I’ve read several of Catherine Anderson’s books and for the most part have enjoyed them. She is known for writing heartfelt books, and Sun Kissed is definitely heartfelt. Anderson has been criticized for sometimes making her heroine martyrs and victims, but Samantha Harrigan is made of sterner stuff.
Samantha Harrigan’s mother died when she was born, and she grew up loved and cherished by her father and brothers. The Harrigans are well known for the superb cutting horses they breed and train and Samantha grew up in the horse world. When Samantha fell in love with and married rodeo cowboy Steve Fisher, she thought he loved her as much as she loved him, but her expectations were dashed literally on their honeymoon. He turned out to be a heartless man who was cruel to his horses and who cheated on Samantha from the beginning. Samantha put up a brave front, but as a devout Catholic, she tried to make things work – until Steve hit her, which was the last straw. Samantha divorced him, got a church annulment, and since then has devoted herself to her ranch and her champion cutting horses.
As the book begins, Samantha is at a rodeo ready to cheer her prize stallion Blue Blazes in the cutting horse competition when she sees a drunken man beating a horse. If there is anything guaranteed to get Samantha angry, it’s cruelty to animals and she confronts the man even though he’s twice her size. When the man strikes her with his whip, veterinarian Tucker Coulter steps in and the drunk hits him. Before it’s all over, Samantha, Tucker (and the drunk) are on their way to the sheriff’s office till the matter can get sorted out.
There’s nothing like being arrested together to break the ice between two people, and Tucker is quite taken with Samantha. Samantha is more reserved – since her divorce she is wary of men and really doesn’t want to get to know Tucker. When two of her horses suddenly fall ill, Samantha calls Tucker for help. Her horses have been poisoned and it takes all of Tucker’s skill to save them. Samantha is impressed with Tucker’s gentleness, expertise, and his real love for horses. At first, Samantha and her ranch hands think the poisoning is an accident but shortly after the first two incidents, the poisoner strikes again, and kills a prize mare and foal. Both horses are valuable, and the police and press insinuate that Samantha might have poisoned the horses herself to collect insurance.
Samantha is the focus of Sun Kissed and we get to know her very well. This is not an inspirational book, but Samantha is a deeply religious woman and her faith is not just a go to church on Sunday faith. Samantha stayed in her bad marriage for longer than she should have because she believes in the sanctity of marriage and wanted hers to work. However, she isn’t a martyr and left her husband when he became physically abusive. She carries a rosary with her, says it often during the day, and her faith permeates her lifestyle. She and Tucker anticipate their marriage vows – once – but Samantha makes it clear that until they are married that will be the only time. For her, sex is not something that is recreational – it’s a deep commitment and she does not take it lightly.
Tucker is as deep a romantic as Samantha. His parents have been happily married for forty years and still love each other dearly. He wants that kind of love for himself, has sought it, and didn’t find it in casual relationships. Tucker is a lapsed Catholic himself, and by the time the book is over, he has rediscovered his faith and found the love of his life.
Some minor discrepancies mar Sun Kissed, but it’s the mood of the story rather than its minutiae that made it work. This is a very sweet, very heartfelt book that will wring a tear from the Gentle Reader. It concludes Anderson’s Kendrick/Coulter series, but Samantha has lots of brothers and I see plenty more books in the future.