Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner #Review

Outlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner #ReviewOutlaw Hearts by Rosanne Bittner

Series: #1 Outlaw Hearts
Genres: Historical Romance, Western Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on June 2, 2015
Pages: 576
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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five-stars  

An untamed outlaw who turned his back on all his wild ways for the woman who chose to love him share an epic Western saga romance spanning decades and defying the odds against them. It was raw, gritty, all-consuming, and quite possibly one of the best books I’ll ever read. This three part story begins with the meeting, continues with the early years and finishes many years later after joy, tragedy, happiness, loss, and abiding love weave together. I sobbed, I smiled, and I laughed, but mostly I sat amazed at this powerful Western Historical Romance.

This was my third book by this author and each time I have sat in awe of her mastery over this genre. I’ve read others that I love, but these raise the bar even higher. I know this author has been around a while, but I’m grateful to Sourcebooks for reissuing her stories so that I was introduced to a fast-favorite.

The story opens with Miranda Hayes burying her father on the Kansas prairie after raiders hit their farm outside Kansas City. They took all the livestock and items of importance and killed her father while she was away visiting. There is really no reason left to stay since she is alone. She is determined to sell the farm and follow her brother west to Virginia City which was the last place she received a letter. A trip into town for supplies leads her to an encounter with known outlaw, Jake Harkner, when a bounty hunter catches up with him and they shoot it out. Miranda does the unthinkable when she instinctively draws her Derringer and shoots Harkner. He gets away and she is lauded as a hero. She doesn’t feel like a hero knowing full well that he chose not to shoot her when he could have and he denied the more brutal charges on the wanted poster.

Miranda discovers to her surprise and dismay that the outlaw chose her farm to hide and recuperate. She is confused by her feelings and by the opposing desires to turn him in and take care of him. Jake doesn’t make it easy. He makes it clear that he may not have done the worst stuff, but he is no innocent either. He is like a wild, injured animal that watches her warily and doesn’t like to show a soft side though he does in his moments of feverish weakness. She conceives of the audacious plan to have Jake take her to her brother, but Jake refuses and leaves because he’s terrified of the feelings forming between them and knows he’s not good enough.

Jake has lived a hardened life on the wrong side of the law and he has no idea what to do with the emotions he feels toward that strong, lovely lady who chose to help him heal and hid him from the authorities. He won’t drag her into his life. However, the guilt of knowing that she will be going off on her own to Nevada weighs heavily on him because he knows what she is up against and what bad men would do to a beauty like her. Against his sense of self-preservation and judgment, he goes after Miranda to protect her on her way to find her probably worthless brother.

On the hard, dangerous journey, Jake and Miranda forge a bond and a love that sees them through the desert, illness, attacks, unscrupulous men, and Jake’s past. Just when they seem to have made it, Jake’s past catches up with him just like he feared and now they both have to display a strength they didn’t know they had.

I want to use all superlatives as I talk about this book. I was so caught up in this story and long afterward, I still am. Jake’s life was heartbreaking and it was amazing that there were any tender feelings left in him after growing up with the abuse he took and being raised by an evil fiend only seeing a brutal, outlaw upbringing and life with no kindness or love. Miranda’s was a life of loss and tough as a result, but she is this enduring, hope-filled woman who stands strong for Jake. Her care and love are his first encounter with good. He wants it desperately, but doesn’t want to break her or contaminate her by his bad. They have a hard life. The author doesn’t pull any punches or try to romanticize what it’s like for an outlaw to reform. The consequences from Jake’s past are there and tragically affect him and Miranda and others for the rest of their lives. It was magnificent how the author balanced this hard, gritty life with the deep, loyal love so that there was light mixed with dark.

The historical setting and times were authentic and fantastic in the breadth of the descriptions of post-Civil war American West, the journey over the Oregon Trail and all the points of the west where Jake and Miranda called home. The surrounding characters added color and richness to the story. The activities from Mining Town life, Ranch life and life on the run, and more were amazing. The author really knows her stuff.

As to the romance itself, Jake and Miranda are not shy and I enjoyed that they are mature in how they approach their relationship and life. They are tempestuous in their encounters as their strengths both conflict and mesh together. The attraction is strong between them, but tempered by outside influences and social mores of the time. But when they do come together, its a thing of beauty. Miranda is a widow so she isn’t ignorant, but Jake’s experiences with women are well beyond her own. That said, Miranda matched Jake’s needs with an openness that made their passion soar. Through all the hardships they endure, their love was this amazing thing that stayed true no matter what.

This was a longer story that takes place over many years and even into their middle years. I loved that. Many stories end with marriage, but this one was barely a fourth of the way along when the marriage took place and it ends over twenty years later. I haven’t read a family saga like this in a long time and this one reminded me of what I’ve been missing.

In the end, I am left with a thirst for more of this story which thankfully has a follow-up sequel and definitely I will be hunting down more from this author. I highly recommend this story to those who want a magnificent and authentic gritty, sensual Western Historical Romance.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Romance Roundabout #219 HR

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About Rosanne Bittner

Rosanne Bittner is an award-winning novelist who is highly acclaimed for her thrilling love stories and historical authenticity. Her epic romances span the West—from Canada to Mexico, Missouri to California—and are often based on personal visits to each setting. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • Eeps! I JUST finished book two, Sophia! I am dying to go back to this one and check it out now. That is very neat it’s over so many years of their lives together. Book two is just a few weeks/months but was really neat to see their lives and hear hints of what they’d gone through to get there.

    • Oh yes, you really, really must! I’ve just started book two and I see stuff that looks like trouble, but its fantastic to be back with Jake, Randy, and their family.

      • I did a lot of talking at book two of the oh no! don’t you dare do what I think you’re gonna do! oh! you’re gonna make me cry!! lol It was great 😉

        • That is exactly what the first book did to me so I was expecting it, but still. I actually moved this up on my review schedule after reading the other one b/c I would have been reading it at the airport and on a plane- so don’t want to embarrass myself in front of the travelers. Haha!

          • LOL yeah only funny happy reads when out in public. I would have gotten a couple glances while reading this one out in public. Not like ugly cry but there was some definite tear sheddage.

            • So true, but I have to be careful about the super funny ones, too b/c I have a snorty laugh and get the giggles.

  • It’s been a while since I read a book like this one. I’m not much for western romances. Loved the review though.

    • Thanks, Mary! It was probably quite obvious that I was really into this one. Haha!

  • Lindy Gomez

    How wonderful that this story was a saga. Many times the story ends after the characters get together officially or get married. I agree, that it is great to be able to see what happened afterwards.

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    • Exactly! I’m reading the sequel that carries it even a little further now. I love this family.

  • Glad you like this one so much, I wonder why she broke it down into three parts? Are these like novellas or just one long story?

    • It’s three sections of this book and they all end at what could be a stopping point. The first part stops when they reach their goal of getting to the silver mines in Nevada. Then the next part ends at another place where they are moving to somewhere new (can’t remember which stop along their way it was). And then the final one is the part when his past catches up and it was the most emotional and tension-filled spot.

      • Huh, kinda sounds like that show thats really old..hmm.. Lonesome Dove? Something like that..ya know what I’m talking about? Lol

        • Haha! Yeah, I know the very one. In book form, its huginormous. Yes, that would be a good comparison.

          • O_O You’ve read it?

            • Not yet, but I see it at every library and yard sale it seems. 🙂 One of these days, I’ll grab it. It’s a series of books and I just hesitate to start another series without finishing off a few more.

  • oh yay!! I plan on reading this one soon, and I love that its a story that spans over years, and I love books with this type of setting too. And she is such a great author, I read her years ago when I first started reading romance, so I am thrilled to get back to her.

    • I have a feeling that you’re really going to like this one, Renee. Wish I had spotted her writing years ago. But I’m making up for it now. 😉

      • Oh I think so too, especially since in the past I have enjoyed her other books (mostly books from her backlist), but I love historical westerns.

        • Me too! I read her Desperate Hearts and Paradise Valley. Now I’m on the sequel to this one. I’ve already run through all the emotions and I’m barely half way. I so can’t read this at the airport tomorrow or I will disgrace myself getting all emotional. Haha! I’ll have to pick up my next read or something and come back to it when I can be private with my book.