Sunday, May 30, 2010

Recent Read

Open Country by Kaki Warner

Why this one: I was very fortunate to receive an ARC for this book. I loved Pieces of Sky. When I went back to look for the review I did of it, I was horrified to discover I'd only done a half-assed one - me - the lover of all things Western dropped the ball on her first book. I was determined not to do it on her second book. Westerns are few enough as it is, and when they are good ones, well the need all the exposure they can get!!

Steam Level: It's a moderate level- it won't burn you. But don't let that hold you back.

Blurb: Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get—even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister’s children, she must provide for her wards while outrunning the relentless tracker the children’s vicious stepfather has set on their trail. Out of money and with no other options, she marries a man badly injured in a train derailment, assuming when he dies, his insurance settlement will provide the money they need to keep moving West. But there is one small problem. The man doesn’t die.

Hank Wilkins doesn’t remember the accident he barely survived—and he certainly doesn’t remember marrying Molly. Confused and hoping his memory will soon return, he takes her home to his ranch, where Molly and the children are quickly caught up in the boisterous Wilkins family. Molly might be a gifted healer, but she knows little about caring for children, and even less about caring for a healthy man—especially a silent, brooding type like Hank. As Molly and Hank begin to discover each other, the threat of the past seems distant and the idea of a real marriage takes hold...until Hank’s memory returns and he realizes he’s been betrayed by his own brother and the woman he thought was his wife, and that fragile trust is shattered. Then the tracker follows Molly to the ranch, and as Hank struggles to open his wounded mind and battered heart to forgiveness, Molly rides out into a blizzard to face down a killer in a frantic attempt to protect the man and family she has grown to love.

My Thoughts: As mentioned above, a good Western can be rare thing these days and this is one of the best ones I've read. Both Molly and Hank are great characters. Molly is place in an untenable situation. Her dying sister begs Molly to take her two children away from their evil stepfather, which Molly who has just lost their father does. She travels from city to city with her niece and nephew, trying to escape, and is in desperate straights when a train derailment occurs and she decides to marry a stranger who seems at deaths door to collect the death benefit money. When his brother, Grady, the hero of the previous book in this trilogy finds out, he blackmails Molly into heading to the ranch, first to care for a very damaged Hank who doesn't die after all due to Molly's care, and second, as Grady's wife Jessica, is due to give birth soon and Grady is frantic for her sake.

But this deception does not sit well at all for Molly and even less so when her feelings for Hank deepen. She knows he will be angry when he finally realizes how he has been deceived. She makes for a great heroine. She's strong - she's had to be as an assistant to her physician father, she's never had a real chance to live a normal life. She is honest and loyal and she feels terrible about what she did to Hank and suffers for it, but she is determined to take care of her only remaining family. Yet she's also vulnerable too and afraid that she will lose Hank once he finds out.

And Hank. What a delicious hero he makes for. When he first recovers, he has no memory of who he is. But it doesn't take long for him to remember everything - except for Mollie and his step children. He's the strong but silent hero type as anyone who has read Pieces of Sky will remember. A shallow thing, but I'm glad Molly shaved his beard off very early in the story. Although he doesn't remember his 'wife' he slowly develops feelings for her, only to experience betrayal when the truth comes out. He doesn't talk a whole lot, and when he's upset, takes to doing rather endearing things while working it out in his head. He loves to tinker with things and is a bit of a loner and an inventor.

Brady and Jessica from the first book also play a large role in this book, though I don't think you have to have read Pieces of Sky to enjoy this book. Mandi didn't and she still really enjoyed Open Country. So often previous characters in series only make a token appearance and I'm glad they were more than that in this book.

This is a Western, and a gritty one at that. Both Molly and Hank do things that aren't necessarily easy to read about, but I thought the author did a great job in showing us why they did what they did.

This book has more of an epic feel to it and reminds me of the books of yesterday without the overblown writing that sometimes went along with them. If you are a fan of Westerns this is one that you must read and if you are thinking about reading a Western this is one you must read. If you've never read a Western, but like books with great characterization, a strong hero and a delicious hero, this is one you must read. In short, anyone who loves a good romance, this is one you should read.

Grade: 4.75 out of 5


Carolyn said...

Darn it, Kristy! You are an enabler! Here I am trying to cut back and you put up a glowing review like this!

Seriously though, I read Pieces of Sky and loved it and now I have to have this book. It sounds great and I already know I like Warner's writing.

Darn you, Kristy! And ... thank you. :-)

Kristie (J) said...

Carolyn: *gulp* I can only call 'em as I sees 'em. And as a big fan of Westerns and what with there being so few these days, I simply can't help it! *g*
And if you enjoyed Pieces of Sky, I think you will love this one even better - I did - just a teeny bit - like in a 4.75 compared to a 4.5. And it was ever so nice to see Grady and Jessica with a large role in this book too :-)

Lisa Marie Wilkinson said...

Hi Kristie!
I read this one and really enjoyed it, too.

Wendy said...

I am totally not reading your review, because 1) I still need to buy this one and 2) I plan on reading it "soon" just as soon as I buy it :)

Glad to hear you liked this one better, even if it was just a teeny bit. I *liked* Pieces of Sky, but wasn't blown away by it. But it definitely showed a lot of promise, and it's ALWAYS a good thing to discover a new writer working in the time period who does a good job with it.

Kristie (J) said...

Lisa: It is a good book isn't it? A well written book in a genre that has too few books. And in a note of interest, guess what book I picked up when I picked up my Kobo!?!

Wendy: you will have to come back once you read Open Country. I think you might like it better than Pieces of Sky. I'd be interested to see if you do.

Lisa Marie Wilkinson said...

Hi Kristie,
Yes, and I'm afraid you're moving me toward Westerns (which I'm finding I love to read, too). I don't want to let on that I hope you've picked up one of mine, LOL. I think you might like Stolen Promise because it's about Gypsies and you are open-minded about different subject matter, thank goodness! I know it got a less-than-enthusiastic review from Jean Wan at AAR, but it has received great reviews from other sites. I'd love to know what YOU think!

orannia said...

Oh. I haven't read a good Western in ages (not since I went on a Jodi Thomas gloom) and this sounds good!

Lover of Romance said...

Wow!!! I loved your review!!! I love westerns but I haven't read anything from this author, so I am going to have to add this to my ever growing TBR List!!!!

Kristie (J) said...

Orannia: Oh I love Jodi Thomas too - well some of her books. I think you will really enjoy this one *g*

Lover of Romance: She's a new author - this is only her second book. But so far both of them are sooooooo good. It's beyond wonderful to have us a new Western author!!