Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Restless Heart by Emma Lang
Angels don’t always have halos…
Angeline Hunter ran from a horrific marriage, to start her life again in a small town in Wyoming, away from the Mormon life she had escaped in Utah. She didn’t want to fall in love, or even fall in like, with a man like Samuel Carver. He was too nice, too normal, and far out of the reach for a woman who lived each day in a lie.
Sam Carver had hair the color of midnight and eyes darker than pitch—the eyes of a man who’d seen too much. But he couldn’t get enough of the mysterious, ethereal beauty who had turned up in his little Wyoming town, working at the Blue Plate, keeping to herself.
He knew Angeline Hunter was running scared, pursued by a fanatic who threatened her life. But no matter what it took, Sam would convince his angel to put her trust in him, to put the painful past behind her and learn just how pleasurable the present could be….
This is the sequel to Ruthless Heart, which I enjoyed. Angeline is the sister to Eliza, the heroine of that book.
What a fabulous book, with two really likable characters. This is, at its heart, a tender love story of two lost souls finding and healing one another. A Civil War soldier, Sam saw far too much death. He still dreams about it every night. He’s got a father with dementia and struggles to overcome the “half-breed” stigma. He feels as though he is just treading water – not sure of where to go, what to do, or how to improve on his life as it now exists.
Angeline was always the good, obedient daughter. So obedient, that she never put up a fuss when her father arranged for her marriage to a Mormon church elder, one who was far older than her and abusive to boot. We only find out exactly how abusive late in the book. Angeline’s family is Mormon, and she is to be one of three wives to her husband. Her one defiant act was to run away when the abuse got too bad. Her husband is out looking for her, having already hired someone to kill her and failing at that (see Ruthless Heart). Angeline is meek, out of fear, but as the book goes on, Sam’s quiet, understated demeanor, love, and support help her gain her footing and she becomes more self-confident. The scenes where she realizes that she has the power to bring a man to his knees simply by undressing for him were enlightening for Angeline and very well done. To see her grow and gain her confidence back was lovely.
Oh, how I loved Sam. It was unexpected to read a Lang (Williamson) book with such a beautiful beta hero. He’s soft spoken, he isn’t afraid to show his love for Angeline or for his father. He runs around helping folks and trying to make everyone happy. But he’s no pushover, and when he needs to, he steps up and protects his woman. He empowers Angeline simply by being gentle and showing Angeline what she means to him. The character growth in both Sam and Angeline was terrific, but even moreso in Angeline. She became her own woman; one who people turned to for help. As she grows, we see her take on the tough situations in order to support Sam, as he goes through difficult times.
Their courtship was heartbreakingly simple and beautiful. Over the course of a month, Sam brings her little gifts and slowly gains her trust before he ever even asks her out. (As an aside, I loved that the first gift he gave her was Sense and Sensibility!) Enough trust was built that it is Angeline who initiates their final step into lovemaking after a bit of official courting. They each have their scars, both physical and emotional. But like in any successful relationship, they make each other stronger, lift each other up, and show each other their worth.
The secondary characters are also strong and well-drawn, without removing the focus from Sam and Angeline. Each one of them adds layers of richness to the story. The real “action” happens after Sam and Angeline get married. Heartbreaking events force them to look inside themselves and to step up and be strong and support each other.
Oh wow, how I enjoyed this book. It was a tender, gentle love story set against a time of changes in our post-Civil War history. My complaint about Ruthless Heart had to do with the strongly negative picture painted of the Mormon church as well as the heroine's unorthodox views of the church. Here, we see Angeline reject the Mormon church, but she still has a strong faith. We see the women being valued and their opinions seen as important. (Given that Wyoming, where the book takes place, was the first to grant women the right to vote, this makes sense historically – the story takes place in 1873). I also liked the historical accuracies as they related to Sam, his war experiences, and his Indian heritage.
Those looking for a great conflict between the hero and heroine won't find it here. But the external issues lend an air of tension to the gentle love story. And the ending lines bring the two books full circle perfectly.
And oh, as an aside, one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in a while. Man-titty, but understated. The focus more on the man himself than his chest. (And his pose actually reflects an exact pose described in the book.) Sighworthy cover.