1) I'm a fan of American Historicals (i.e. Westerns) (especially those written by Cheryl St. John)
2) I like marriage of convenience stories and
3) I had heard that Jordan writes very steamy love scenes
Fortunately for me all three of these elements came together beautifully for a wonderful emotionally satisfying read.
Heather's father died leaving behind huge gambling debts. The sleazy banker who holds her responsible for those debts is trying to force her into marriage. Sloan McCord's Cheyenne wife, Doe, was murdered over a year ago. He is still consumed with grief, guilt and rage and he doesn't really want a wife. But his housekeeper is moving away so he really needs a wife and mother to care for and raise his infant daughter and do the household chores. In addition, he plans on running for state office so a wife would be good for his political career. When Sloan's SIL suggests he propose to Heather for the good of both of them, Sloan agrees, but he is determined never to give her his heart. He feels he had the perfect love match and can never love again. And he does not want to betray the memory of his late wife.
The entire rest of the book deals with their growing relationship. Sloan is a tortured soul consumed with lots of guilt. He is sometimes a cold-hearted jerk and treats Heather badly so that I wanted to slap him. But grief and guilt made his behavior understandable. Heather is a bit too soft and wimpy at first but her growth into a brave admirable woman who tells him she's not going to take his crap anymore was a joy to read. It took him all the way to the end of the book for him to admit to himself that he really loved and needed her. Sloan carried out his angst and guilt a bit longer than I like and Heather put up with his crap too long.
The dialogue was neither witty or clever, just plain and simple with lots of angst at the appropriate places, but it worked for me. Not quite a tearjerker, but almost.
Oh, and about those lovemaking scenes... Wow. Very intense, emotional and lots of them. And the best part....scorchingly hot! And a tad bit purple but I loved them anyway.
My grade: B+
Sybil told me this one is a gem and she is right! I need to track down the prequel to this story about Jake (Sloan's brother) titled The Outlaw. I checked on Jordan's website and found out that she originally planned TO and THB as the first two in a trilogy but she has never written the third book! It's supposed to be Doe's half-brother Wolf's story. But it's been almost 10 years! I doubt it's going to happen but here's a quote from her website.
"I definitely intend to write Wolf Logan's story to finish my Rocky Mountain Trilogy that began with THE OUTLAW and THE HEART BREAKER. But Ballantine wants me to wait till the market for Westerns is stronger. A few years ago, a large part of the reading public quit buying Western romances, so Ballantine wants me to write Regency historicals for the time being. I have Wolf's story all worked out, and I'm eager to tell it, I promise. It's just going to be a while longer. I hope Wolf will be worth your patience."
I'm halfway tempted to write to her and beg. Would that be over the top? What's she waiting for anyway? I don't think the Western market is going to get hotter, so write it already.
P.S. I love the cover too.