Wednesday, September 18, 2019

TBR Challenge: Alexis Harrington - Homeward Hearts

Chloe Maitland lives in a dying Oregon mining town and has given up her girlish dreams of love and marriage. What she needs is a man to answer her advertisement for a blacksmith to work in her shop and help save her home from foreclosure. Instead she gets Travis McGuire, an exhausted stranger who collapses in her yard, looking like the devil himself, and proves to be far more dangerous.

Comment: It's September already and today it's time for the TBR Challenge post (it's also my birthday and nothing better than to spend it with books). This month, the theme, which I always like to meet, or try to, is kicking it old school, which means something that was published 10 years ago or even before. 
I just can't help thinking it doesn't seem real that ten years ago was 2009. At that time I was finishing my master's, I was at the peak of my youth lol and now, ten years have passed. Because of this, I tend to think of ten years ago as if it was way before and that is why I chose a book published in the 90s and recently re-published in ebook format.

In this "oldie" by Alexis Harrington, we meet Chloe Maitland, a not so young anymore woman who is taking care of her house and the mortgage associated with it by washing people's clothes. She desperately needs help, though, so she puts an ad for a blacksmith but back in the 1890s, things took time to happen and when a man does show up to fill the position, she is wary since he arrives very sick and doesn't react that thankful when she and the doctor help him.
The stranger is Travis McGuire, an ex convict with secrets and the wish for a free life who thinks the time with Chloe's blacksmith business can be enough to let him get his bearings until the next thing comes along. He didn't count on this apparently uptight woman riling him up as no one else has done before and sparks do fly between them. But can two strangers become the closest of partners?

How incredible this story feels like those old western type of stories that seemed dated at a time and now they make me wish those were still the days... this is a simple story, with some tricky elements through the eyes of today's rules of behavior but that make all sense if one looks at them with the eyes of a romantic fantasy scenario. I liked this story a lot. It was not a perfect story but the time I spent reading was certainly well used.

The two protagonists did seem well matched. I think the author successfully proved they were attracted by giving us small but realistic little scenes between them way before any intimacy happened and the pace was believable too.
The romance developed in a good manner and of course my favorite aspect of it was how we got to follow their individual thoughts and they showed me two people afraid to take a step, afraid to just act on things as perhaps more contemporary people would but they still did the right thing and I got to respect them as characters. I rooted for them and what they had to do before any HEA could happen.

The plot isn't too complicated, it's obvious from the start Travis has some secrets regarding his time in prison and the bounty hunter looking for him. Of course Travis couldn't be the bad criminal we are led to doubt about here and there and although he does talk and act a bit roughly, he hides a tender heart and he starts to understand Chloe and like her for who she is.
Chloe might fear him at first but through his actions she starts to change her mind about him an when we finally have them exchanging confidences, their relationship does seem to evolve easily.
The secondary characters were a little cliché but I suppose the conflict had to come from somewhere, namely Evan, the man who hoped to marry spinster Chloe anyway and the vicar, who doesn't act anything like a religious man.

I'd say what made this not such a perfect story for me were the situations that were used to highlight the drama closer to the end of the book. I can see why the author chose to put her characters in those situations (meaning when Travis makes a decision for them both or when they act on their feelings despite the possible danger) but they don't always fit what the plot would need at that specific time to make sense. There was some interesting drama going on but I don't think it was always well placed.

Despite some flaws, this really worked for me as a romance. The hero is gruff and not always polite but he hides a heart of goal and we believe he will dedicate himself to his heroine.
She is not perfect, has always only counted on herself so it's nice to see her develop feelings for some who has her back. All in all, the most important situations related to the romance were positive for me.
The bounty hunter also has a story. I hope I can read it one day.
Grade: 8/10

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