Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Pieces of Sky

Pieces of Sky
Kaki Warner
Western Historical Romance
(New Mexico Territory/1869)

Blood Rose Trilogy/Book 1
Berkley Trade/January 2010
Library Book

From the back cover ~

On a stagecoach traveling through New Mexico Territory, Jessica Thornton is a long way from the cool mists and lush gardens of her native England. An authoress and milliner, she carries the weight of a scandalous secret-a horrible shame that has brought her to the West on a desperate search for the only family she can trust: her brother.

No one prepared Jessica for the heat and the hardships. And no one prepared her for a man like Brady Wilkins. For, despite the rancher's rough-hewn appearance and her own misgivings, Jessica must put her life in his hands after their stagecoach crashes. And she begins to see the man behind the callused hands and caustic wit. A man strong enough to carve out a home in the wilderness, brave enough to fight for his own, and passionate enough to restore her faith in herself-and in her heart.

This book got some good buzz when it first came out and since I like westerns I knew it would make it into my reading pile. At times it's a very gritty, realistic view of life on America's western frontier. Even thought it takes place shortly after the end of the American Civil War there is little influence from the aftermath of the war. It certainly would have had a different feel to it had it taken place "back east". The majority of the story is set in and around the ranch RosaRoja. This huge ranch belongs to the Wilkins family comprising of three brothers - Brady, Hank and Jack. And yes, all three will have a book, Hank's story, Open Country, is out now. But this is Brady's story. He's the oldest and the one that everyone looks up to. He takes on all the responsibilities of the ranch and the people who live there.

The story opens with Brady Wilkins and a soon-to-be dead horse. What better way to open a western than with a cowboy and his horse? I just wish the horse didn't have to die but it does give a realistic view of how harsh the west was, and still is. Brady must make his way to the nearest Overland stage stop on foot. It's there he meets an English lady complete with umbrella. Once he gets his breath back, Brady finds Jessica an oddity that fascinates him. She obviously doesn't belong in the rugged environment of the territory but here she is and Brady finds he enjoys poking at her oh so proper views of manners and behavior. She makes him laugh which is always a good start to a relationship.

Jessica Thornton is running away. She does have a destination in mind - her brother. She only has to find him which is proving to be far more difficult than she anticipated. Jessica comes from a proper, if quiet, English background. With her parents dead, her sister and her sister's children are her only family. A horrendous and devastating ordeal happens and Jessica must run. When she runs into Brady Wilkins it's another shock among many that she has had since arriving in 'the Colonies" as she refers to the United States. Jessica is a classic Englishwoman with set preconceived ideas of America and the colonials who inhabit it. What I did like was that she didn't suddenly become "Pioneer woman" and take immediately to life on the ranch. It was a learning experience for Jessica that started with Brady and continued with his brothers and ranch family. Jessica doesn't always do the right thing either but she doesn't have any major TSTL moments so that was in her favor.

Jessica and Brady together, while not the perfect couple, fit in a jagged sort of way. Neither made what I could call a stellar first impression on the other but they did that odd mating dance that so many do when opposites attract. The story takes place over many months, a year maybe, so there is time for that relationship to grow and become more than the physical attraction that each feel for the other. One main problem they had was seeing past their differences in terms of where they come from and where they belong. Brady was far from an English gentleman and Jessica, while she did well on the ranch, Brady still saw as an English lady. I liked how the author showed this side of them, the whole not thinking they will measure up to the other's expectations. That no matter what they do, it wouldn't be enough. This was more on Brady's part than Jessica's. Brady even pulled a major alpha male moment that pissed me off. Yeah, I get why he did it - he thought he was doing the right thing but still, I thought Brady should have had more faith in Jessica.

There are many hardships that both Brady and Jessica face, one in the form of an old enemy of Brady's. This part of the story was done, classic western rancher vs. outlaw. There were also Brady's two brothers that I found interesting. Hank, the middle brother is portrayed as the big, strong, silent type. Liked him a bunch and have requested his book from the library. Jack, the youngest and most volatile of the three, got on my nerves. Good thing his book is third because he has some growing up to do. I really didn't care for his immaturity and found myself wishing he would follow through with his desire to leave the ranch.

There is a secondary story line related to the old enemy that adds a bit of drama to the overall story but I'm really not sure where it's going or if it's going anywhere. What I liked most was the western feel to the story and Brady. Yep, another book where the hero made the story for me. I did like Jessica but she felt a bit faded when compared to Brady. I like that she brought out this playful side of a very serious man. You got the impression that didn't have much time to be less than serious so when Jessica came along and made him laugh, it was like seeing another side to him. But she still came off as a fairly typical Englishwoman transplanted to the American west.

Overall, a good, solid read with a wonderful hero and a love story that left me satisfied and wanting to read more from this author.

Rating: B+

Pieces of Sky
Open Country
Chasing the Sun (January 2011)


  1. I really liked this one, too. And, like you, the only thing that irked me was the "major alpha moment". Stupid Brady.

    I loved the feel of the book. She really portrayed the harshness and beauty of the land, IMO.

    great review!

  2. I liked this book and the second book (Open Country) even more - I reviewed it last week. I hope you get to read it soon. Nice review!

  3. Lori ~ *smacks head* I totally forgot to mention how Warner described the land. Yes, gorgeous descriptions of the landscape.

    bookfanmary ~ I'm looking forward to reading Hank's story. Good to know you liked it even better than Pieces of Sky. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Looks like you've been in a western mood Leslie :D

    This sounds like a great book. I saw the buzz, but this is the first time I really pay attention to a review ^_^; I like the fact that she's an English lady and not the tough and strong woman. Hmmm, I might need to check this out :D

  5. Nath ~ this could be the one for you! I think this was another Kristie pimp but it might have been Wendy. Don't remember but I do remember it getting good reviews and for good reason.

  6. Wonderful review, Leslie. This one sounds refreshingly different. I like the contrast of the English lady and the American frontiersman. Another one addd to my list...