1870. Jenny Carter has been through hell – left for dead with the rest of her family brutally murdered and their Georgia plantation burned to the ground. Crippled for life, tortured by nightmares and virtually penniless and with no prospects for a husband on the horizon, Jenny takes a position as teacher in the remote Missouri town of Tumbling Creek. Along the way to her new home, her train is stopped and robbed by the notorious Morgan Brothers gang and Jenny accidentally gets a look at the face of one of the robbers and she’s in for quite a surprise when she arrives in Tumbling Creek and comes face to face with that robber – Luke Morgan. Luke tells her she’s wasting her time turning him in, with his huge family he’s got alibis a-plenty, but he’s still a bit worried and wonders if it wouldn’t hurt getting her to marry him as a wife can’t testify against her husband (yes, my eyes were rolling at this one).
Neither here nor there, this is a romance so you know there’s this undeniable attraction between the two, and Luke can’t help lusting after Jenny despite her plain appearance and unattractive limp from her injury as he sees the *beautiful* woman on the inside. Luke has his own emotional baggage from the past and Jenny turns out to be just the woman to heal it and set him back on the straight path in life. The plot takes many twists and turns as our pair battle the town gossips, the baddies (and they are sooooo bad indeed) and Jenny’s suppressed memories of what really happened to her family.
Yes, I know it sounds like the usual romance stuff, but there’s a few twists in this that bring it up a notch or two. I really liked having a plainer heroine, as well as a hero who cares more about what’s on the inside. I liked the interactions with Luke’s large family and most especially the way Jenny was able to heal the emotional wounds of Luke’s two children and in the process perhaps heal her own as well. There’s quite a nail-biting finish topped off with a very enigmatic HEA that will leave you wondering what really happened. Despite the appearance of the covers (thank gawd I didn’t get cover #2), the sex scenes are rather few and far between, although when you do get them the purple prose is plentiful and fairly standard for 80’s romances. All in all a quick, enjoyable read and the only quibbles I had was how the entire town (minister, sheriff et al) could look the other way and accept a notorious band of robbers into the bosom of the community and for that I’m knocking off a half star – 3.5/5 stars.