By Kaki Warner
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Declan Brodie has no idea what’s in store for him. A widower who needs, as his ad specified, a “sturdy English-speaking woman to help with mountain ranch and four children,” Brodie finds himself instead with a too-thin beauty whose only skill is sewing and who is ill equipped to care for his uncontrollable children. He’s not too sure of her sanity either, and his attraction to her is making him question his own.
Edwina and Declan have agreed on a three-month trial, and amid chaos and confrontations, conversations and kisses, the two fall in love. There’s a memorable moment about a third of the way into the book when Edwina recalls her life before it was shattered by war and recognizes the promise of her new life:
In better times, Edwina had worn gowns of lace and satin and brocade. She had adorned herself with costly jewels, rather than a single garnet ring that had once belonged to her grandmother. She had walked down elegant staircases under fine crystal chandeliers that shimmered with the glittering light of a dozen candles. Yet now, as she descended the uncarpeted staircase of the rustic Heartbreak Creek Hotel, dressed in an outdated frock and a borrowed shawl and wearing a simple ribbon in her hair, she felt as shaky and breathless as a debutante headed to her first ball.
As Edwina, the displaced Southern belle, becomes Ed, the ranch woman, she falls in love with the Brodie children as well. Just when it seems that happily ever after is within reach, the first Mrs. Declan Brodie reappears. While Ed and her no-longer husband are dealing with this complication, Lone Tree, an Arapaho obsessed with his need for revenge against Declan, proves a more deadly threat to their happiness.
Heartbreak Creek is the first book in Warner’s Runaway Brides series, and based on the series debut, I expect the new series to be as stellar as her Blood Rose trilogy. Edwina and Declan are wonderful characters, smart, courageous, and genuine. Each has an interesting history, a balance of strengths and flaws, and a rich sense of humor. Both have their reasons for being wary of marriage, but gradually, through emotional and physical intimacy, they learn to trust and to love one another. Watching them become more together than they are separately is a delight.
Warner also includes a colorful assortment of secondary and tertiary characters. In less skillful hands, the Brodie children might have become an inseparable blend of incorrigibility, but Warner makes big brother R.D., trickster Joe Bill, quiet scholar Lucas, and indefatigable Brin distinct and endearing personalities. Pru is perhaps the most compelling among the secondary characters because the reader knows there is so much more to her story than the blend of strength, intelligence, and vulnerability that we see in this first book. Maddie Wallace and Lucinda Hathaway are also fascinating characters, as is Thomas Redstone, Declan’s Cheyenne friend. Add to these some quirky locals, Heartbreak Creek itself (a mining town in danger of becoming a ghost town), and a West where, despite the laughter and tenderness that fill this book, danger—from nature and humans—is real. The result is another extraordinary book from Kaki Warner, who may be turning those persistent rumors of a Western romance revival into fact.