REVIEW: Open Country by Kaki WarnerSunday, February 27, 2011 1:00
I’ve once again found a new author whom I’m going to enjoy immensely with every book I read. Ms. Warner has given readers characters who are real, charming, desperate, and oh-so-human, living in a time when they did what they had to to survive. From page one I was very invested in the lives of Molly and her family, even her good-for-nothing brother-in-law. Then when Hank comes along, injured and unconscious, barely alive, well, needless to say I was a goner and couldn’t put this book down.
When her sister finally succumbs to lung fever and not being taken care of her by her downright vicious husband, Molly flees with her niece and nephew, hoping against hope she can stay one step ahead of the man when he discovers his children missing. Moving again, always moving, their train derails and Molly finds herself out of money and nowhere to go if she had any. Learning the railroad will pay a huge amount to grieving widows, she decides to take on the role of wife of a man who isn’t expected to make it through the night. God help her, but there’s nothing else she can do.
The only problem Molly runs into once her decision is made is that Hank doesn’t die. Most of it has to do with his constitution and will to live and a little has to do with Molly’s doctoring, which she learned from her father, doing anything and everything just to get that approval all offspring want from their parents. Fortunately for Molly, Hank doesn’t remember the train wreck nor the time right before, so she continues on with her ruse, not knowing what will happen now but praying that all with work out as it should.
Hank is a man of his word, so if he gave his vow to Molly for better or worse, he’s going to stick by it. Even if he can’t recall a thing about their wedding, let alone the woman herself. Taking her home to his family ranch, he begins to learn about Molly and what he discovers, he likes. She seems to understand him as no one ever has before and that means almost as much as telling the truth and never deceiving those who mean something to you.
Which is now Molly’s dilemma. She’s wanted to own up and tell Hank what really happened and how they came together, but she’s finally gotten in her life all that she’s always wanted – family and love – and she’s afraid she’ll lose it all when Hank finds out what she’s done. He definitely knows something doesn’t add up, once his memory returns, but he’s waiting for her to make the first move and make things right between them.
This is one of those heart-warming books that don’t come around very often. While there is love and happiness in this story, Ms. Warner also keeps the way of life in the old west very real, tempering that happiness with heartache and betrayal. A man wears his gun to protect those who belong to him and he wears his pride right there on his sleeve, allowing his heart to make an appearance only when he’s sure he won’t be made a fool of. Hank does have to do some deep soul searching, looking for a forgiveness that anyone else would never receive. But his heart now belongs to Molly.
The emotion throughout this book will strike straight at your heart, just as it does at Hank’s and Molly’s. Especially when Hank has to take up fathering to Molly’s young nephew, a boy who’s holding a secret close to the vest and needs fathering up one side and down the other. Those scenes between man and boy, now father and son, are simply full of warmth, even when discipline is imminent. There’s another scene between Hank and Molly that when he learns more of the truth from her, he hides behind that hardness a cowboy of that day and age wore as easy as he did his gun. I wanted to hate the man for his sudden turnaround, but I couldn’t. I could feel the depth of his despair, the waves of helplessness and hopelessness of betrayal running through him, and I love him all the more for that vulnerability just as much as I did for his forgiving nature later.
This is the second book in this series about the Wilkins brothers, and I’m on a hunt to find the first one, Pieces of Sky. I want so much more of these brothers, as well as Ms. Warner’s beautiful writing.
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.
Read an excerpt. (scroll down and click link)
Other books in this series: