Runaway Brides/Book 1
Berkley/July 5, 2011
From the back cover ~
Edwina Ladoux hoped becoming a mail-order bride would be her way out of the war- torn South and into a better life, but as soon as she arrives in Heartbreak Creek, Colorado, and meets her hulking, taciturn groom, she realizes she's made a terrible mistake.
Declan Brodie already had one flighty wife who ran off with a gambler before being killed by Indians. He's hoping this new one will be a practical, sturdy farm woman who can help with chores and corral his four rambunctious children. Instead, he gets a skinny Southern princess who doesn't even know how to cook.
Luckily, Edwina and Declan agreed on a three-month courtship period, which should give them time to get the proxy marriage annulled. Except that as the weeks pass, thoughts of annulment turn into hopes for a real marriage-until Declan's first wife returns after being held captive for the last four years. Now an honorable man must choose between duty and desire, and a woman who's never had to fight for anything must do battle for the family she's grown to love...
Many of you know how much I love a good western romance. After reading and enjoying Ms. Warner's Blood Rose trilogy, to say I was looking forward to her newest release was putting it mildly. One of my absolute favorite romance tropes is the mail-order-bride trope. If I read a blurb mentioning mail-order-bride, I'm there. For me, it's the ultimate in the romantic fantasy of trusting in fate and falling in love.
Southern belle Edwina Ladoux has lost just about everything. Her home, almost all of her family and her way of life. But she's ready to start a new life as the mail-order-bride of a man she only knows through his letters. Along with her best friend and half-sister Prudence (Pru), they head west. Edwina is a woman who can give the outward appearance of a delicate and proper lady but when she wants something she can be as stubborn as a mule! Edwina and Delcan don't make the best first impressions on each other. She thinks he's too big and too rough and he thinks she has some crazy ideas.
Declan Brodie is rough around the edges with a sweet and gentle inside. He loves his four rambunctious children and he loves his ranch. But he can't run a ranch and take care of the kids and the house too. Declan is nothing if not practical so he advertises in the Matrimonial News no less.
Honest, hard-working widower, age thirty-three, seeks sturdy English-speaking woman to help with mountain ranch and four children. Drinkers, whores, and gamblers need not apply.
How could Edwina possibly pass up a request like that? Except Ed, as Declan calls her, after first calling her Miss Priss, Declan doesn't think Ed has what it takes to take care of the children and house. He thinks she's too fragile and she can't even cook! Imagine! LOL Good think Pru is there to cook and teach Ed. Declan's impression of Ed slowly changes as he watches her take on the task of corralling his children's wild ways and learning about ranch life.
Ed and Declan were so very good together! They tease and irritate each other while they're busy checking each other out. I loved how Warner developed the romance, letting Ed and Declan discover that their first impressions only showed the surface and there was a lot more going on underneath. There's one scene where Declan realizes that he doesn't just need a wife, he needs Ed. For Ed, she not only fell in love with Declan, she also fell in love with his children which was important since the are so much a part of him. Some of the best scenes were with Ed and the children. These kids had personality and certainly added humor and emotion to the story.
The secondary characters that populate the town of Heartbreak Creek are a wonderful mix of typical small town folk and a couple of newcomers who liven the place up. Maddie Wallace and Lucinda Hathaway arrived on the same train as Ed and Pru. The four women become fast friends and share advice, experience and encouragement on their new lives. I know we'll see much more of both Maddie and Lucinda in coming books.
Ranch life isn't easy but for Declan and Ed, it's made even more difficult with a crazy man out to get revenge against Declan. Looking back, there was a lot going on in addition to Ed and Declan getting to know each other. Lots of upheaval with threats to everyone Declan cared about. Then throw in the once-thought-dead wife come back to life and damn but they had a heck of a lot to overcome. Yet, I never felt that it took away from the romance. If anything, it brought Declan and Ed closer together. There was just the right balance of romance, humor, suspense and teasing for future books.
Heartbreak Creek is a beautifully told historical western romance. We need more books like this! Thankfully, Ms. Warner has more on the way.
Books in this series ~
Colorado Dawn (January 2012)