect good-bye to a strong, engaging series depicting the spirit of the west blending tough action and sultry romance.
I heartily recommend this series to Western Historical Romance fans and would further encourage readers to start with the earlier Runaway Brides trio.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.