Colorado Dawn is the fifth in a row of fabulous westerns by Kaki Warner. As with the previous four books, the dialog is witty, the characters are lovable, and the plot is interesting and plausible. This book, the second in the Heartbreak Creek trilogy, is a heart-warming romance in which two strong characters have to learn to bend in order not to break apart.
During Angus and Maddie Wallace’s four year marriage, she saw him a grand total of one time and received exactly two letters. Angus was off fighting for the British and Maddie was left in the care of his cold, distant family, who disliked Maddie for being English. When her parents tragically die, Maddie decides to stop waiting for life to happen to her and takes a photography job which requires travel to the United States. She has made a life for herself in Heartbreak Creek and found a family in the other women living there, when Angus shows up, intent on taking Maddie back to Scotland.
Angus’ life has changed drastically in a relatively short time. He’s now titled, due to tragedy in his family. He’s been invalided home from the army due to grievous injuries he sustained, and now, apparently, his wife has left him for no reason. He travels halfway around the world to find Maddie, in order to demand that she return to Scotland with him and settle down on his estate, hopefully to start producing heirs right away. The Maddie he finds is not the same naive, lovestruck young girl that he left behind, however. This new Maddie has a purpose, a talent in high demand, and a new family – and she refuses to follow his orders meekly. Worse, she feels that she has been wronged by him, even though he left his regiment to see her, which could have easily cost his career, and he wrote her however he could. Resolving their differences will require much effort. Would it be better to just divorce?
Angus is by far my favorite hero by this author, which is saying a lot. He’s sweet and playful, unforgiving of his shortcomings and tough on himself. Once he admits his faults to Maddie, he gains the ability to be wryly amused at himself, providing some of the best dialog in the story. His interactions with the other male characters are amusing, especially as he tries to out-testosterone the Native American, Thomas. At first concerned only with duty, he learns to regard wants and needs as important as well, including his own. His gradual adjustment to a more flexible frame of mind makes for rewarding reading.
I didn’t much care for the villains in this story. Two brothers, attempting to jump a claim, need information they feel only Maddie can provide. For a large part of the book that entire plot line felt extraneous, and honestly, the parts of the story featuring them gave me the willies. The younger of the two is mentally challenged in some way, and his brother’s cruelties and perversions, related in that young-sounding voice, disturbed me on several levels. Their presence in the story does eventually become significant, but mostly to further the relationship between Thomas, Angus, and Thomas’s love interest.
Villains aside, I really liked the conflict. Maddie feels abandoned and has built a new life for herself. Angus wants her back. They care about each other very frankly, and the love scenes are a good deal warmer than in previous Warner novels. But, their problems seem insurmountable. Maddie doesn’t want to stop her photography, and knows that a titled lady will never be allowed to pursue a career. Angus has duties to his title and estate, and he can’t stay in the US with Maddie, even if he wanted to ignore his responsibilities. There is no magic solution to this problem. One of them has to give up something vital, and for most of the book the solution remains in question. What’s important is that the characters communicate openly and express their hopes and concerns. No big misunderstanding here!
Another thing that made this book is great is the secondary characters. The old man that accompanies Maddie when she travels to take pictures wastes no time in telling Angus that it’ll kill Maddie to stop using her talent, which fuels the main conflict. Maddie’s American friends are well known from the previous book, and experience growth of their own. The warm interaction between the group of American friends and family members makes Angus want something different than the icy family in which he was reared, which also contributes to his conflict. The romance between Prudence and Thomas develops further and is almost as important as Angus and Maddie’s story.
While this is the second book in a trilogy it reads very well as a standalone. Ms. Warner’s books get better and better with each publication, and I can’t wait for the third book in this series.