Long Way Home
Writing tortured characters without having them appear selfish or whiny is an art form in itself. This author exceeded my expectations and managed to write two tortured characters with such a depth of feeling that it almost brought tears to my eyes. I’m sure it helped that tortured heroes and heroines are my favorite kind!
Franki Taylor was abandoned by her mother when she was a young teenager, but thankfully was left with her grandfather, Virgil. Virgil was a decent and hardworking man, although he wasn’t exactly prepared to raise Franki. Franki and Virgil faced some difficult times together before they purchased the Malone Ranch in Washita, Texas, a few years before our story begins. They are about to face some almost overwhelming obstacles once again. Virgil has been hospitalized, and Franki is seven months pregnant and cannot run the ranch alone. The rich but horrid father of her child, bank owner Bobby Simms, wants to run Franki out of town since he has recently married, and was only dating Franki to make his future wife jealous. The town of Washita is extremely small, and Bobby threatens to financially ruin anyone who helps Franki.
Duncan Malone’s life went to hell seven years before when he was sent to prison. Duncan walked in on bank owner and Bobby’s father, Robert Simms, trying to rape Duncan’s mother, Helen. While trying to protect Helen, Duncan accidentally killed Robert. The townspeople were not kind and blamed Helen for leading Robert on, and Duncan was sent to prison. While he was in prison, his mother had a car wreck that killed Duncan’s uncle and sent Helen into a coma. As a result, the ranch Duncan grew up on was sold. He dreams of making enough money to buy it back, the only real dream he has left.
Returning to Washita where his mother resides in a nursing home, and where the townspeople are deeply prejudiced against him, is probably not the best move for Duncan. No one will hire him – except Franki. Duncan feels honor bound to tell her that he plans on getting his ranch back. Since her home is extremely important to Franki due to the chaotic nature of her childhood, she is not happy to hear Duncan’s plans, but has no other choice.
I loved these two characters. Franki is very stubborn, and wants to make it on her own without help. Still, she’s not stupid and knows she must accept Duncan’s help, but holds up her own end of things. Duncan faces horrid treatment at the hands of the community, with only a few supporters, and does so with honor and nobility. His guilt over his mother’s accident, and over Robert’s death, is heartfelt and sincere. Slowly he and Franki learn to trust and support each other through the hardships they face. Even though Franki is pregnant throughout their courtship, the author skillfully weaves their desire for each other in their daily encounters. This aspect was also my only quibble with the story. The love scene comes quite late in the book and then was almost a “closed door” setup. After all the great sensual build up, I felt a bit cheated.
I haven’t even mentioned all the wonderful secondary characters yet, but they were all written very realistically and added an extra dimension of enjoyment to the story. Perhaps the ending was tied up a bit too neatly, but by the time I got there, I just felt so danged happy with everyone that I didn’t care. Trust me, readers who are looking for a sweet, heartfelt romance with great characters will love this one!