by Rosanne Bittner
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Page Count: 576
Release Date: June 2, 2015
How got: personal library; bought via Amazon
First attention getter: synopsis and genre
A decades long love story of two people, united by chance, that proves love's lasting power and its ability to overcome all oddsMiranda Hayes has lost everything-her family, her husband, her home. Orphaned and then widowed, desperate to find a safe haven, she sets out to cross a savage land alone...until chance brings her face-to-face with notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner.
Hunted by the law and haunted by a brutal past, Jake has spent a lifetime fighting for everything he has. He's never known a moment's kindness...until fate brings him to the one woman willing to reach past his harsh exterior to the man inside. He would die for her. He would kill for her. He will do whatever it takes to keep her his.
Spanning the dazzling West with its blazing deserts and booming gold towns, Jake and Miranda must struggle to endure every hardship that threatens to tear them apart. But the love of an outlaw comes with a price...and even their passion may not burn bright enough to conquer the coming darkness.
Star Rating - 4.5
I went into this book just expecting a pretty good western historical romance as the description sounded great. What I didn’t expect to find was a western familial EPIC surrounding these two individuals and the family they created. This book became so much more than what I was originally looking for and that was a very pleasant surprise.
First off, no historical romance can do well unless it has leads and a main relationship a reader can get behind. This book has both! Randy and Jake are instantly likeable, drawing me in with tragic pasts, very human ways of dealing with those pasts, and hopes (or lack thereof) for the future. I love that both have been so hurt by their respective situations that their journey to healing and romance is all the more magnetic for readers. As individuals they’re both strong and courageous in their own ways. Together, they’re dynamite!
The one weakness this novel has is actually in this area, though. As much as I love and adore both Randy and Jake to death, they are, at the same time, exasperating and downright irritating at times.
Randy is too perfect: beautiful, courageous, forgiving, loyal, a great mother and lover, trusting, gutsy, plucky….. Need I go on?! Her perfection isn’t so in your face that I grew to hate her; however, I really wanted her to have some moments of doubt, fear, or warts.
And Jake? He’s a lot better but almost in the opposite direction. His constant ruminating on certain parts of his past and his not believing he’s good enough for Randy does get old. Once you learn about his past, you’ll definitely be able to see WHY he has these doubts and he dwells on them. Yet, they’re in your face all the time, never really wavering all the way up to the end. I’ll admit I skipped a few pages here and there just to get away them.
Yet, these two together are something else. They have an instant connection, starting out over the flash of a gun muzzle. Now isn’t that the best introduction in a Western romance you ever heard of?! The author has presented a romance so deep in emotional resonance and heart-stopping sweetness that the aforementioned characterization flaws I talked about seem pale in comparison. It’s beautiful, sweet, heart-wrenching, and soulful all at once. If you read this book for anything, read it for the romance. It succeeds in spades there.
The fact that the author spanned this couple’s relationship for decades makes this book stand out. I’ve never run across this before in a historical romance; it’s what makes this just as much a familial Western saga as it does a romance. We get to follow Randy and Jake as they meet, develop a relationship, get married, have kids, and even on into their later years. We get to see this relationship blossom, grow, mature, and just expand in depth. I loved this aspect!!
I do have to give a special shout-out to the effort the author has evidently put into her research. The Wild West has never been so intense. The author uses places she’s actually been to, real historical figures for background, and pays attention to the little details of daily life. Many western romances I’ve read haven’t put in HALF the effort that Bittner did and it pays off. I could smell the gun smoke and feel the heat of the harsh Western sun.
I’m so glad I gave this author another go. The previous book I started by her years ago I ended up abandoning @ 22%. I have since put it back on my to-read list as I must have missed something here! This author is a queen among western historical romances and it shows. Her characters are beautiful despite some teeth-grinding flaws at times. The relationship FAR makes up for this in its intensity. And her unusual attention to decades of romance development and historical detail are just cream on top. Highly recommended!!