Revell, Jan 2009, $13.99
In 1856, Sarah Dobbs becomes a mail order bride for two reasons. First she needs to move on with her much younger sister Thea after the tragic deaths due to influenza of her parents back in Philadelphia and second she cherished the paper roses and loving letters her fiancé Austin Canfield sent her. However, in San Antonio instead of Austin arriving, his brother Clay informs her that her groom was murdered by an unknown assailant. Clay offers to pay the return fare for the two siblings, but Sarah refuses his kind offer preferring to find work in nearby Ladreville than face ridicule and bad memories back home.
Clay, a widower, almost goes berserk when Thea affectionately calls him papa as he wanted to hear that word from his baby, but both the infant and his beloved Patience died. On the family ranch that he takes the two siblings to, he admires Sarah for her spunk in spite of her recent tragedies and her leg that leaves her limping and actually likes the little one though feels guilty for doing so. Soon Sarah and Clay fall in love, but both hide their feelings out of guilt and fear of rejection; rationalizing that solving the murder mystery must come first
The first Texas Dreams tale is an excellent western romance with an amateur sleuth whodunit investigation serving as a minor but powerful support. The two likable lead characters are tied together initially by grief, but soon that becomes love and a precocious (perhaps too much so) young girl enhance their relationship. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sarah waits for her fiancé to arrive while Clay dreads the mission of telling her he won’t and never slows down even with the inspirational message of keeping the faith interwoven from start to finish. Fans will enjoy this fine pre-Civil War Hills Country historical.