Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Bride of the High Country by Kaki Warner


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Cathleen, Margaret, Lucinda -- three names used by one person who has been running away her entire life. As Cathleen, her family escaped Ireland and traveled to America, hoping for a better life. Then she ran away from Mrs. Beale's and the men who abused and degraded her. As Margaret, she ran away from a husband who saw her as a trophy and a prize. Now as Lucinda, she has found her way to Heartbreak Creek, a small town in the Colorado Territory -- a place that most people see as a dead end. But, for Lucinda, she sees the promise of a new beginning.

But men from Lucinda's past are chasing after her: Tait Rylander is Lucinda's husband's business partner who was sent out to get her and the stock certificates back. But Tait has a personal agenda as well: he has loved Lucinda from the first moment and is determined to get some answers from her. The other man, Smythe, is from Lucinda's past as Cathleen -- who now works for a very important man with very important ambitions -- who needs to silence Lucinda.

We believe in second chances, in another shot at getting something right, at wiping the slate clean and starting over -- but, for Lucinda Hathaway, two chances weren't enough -- she's had to change her name twice and run away twice but her past always seems to catch up with her.

After escaping Mrs. Beale's and placed in the care of Mrs. Throckmorton, Lucinda thought she knew what she needed to secure herself: and so she agreed to marry Doyle Kerrigan, one of the richest and most powerful men in Manhattan. As her wedding drew nearer, doubts plagued Lucinda -- it isn't just a case of cold feet that is keeping her from her marriage, it's the discovery that her husband isn't quite who she thought he was.

With the help of Mrs. Throckmorton, Lucinda runs away again. What is different this time around is that someone is going after her. Two someones, actually.

Tait works as Doyle's lawyer and business partner. He's also harbored a secret admiration for Lucinda but, when she runs away, Tait thinks the worst of her and wants some answers. Did she take advantage of his business partner? Was all this part of her plan all along? Had he fallen in love with the wrong woman?

When Tait catches up to Lucinda in Pittsburgh, and discovers the danger that Lucinda is in, he is torn between his loyalty to a man who saved his life and to the woman who is his life. Lucinda, too, must choose between trusting Tait with her life or to run away again. There are even more questions to ask: Who is Smythe? and What does he want with Lucinda? But there are also answers: in seeing Lucinda and hearing her side, Tait realizes why he has loved her all this time. And is more determined to keep her safe.

They were like dancers in a verbal waltz -- skirting around controversial subjects, saying the proper things, and keeping the proper space between them, as careful with words as dancers were with their steps.

Or perhaps with Lucinda, it was more like a fencing match. Thrust, parry, retreat, attack. The woman definitely kept him on his toes.
- Chapter 8

This is my second Kaki Warner book and book 3 in her Runaway Brides series. When I first met Lucinda in Maggie's book (Colorado Dawn), she struck me as a woman who shrouds herself in mystery. Even then we knew Edwina's story and Pru's story and, of course, Maggie's story -- but we never heard Lucinda's story. And I wondered, what terrible secret could she possibly be hiding that she couldn't tell her closest friends about it?

Bride of the High Country addresses Lucinda's past and we understand why she needed to run away -- we also understand why she deserves this chance to make a new life for herself.

"Well, here's a truth for you, Mr. Rylander. Life is hard and cruel and will drag you down at every turn if you let it. But not me. You know why? Because I've seen the worst it has to offer and I've survived it. Just as I'll survive this, and anything else you or Doyle or Smythe can throw at me. There's your truth! Now leave."
- Chapter 6

Lucinda is a wonderful heroine -- she had the world (Manhattan and Doyle's wealth and power) in her hands but she bravely walked away from it because she knew, deep down, that it would not have been the best life for her. That life would not have made her happy. At the beginning of the book, Lucinda seemed so passive and allowed things to happen but, on the day of her wedding, she finds the resolve to become an active agent in her own life. She ran away from the comfort of Mrs. Throckmorton's house into the great unknown, fully aware of the risks --

Tait is a great hero as well -- while Warner does not delve too much into his past, we can sense that Tait is a man worthy of love: he is incredibly loyal (blindly loyal, even), relentless and determined once he has set his mind to something and quite a visionary. He was caught between Doyle and Lucinda and, while a lesser man might have been crushed by the pressure of both sides, Tait found a solution that benefitted all. Plus, he writes amazing letters.

But be advised, Lucinda. We are not finished, you and I. Unlike your greengrocer's son or Doyle Kerrigam, I will not let you go easily, nor will I walk away without at least trying to convince you to give me another chance to win your affections.

...

Until then, I will be thinking of you -- and the way your skin glowed in the candlelight, and the little sounds you made when my hands moved over your beautiful body.


Tait
- Chapter 14

How their relationship develops is quite interesting -- there is very little physical contact because Tait was in Manhattan and Lucinda was in Heartbreak Creek. But the letters, the thoughtfulness and the sweetness of it all -- plus the ferocity of the need to protect all shine through and nurture the very small seed of love.

The author builds up the anticipation quite nicely and, when they finally reunite, fireworks. ^_^

More than the love story, I love how the author celebrates the power of women and of the amazing dynamic of men and women. It took Maddie's vision and Lucinda's money to transform a sleepy town into a vibrant one. I love how the men and women live together and love but also stand apart as individuals and equals in the work that they do.

Kaki Warner is a wonderful storyteller -- a true weaver of tales. This one left me spellbound and captivated with her unforgettable characters, and her very unique, very curiously-named town of Heartbreak Creek.

Bride of the High Country is Book 3 in Kaki Warner's Runaway Brides series. To find out more about Kaki Warner and her books, click below:

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