I haven't seen this stressed very much online, so I'm going to stress it here on my blog. It's a damn near amazing occurrence that an author not only has come back to historicals, but comes back with a western historical.
Frankly I think this is proof of a higher power in the universe.
Catherine Anderson's latest, Summer Breeze, heralds her return to historicals. Yes, the sub genre that made her a household name for romance readers. Anderson, like many, many, many of her peers eventually jumped ship for the seemingly more lucrative contemporary market - but now she's back. And if I'm to believe the information inside the front cover of this new book, it looks like she'll be following with more historicals as well as contemporaries.
Summer Breeze is a sequel of sorts of Keegan's Lady (an earlier western) and the author's contemporary Coulter family series. Normally this would sound off an alarm in my brain, "Danger, Danger Miss Wendy. Acute Series-itis! Danger, danger!" Not the case here. And I ain't lying. Keegan's Lady is still in my TBR, and I haven't read any of Anderson's contemporaries. So when I say this one stands alone, I mean it.
What readers will find here is trademark Anderson - a heroine with serious issues, a hero with commitment issues and external conflict that needs to be resolved.
Rachel Hollister was the only survivor when her family was murdered in an ambush while picnicking. When she woke up from her coma, she found herself with a killer case of agoraphobia. She cannot leave her house without passing out. Heck, just thinking about leaving the house almost causes her heart to explode. So Rachel literally barricades herself in the family kitchen, living in that one room with no natural light and no contact with the outside world save her trusted ranch hand.
Then that trusted ranch hand, Darby, gets shot in the back. He somehow makes it to the neighboring ranch and begs Joseph Paxton to protect Rachel. Even though the two incidents are 5 years apart, Darby is convinced him getting shot has everything to do with the murder of the Hollister family.
Joseph gives Darby his word, and Joseph never breaks his word. It all gets off to a rocky start though when Rachel damn near blows his head off with her sawed off shotgun.
I liked this book, a lot. However for the more cynical of readers, it will require some suspension of disbelief. For instance, Joseph realizes almost immediately that Rachel isn't really "crazy." No, she's just paralyzed by fear. Also, the word "agoraphobic" is thrown out once or twice, and I'm not real sure how "know-able" that term was back in 1889.
Ah, a quibble here, a quibble there.
But I liked this story, and believe me I looked for reasons not too. There's a lot here that couldn't have worked - namely the mystery and Rachel's disease. However, Anderson wraps up both nicely. Even with very few suspects, the author still kept me guessing and wraps up the "Who Murdered Rachel's Family And Why?" sub plot very well. I also liked the fact that while falling in love with Joseph certainly helps Rachel overcome her fears, that wasn't the only reason she was able to move on. Having answers and confronting her own clouded memories do more for her well-being than having incredible orgasms with Joseph could.
But the orgasms certainly don't hurt the cause either.
All in all a strong read. It'd rate this one around a B+.