by Cindy Holby, historical (2012)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-25110-2
Colorado Heart is part of Cindy Holby's Angel's End series, but it can act as a standalone story very well. The couple of Angel's End make an appearance, as does the hero of a possible future book, but that's because one is the new sheriff and another owns the only bar in town.
Here, the roles of the hero and the heroine are somewhat reversed compared to the couple of Angel's End: this time, heroine Cassandra "Cassie" Parker is the messed-up one and hero Jake Reece is the relatively normal one.
Cassie Parker moves to Angel's End with her half-paralyzed mother and their companions, a Hispanic couple, hoping to start a new life. Unfortunately, Cassie's idea of starting over involves starting a sheep farm, and she's right in the heart of cattle country. While most folks won't take too kindly to the sheep soiling the water of the streams that run through their ranches, she is unlucky enough to have a neighbor who doesn't hesitate to use violence to get rid of Cassie and her family. I know, what's a Western historical romance without an evil rancher, right?
Jake Reece is another neighbor of Cassie, and he's the nice one. However, he's also the president of the local cattleman's association, and he feels the pressure to stop Cassie's sheep business. He's however attracted to her, so what is he to do?
There is nothing technically wrong with this story - it's readable and the pacing flows nicely to a dramatic build-up, and there are plenty of emotional scenes. Both Cassie and her mother are survivors of brutally traumatic ordeals, and while they do have scars, it's actually admirable how Cassie is determined to keep living instead of succumbing to self-pity. However, there are many instances when Cassie behaves more like a stubborn fool than anything else, refusing to accept help even when she's clearly out of her depths, and this dampens my enjoyment of this story.
I'm also perplexed by Cassie's decision to rear sheep. I'm not familiar with what seems like a feud between sheep and cows, or rather, the people that keep them, so I can only wonder why Cassie didn't do proper research and figure out whether it is feasible to raise sheep in Angel's End. This endeavor is not something she can do out of the blue on impulse, so how come no one has told her that she's playing with fire by choosing to start a sheep farm in cattle country? Of course, even when she's told of the opposition of her plans, she insists on charging full speed ahead. In a way, I understand where she is coming from, as she doesn't have much left to lose and she has invested all her time and hope in this venture. But, as I've mentioned, often she seems to be stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. This leads her into trouble from which Jake has to rescue her from, and this pattern of behavior becomes predictable and annoying fast.
I like the fact that Jake isn't automatically noble in spite of his attraction to Cassie, although some readers may not like this as much as me, heh. He feels tad more real that way, as it makes sense that he'd also consider his position and interest if he allies with Cassie. Oh don't worry, he's a good man, so of course he ends up being Cassie's ally as well as beau. In doing so, he is not a one-dimensional perfect trophy boyfriend for the heroine, however, and I like that.
The romance have some sweet and even poignant moments, but as I've mentioned, it does seem like Jake is always coming to Cassie's rescue a bit too much, to the point that the romance starts to resemble a rescue fantasy.
The plot suffers from the same flaws that plague the plot of the previous book - things eventually become too convenient for the hero and the heroine. There aren't many objections shown to Cassie's sheep, despite all the build-up, and it ends up that only the bad guys disapprove. Every little potential complication gets resolved neatly - often too neatly. These plot developments can become quite unreal, an odd contrast to how real the emotions can feel at times.
At the end of the day, Colorado Heart is quite the satisfying emotional read, although contrived plot developments often put a damper on things. I believe I like the previous book more.
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