Rogue’s Reform is the third in Marilyn Pappano’s Heartbreak Canyon miniseries. It is not necessary to have read the earlier books in the series, but doing so will add a much greater depth to the characters in this book. I urge you to find the earlier books – Cattleman’s Promise and The Horseman’s Bride they are both excellent.
The reform of the rogue is a popular theme in historical romances, and it’s interesting to see this theme in a contemporary. Ethan James in this book is a rogue. No, he’s not just a simple misunderstood Bad Boy – Ethan has a past and a police record. Ethan’s mother was married twice, her first husband was a hard-working rancher and their son, Guthrie Harris was just like his father. Hardworking, honest and devoted to the land. Her second husband was Ethan’s father. Handsome, charming and totally unreliable. Ethan was a wild and willful youngster and soon began to live down to his father’s reputation. He hated his hometown, he hated ranching and ran off as soon as he could.
Since then, Ethan has wandered the country, working odd jobs, lying, stealing, cheating, drinking and spending some stretches in prison. At one point he committed fraud by selling his brother’s ranch, which he had no right to, to a man who died and left it as his sole possession to his widow. That little crime sobered up Ethan and he has been living an honest life. Ethan has even begun to yearn for family, stability, roots and a woman to love and to love him – all the things he used to sneer at.
One day, Ethan receives a letter from his sister-in-law with a picture of a woman in it, a pregnant woman. He recognises her as Melissa – a sweet young thing with whom he had a one-night stand about seven months ago. To his surprise, this woman lives in his old home town of Heartbreak Canyon. Ethan drives there.
The woman in the picture is not really named Melissa. That was the name that Grace Prescott gave Ethan the night when, for the first time in her life, she evaded her abusive father, Jed, and went out to have some fun. Grace had a one night stand with Ethan and became pregnant when the protection failed. Her father beat her just as the sheriff walked in, and the sheriff gave him a choice – deed the store and home to Grace and leave town or face charges of felony assault. Jed left and Grace is happy to have peace and a baby to love. But her quiet life is blown away when Ethan comes back to town.
Rogue’s Reform is almost totally character-driven. The plot intrudes only to nudge the story along. As for the characters, they are quite wonderful. Grace has suffered mental abuse for so many years from her vicious father and Ethan longs for love and commitment but is afraid his bad reputation will ruin his chances forever. While neither of these characters are new or different, in Marilyn Pappano’s capable hands they shine, and I found myself deeply touched by them. Grace and Ethan’s slow and fumbling journey toward each other will have you reaching for hankies as you turn the pages.
I recommend you get all of the books in the Heartbreak Canyon miniseries. They are touching, sweet and sentimental in the very best way. Marilyn Pappano is a versatile writer who has tackled many themes and set her books in many different places. But no matter where she sets her stories or what her theme is, one thing remains constant – her wonderful characters. Grace and Ethan are two who are going to stay with me for a long time.