My Mission: High Plains Wife by Jillian Hart
Harlequin Connection: #670 in Harlequin Historical line.
Publication Date: August 2003
How Long It's Been In The TBR: Probably since 2003. I can't recall the circumstances, but given the condition of the book I'm sure I purchased it new. It certainly looks new.
Plot: Mariah Scott is the town spinster nursing a serious case of unrequited love. As a girl she had a crush on Nick Gray, but her emotionally abusive father got in the way. Now well past the blush of youth, with spinster stamped all over her, she's occupying herself with charity work and her laundry business. Then Nick Gray proposes a marriage of convenience.
Nick's wife, Lida, committed suicide, leaving behind a fractured marriage and two grief-stricken children. Nick is trying to run his ranch, and even though he has no desire to, he realizes he has to marry for the sake of the kids. The last thing he wants is some moon-eyed young miss with delusions of happily-ever-after. How about hardworking, dependable and practical Mariah?
My Verdict: This story just about ripped my heart out! Mariah is desperately in love with Nick, and he's desperately in love with her. The problem is he's too much of an idiot to do anything about it. His first wife betrayed him, and for him love means nothing but heartache and sorrow. He doesn't treat Mariah poorly, until the end - when after they have sex (naturally) he pushes her away in a very cruel manner. Naturally it all ends right as rain, but frankly I wanted Nick to grovel. I wanted him to grovel a lot. I wanted bloody knees dagnabit. And instead it's Mariah who apologizes for her impulsive behavior, and Nick telling her she's his "one true love." I guess that's nice and all, but Grovel damn you! Grovel!
Final Grade = B-. This easily would have been a keeper for me with some groveling. As is, it kinda ticked me off because dang, Nick says some pretty hurtful things to Mariah towards the climactic finish and he needed to pay. That said, this is a seriously emotional read. I recommend it with a box of Kleenex on the side.