Avon, Jan 2008, $12.95
In 1850 former prostitute Toni Rodden and the three runaway indentured servants the Caldwell siblings (Fannie, and young teens Katie and Kip) flee Hawkins, Kansas to forge into a family of sorts as part of a wagon train traveling to Oregon. However although Toni feels good for Fannie as the latter marries wagon master Blake Tanner, she feels loneliness also. Toni knows no man will ever want her beyond a night or two because of her background until the Cheyenne war chief offers three horses for her.
Wagon train scout Sam Two-Feathers vows to himself that he will protect Toni with his life before allowing her to be sold again. He knows the war chief will be back offering more to purchase Toni and fears some of the train will want to do so as she is a fallen woman and not worth the price of angering the Cheyenne. However, although Sam knows he loves Toni, he believes as a half Sioux, they cannot be together as white society will ostracize her; Toni likewise feels the same except she fails to meet his much higher standard.
The second Westward Hearts tale (see DEFIANT HEART) is a terrific western romance starring fully developed characters who bring to life the dangerous decade before the Civil War while heading westward. The story line is inspirational yet filled with so much historical insight fans will feel they are traveling on the wagon train as Tracey Bateman provides a vivid exhilarating mid nineteenth century Americana tale.