Her Colorado Man is Remington Steele meets Americana. (For any of you too young to remember it/hear about it in the first place, Remington Steele was a detective series from the 80s in which a female detective created a fictitious male detective as a front for her business. A thief shows up claiming to be “Remington Steele”, forcing the heroine to either play along or admit her lie). In this book, Mariah Burrows is a single mother who has a sort-of pretend husband, Wesley. Her grandfather’s friend in Alaska chose the name from a rarely-used post office box. At the beginning of the book, the actual Wesley Burrows writes to let Mariah’s grandfather know that he will be coming to Colorado. While the story isn’t perfect, I found it refreshingly different – and an overall pleasant read.
Wesley Burrows was raised in a foundling home, and never had any family to speak of. When he’s laid up with an injury, someone brings him all the mail from his post office box, and he discovers dozens of letters from his “son” John James. The letters give him the motivation to overcome his injury, and he decides that when he gets well, he’ll go to Colorado so he can be a father to John James – even though he is of course not the boy’s father at all. Wes also doesn’t really think the matter through. He can tell from the letters that John James needs a father, but he doesn’t think about the other part of the deal: His “wife.”
Mariah has been pretending to have an absentee husband for years, and that’s just how she likes it. She went away to Chicago to have her baby, then arrived home and told her family that her “husband” had gone to Alaska to prospect for gold. To her, it’s an ideal situation; she can continue working at her family’s brewery, and no one will tell her what to do. No one knows the secret of John James’s parentage, and she’s not about to tell anyone. When she finds out that Wesley is arriving, she feels angry and resentful. She can’t imagine what would drive anyone to come claim her son as his own, and she’s certain that his motives must be suspect.
Matters are a bit dicey when Wes arrives. Mariah’s close-knit family doesn’t know what to think about this guy who deserted their daughter. Mariah is suddenly sharing her room with a man she doesn’t even know. The only person who’s completely thrilled is John James, who gleefully tells everyone he knows that his papa is finally home. But Wes really is a nice guy, and he quickly fits in. He takes a job at the family brewery and jumps right into a parenting role. He even falls for Mariah. Mariah feels herself falling in love with Wes as well, but she’s also full of doubts. Can their fledgling relationship survive Mariah’s deep, dark secret? And can a man with such an exciting life really want to stay around for the long haul?
This is the kind of sweet, homey story that was a lot more popular about a fifteen years ago when I was new to romance reading – before everyone who wrote Americana started writing European Historicals or Romantic Suspense (Lorraine Heath, Stef Ann Holm, Stephanie Mittman). I like stories about rich people as much as the next person, but every once in awhile it’s nice to read about average people who can still experience a grand romance. I really enjoyed all the little details about Maraiah’s German family. They cook all the time, so there’s plenty of mention of authentic German dishes. They can keep all the cabbage stuff, but I wouldn’t mind trying some of that apfelstruedel. If someone would like to initiate an American Historical Renaissance, I would be all for it.
Mariah and Wes are both likable characters. Wes borders on too-good-to-be-true, but Mariah’s more nuanced, which makes up for it. Although she has a loving and supportive family, she also had a traumatic experience in her past. She hasn’t considered her personal happiness for some time, even though she sees that many of her family members are in loving marriages. It’s nice to see her get the happy ending she deserves.
The only drawback to Her Colorado Man is that it lacks subtlety. What you see is what you get. The “secret” about John James’s parentage was obvious to me – almost immediately. So obvious that I wondered how Mariah’s family managed to miss it.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this homey, uncomplicated read. Reading for escape doesn’t have to mean fabulous London townhouses and glittering gems; sometimes it can mean wagons and apfelstruedel.