A year later, Tempted is finally here and, as promised, it's the story of Anne "Annie" Denoe and Steven Baywood, the man she saved from death after he was shot by her no-good brother-in-law. When we left Anne in Seduced she had made the decision to move to Denver, which is where she is at the start of Tempted. She owns a boardinghouse and one of the strays she rescues is Dr. James Madison, who is addicted to chloroform. Technically Anne is his nurse/assistant, although the reality is closer to her enabling the good doctor. When he's too addled to perform his duties he tells Anne what needs to be done and she does it. Anne is desperate to continue working in medicine, something she did with her father (a doctor), during the war, and nursing Steven back to health. She freely chose to come to Denver "for reasons," but finds herself lonely. Madison, when he's sober, is desperately charming and has proposed. The fly in the ointment? She's in love with Steven, a man she knows in her heart is unavailable "for reasons." But when Steven rides back into town? It doesn't stop her foolish heart from springing back to life.
Steven loves Anne, but doesn't really know what to do about it. The War changed a lot of people, and really changed Steven, who spent time in Andersonville. Needless to say, Steven has issues, most of them resulting in the fact that he literally cannot deal with anyone touching him. He also finds that his uh, "equipment" doesn't necessarily respond the way it did prior to being a prisoner-of-war. So while he loves Anne, he's also not foolish enough to think that loving her will be enough. How can he be any sort of husband to this amazing woman when he feels like less of a man?
What I've loved about O'Keefe's foray into westerns (thus far) is that you never quite know where she's going with them. Seduced opened up with a heroine already married. Tempted brings in the added complication of Dr. Madison. For readers who loathe love triangles (I would be one of those, by the way), that's not what we get here. Anne contemplates Madison's proposal for a minute, before discarding it almost immediately for two very important reasons: 1) The guy is a drug addict and 2) She loves Steven. But that doesn't mean she doesn't think about it. She's lonely and wants a family. Is pining away for an unavailable man really going to get her closer to her goal? Not really.
"What would you and your sister talk about?" he asked. "Besides cotton."As Anne once helped Steven, stuff happens that lead to Steven helping Anne in this story. The latter half of the story is the detailing of how the friends become lovers, and navigate their way through a sexual relationship given Steven's PTSD. It's truly heartbreaking, portrayed with a sensitivity that, frankly, you don't always see with Alpha heroes in romance novels. While undoubtedly some readers will likely grouse at the fact that this is a novella, I felt the length of the story was just right and we leave our couple in a really good spot by the end.
"Boys. Boys were always a popular topic."
"I might have guessed."
"My sister was a terrible flirt."
"I was too serious to flirt."
"Hasn't stopped you lately." He arched a golden eyebrow at her.
"I have been quite scandalous haven't I?"
"Totally shameless. It makes me doubt this picture you paint of yourself before the war. The shy wallflower. I don't credit it."
"No one saw me."
"I see you."
The door is open (huzzah!) for more westerns, with the next book reported to feature Dr. Madison as hero. The author also introduces a local madam, and I was pretty much ready to marry Delilah by the end of the story. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of her.
While I didn't love this quite as much as Seduced, I really enjoyed it immensely. I think, in it's favor, Seduced had the element of surprise going for it. Going in I had the question: "Can O'Keefe pull off a historical western?" Now knowing the answer to that question (a resounding yes!), Tempted didn't have quite the same level of reader anticipatory anxiety attached to it, for me at least. That said, it's still frickin' good. Start reading these now, says Wendy.
Final Grade = B+