Virginia, 1860. Life at Travers Hill is still idyllic and genteel, as it has been for generations. Leigh Travers is young, beautiful, spirited, rides horses like the wind (well the family does breed the best), the darling of her family and plans to wed the *right man* just as soon as her father gives permission. Everything seems just perfect until one day Neil Braeden walks into her life – although when they first meet he looks more like a trapper from out west and not one of the Braedons of neighboring Royal Bay Manor. Since he was the younger brother with nothing to inherit, Neil’s father carved out his own empire in New Mexico territory, although it came with a high price when young Neil and his sister were captured by the Comanches. Neil takes one look at the beauteous Leigh and he knows she’s the one for him, but that little ol’ mix-up when they first met isn’t easily surmounted, and there’s a whole lot of grief and misunderstandings our pair have to get through before any chance of them getting a HEA.
This book is pretty much broken down into three parts, the first being a very detailed look at southern life in the period prior to the Civil War and setting up the back history and Leigh and Neil’s big meeting. The second part covers the effects of the war and the mind numbing casualties on the Travers and Braeden families as Leigh is the glue who holds the family together and keeps the household running. The last third of the book brings Leigh to Neil’s home in New Mexico as they are caught up in their ongoing Big Misunderstanding, a mystery or two, a revenge minded former mistress and a seriously nutty conspiracy that should have been left on the editor’s floor.
I really really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this book and had a hard time putting it down. Leigh and Neil were a very engaging pair with a lot of chemistry, but be warned – despite what the cover might indicate you aren’t going to have page after page of mind-numbing sex. It is well after page 100 that you’ll get your first searing kiss and a darned long time until the next one. One thing the potential reader needs to know going into this one – this book was published in the 1980’s when everything was big – hair, make-up, shoulder pads, soap operas – and books were no exception. There are a lot of details of day-to-day life, especially at the beginning as McBain goes to considerable effort showing the reader the daily life of a well-bred genteel southern family (skim if you have to). There also a lot of characters at the beginning, almost too many, but that list is whittled down considerably in part two so just go with the flow and refer back to the list at the front of the book when needed. This was a solid four star read until things fell apart a bit with that silly and ever so convoluted conspiracy at the end and I’m knocking off 1/2 star for that. 3.5/5 stars and definitely a recommended read for lovers of the old school romances.