Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Review - - Heartbreak Creek

Heartbreak Creek
By Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 5, 2011

The world that Edwina Ladoux was reared to inhabit is gone. All that remains of the once prominent Whitney family is “a weed-choked cotton plantation sold for back taxes, her father’s watch, and a graveyard full of new markers.” There’s no place for Southern belles in a Reconstruction Louisiana filled with carpetbaggers and desperation, and so Edwina agrees to marriage by proxy to a man she knows only from his ad in the Matrimonial News and the tintype he sent her along with a bank draft and railroad vouchers that will get her to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado. With a mixed bag of memories and her half-sister, Prudence, the offspring of Edwina’s father and a Rose Hill slave he loved but could not marry, Edwina sets out to meet her new husband—and her new life.

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 Yet now, as she descended the uncarpeted staircase of the rustic Heartbreak Creek Hotel, dressed in an outdated frock and a borrowed shawl and wearing a simple ribbon in her hair, she felt as shaky and breathless as a debutante headed to her first ball.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.



  1. HEARTBREAK CREEK & the entire Runaway Brides series look like wonderful reads.

  2. Thanks for another terrific review, Janga!

    I loved this book so much. Warner was already on my "must buy" list based on the books of the Blood Rose trilogy but Heartbreak Creek elevated her status even "must buy and tell everyone I know about this fabulous author!"

  3. This is one fabulous read. I have read this book and its awesome. Everyone needs to try this author. I have read everyone of her books and she is a must buy for me. Her Blood Rose trilogy was awesome and this Runaway bride series is starting out the same with Heartbreak Creek. I can't say enough about Kaki Warner, everyone must try her books.

  4. This is one that I truly loved reviewing. PJ. Hearbreak Creek is definitely headed for my Best of 2011 list.

  5. Thanks for the great review, Janga. PJ has raved about Kaki's books for a while now ... guess this is another author I need to check out.

  6. This will definitely be added to my must-buy list. Thanks for another wonderful review, Janga!

  7. Virginia, I know how you feel. I want to go stand in the bookstore on July 5th and tell people, "You need to buy this book!"

  8. This is one that I truly loved reviewing. PJ. Hearbreak Creek is definitely headed for my Best of 2011 list.

    Mine too, Janga!

  9. I have GOT to read Kaki's books!! Thank you, Janga!

  10. I have Kaki Warner's first two books and look forward to the third.m This new series sounds like it will be as good as the first, if not better. Mail order bride stories are favorites of mine.
    Thanks for the review.

  11. A little late to the game, here, but I had to chime in and say how totally excited I am about this release.

    Thank you Janga, for your outstanding review and PJ for introducing me to Kaki last year. I love her books and am hoping that she will bring the western genre back to the forefront!