Jordan’s Heart tells the story of a Boston scholar who loves a Colorado rancher. The most unexpected thing about it is the fact that Jordan is the name of the heroine, not the hero.
Jordan Alcott has striven her entire life to win her archaeologist father’s approval, by following in his footsteps, attaining a college degree, and eschewing marriage in favor of the study of Indian artifacts. In spite of her efforts, her father leaves her behind when he goes on a dig in Guatemala. That’s when Jordan gets a letter from Mac McAdam, a rancher in Colorado who is on the trail of a Spaniard’s gold. Mac has heard that Jordan (who, not unexpectedly, he believes to be a man) translated the journal of a conquistador named de Espejo, who buried a mine’s worth of gold ingots somewhere in Colorado. Mac invites Jordan to help him find it. Jordan heads west, without letting Mac know that she’s a woman.
Mac needs the conquistador’s treasure to save his ranch from bankruptcy. Again not unexpectedly, he is unhappy to see that his new partner is a lavishly-dressed woman, and he’s sure she won’t be able to handle life on the range. But it doesn’t take long before he’s head-over-heels in love with her. The problem is that he’s engaged to marry Iris, his childhood friend. He and Iris do not love each other, but Mac is determined to be honorable toward her. He keeps his engagement a secret, until Jordan finds out at the worst possible moment (after sex, before conversation). For the remainder of the book, Jordan and Mac wrestle with their feelings, in exactly the manner you would expect characters in a romance novel to do: does Mac really deserve Jordan’s love? Will Jordan lose her independence if she loves Mac? Jordan’s quest to earn her father’s love is more poignantly rendered than her struggle with her feelings for Mac, but also contained no surprises.
Both Jordan and Mac are tentative and passive about their relationship, waiting for things to happen to them rather than seizing the moment. Their single love scene is extremely brief. Sometimes the structure of the book’s plot is far too apparent, as when, after bashing his head, Mac is well enough to make love to Jordan, get a good night’s rest, and explore some Indian ruins before collapsing into a convenient two-week coma. There are a variety of secondary characters, few of them much more than sketched outlines. For instance, we meet Grant Stevens, the man Jordan once vaguely thought she’d like to marry. Then we learn that Grant is a manipulator and a coward. Why include him at all? To make the book 319 pages instead of 315?
There’s nothing egregiously wrong with Jordan’s Heart, and it’s not an unpleasant read. The writing style is smooth, and the author is quite clever in the way she foreshadows the book’s climax. But there’s no originality to elevate it from the pack. There are those who will find it sweet, but I thought it predictable and dull. It lands smack in the middle of the bell curve – there’s nothing about it to make me warn readers away, but there’s also nothing about it that makes me want to recommend it, either. One hopes the author will exercise a little more creativity in her next book.