Only a very talented writer can take a man sentenced to death and turn him into the kind of hero that is not only appealing, but one a reader can actually feel sympathy for. Deb Stover certainly manages to pull off such a hero, and with panache, in Another Dawn.
Luke made a big mistake as a youth – he spent time with the wrong friend at the wrong time, and ended up getting arrested – and eventually sentenced to death row – for a murder he didn’t commit. On the day of his execution, to be held at a secret new test facility in the mountains of Colorado, Luke finds himself given a second chance. As the electric chair is charged to do its work, terrorists set off an explosion in the facility, and Luke and the woman doctor (brought in to proclaim him dead), are apparently the only survivors. Luke quickly disguises himself, using clothes taken from a dead priest. Although he realizes the doctor could eventually spill the beans about his escape, he cannot in good conscience leave her there to die – she and the priest were the only two people who believed he was innocent.
The doctor has lost her memory due to the blast, and the only clue she has to her identity is a bracelet with the name “Sofie” inscribed on it. Luke tells her she is a doctor, but refuses to tell her any more about who she is, for a return of her memory could only be disastrous for him. They make it through a storm to Redemption, a small town that is quarantined due to a smallpox outbreak. Sofie and Luke have both had smallpox immunizations, and therefore are able to come into town and lend a hand. Sofie, having no memory of being a doctor, does what she is able, and Luke, dressed as a priest, finds himself thrown right away into burial ceremonies and providing the town with spiritual comfort. It doesn’t take Luke long to figure out that somehow they have been sent back in time, but Sofie, confused by the images in her mind, thinks she is going insane. She is also in a moral dilemma – she is seriously attracted to Luke, whom she thinks is a priest, and who obviously is fighting his attraction to her.
When the outbreak finally recedes and the secondary mystery has been solved, Luke and Sofie are able to leave town, heading to Denver to take Sofie to see a doctor who is a specialist in amnesia cases. Luke finally admits to Sofie that the he isn’t a priest, and she does the only sensible thing – she tells him to shut up and get those clothes off. When the whole truth unfolds, there are a few surprise twists – which I leave you to discover for yourselves (which, I might add, surprised the dickens out of me), and then we get to the happily ever after.
This book worked for me on so many levels. Although I like heroes and heroines who are larger-than-life (Garwood’s Scots for example), there is definitely a place for those true-to-life heroes and heroines with weaknesses and strengths like the rest of us. Luke and Sofie definitely fall into the latter group, and do so wonderfully. Sofie is weak in the beginning – she is a scared, alone woman who remembers things that don’t seem to exist. She cares a great deal for people, but does not defend herself or make too many decisions about her future until Luke becomes a part of her life. When they are a couple, she does a quick and honest reverse – it is much easier to be brave and assertive with someone to support you. Luke goes gradually from a man hardened by his experiences whose only goal is to protect himself, to the honorable, compassionate, and loving man that was hidden under all those walls. The plot is interesting, the Old West setting done with accuracy, the secondary characters likeable (mostly), and the twists in the story line are unexpected and very welcome.
And now, the problems, first among them that Luke should have told Sofie sooner about the time travel. You don’t let a woman you love think she is going crazy. I also got a little frustrated with the self-talk. After “listening” to Luke call himself a liar and a fake priest over and over again and go on and on about guilt, well, I got the picture. Early on I got the picture, and I didn’t need it thumping me over the head every two pages or so. They also spent a lot of their personal time lusting after each other and mourning what could never be. A lot of time. Again, I got it. It didn’t take me long, and I’m not much different from most readers of romance.
Another Dawn is an engaging read, right from the start. There is emotion, sensuality, action, and intrigue. It packs a powerful anti-death-penalty message, but does so without the sermon. If you like your romance on the intense side, with very real-to-life characters, then this may be the book for you.