This is Book 3 in McCarty's Promises series about citizens of a Wyoming community in the late 1800's. Each is a stand alone book, yet they are all very interrelated as the characters for this book are present in the first two novels.
Clint McKinnely is on a mission to find a wife. He has given up trying to find a "soul mate" kind of wife. Rather, he has now come up with a set of specifications and is seeking the best "candidate" to fulfill those requirements--much as he would in selecting a brood mare for his horse breeding program. He has a curious sense of honor about many things and he deeply respects and admires women. He just hasn't found a love interest and since he has come to the point of wanting to settle down as has his best friend Asa McIntyre and his cousin Cougar McKinnely, he is on a search.
The truth of the matter is that he has wanted Jenna Hennesey for years. He knew she had married a brute in her first husband, and even during the years she was with that first spouse, Clint's reaction to her, every time he saw her, was to quietly and inwardly claim her for himself. Now she is a widow, injured because of the fire that her husband started and from which Clint rescued her. But her leg has never been right since, and even though she is now the owner/operator of the Sweet Tyme Bakery, he worries about her and checks on her regularly--even to the point that he brings his latest "wife candidate" there for breakfast. Clint finds out that a baby has been left on Jenna's doorstep and that she is hiding the little girl. She had so wanted a child of her own for a very long time. She knows down deep that she can't keep the baby, but then, Jenna was always a woman who learned to hold on to hope, even when hope seemed to fail her time and time again. So she and Clint marry, ostensibly to provide the child with a family. In truth, Clint couldn't have been happier.
And so the marriage of Jenna and Clint begins and it will be a journey that is fraught with emotional speed bumps and pot holes. Jenna is a damaged woman because of the abuse her first husband heaped on her as well as giving her to his poker friends to rape in payment for his gambling debts. Clint must find a way to break through and bring joy back into their physical relationship.
Clint is a patient man. He is known and respected as few men are in those parts. Together with his cousin Cougar, he was a U. S. Marshall who had a unique way of literally scaring the truth out of the bad guys. He was not a man anyone chose to tangle with if they were in the wrong. Yet this man cuddled abandoned kittens, talked softly to children, wooed Jenna with bubble baths and soft words, and protected his own with a fierce passion and loyalty.
This is a story of reclaiming a soul, not just a marriage. It is also the story of bringing hope to those who have been abandoned, joy to children who have lost their way, family loyalty that survives the worst challenges, and love that endures the worst that human beings can do to one another. This is perhaps the most emotionally charged novel in the series so far. I loved the first two books and plan to go back and re-read them soon. (I often re-read stories I love several times.) But I have to say that I not only loved this story but I responded emotionally to this book at a far deeper level. Somehow it really got to me.
So I hope that if you have not read this series you will consider doing so. It is American history learned in the best possible way. It is filled with erotic encounters between Clint & Jenna, warm fuzzies and tough love. The novel glows with a growing realization of self-worth that not only Jenna discovers but others who populate this wonderful book as well.
McCarty's writing style seems to be especially evident in the smooth segue from story to story, the historical research that is present without being "academic," the the seamless inclusion of some very hot and erotic scenes that just feel right, and the surprises in the story line that keep the reader interested from page one. It also preserves the integrity of the former stories in that those characters continue to make appearances throughout this book. You have to love Doc and Dorothy as well as the Rev. Swanson, just to name a few. They are all marvelous, inventive characters that expand the story in a very quiet but effective way. A great read and one that will always remain on my favorites list. I give this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5.