Tuesday, May 29, 2012
ARC review: Endless Heart by Emma Lang
She’s learning to live. He’s forgotten how. Love will be their teacher.
Lettie Brown has lived in the shadow of violence. After escaping her brutal past, she’s finally at home in Forestville, Wyoming, where she would live a normal life—if she knew how. She’s content working at The Blue Plate and printing the town newspaper, if not happy. Then a stranger stumbles into her world and turns everything upside down.
Shane Murphy is a shell of a man, destroyed by the aftermath of the war, his personal tragedies and a penchant for cheap whiskey. When he lands, literally, on Lettie’s feet, his future takes a hard right turn.
As they fumble through a relationship that should not have been, a deep love takes root, one that cannot be denied. Together they discover a bond as unbreakable as steel and as undeniable as life itself—until the past rears its ugly head and threatens the happiness they’ve found in each other.
The western historical is one of my favorites. Emma Lang (aka Beth Williamson) excels at this genre, and in particular, the post Civil War period. The time period invites horrendously broken heroes, and this story is no exception. And oh, how she writes those amazing wounded heroes. However, Lang/Williamson also excels at the broken heroine. Here we have Lettie and Shane, 2 people so wounded I wondered how on earth they could ever make it together.
This is one of those rare times that I recommend reading the previous books before this one. Although it's not totally necessary, you get Lettie's backstory there. And it's a heartbreaker. I doubt it was unique either. An abused wife in the early Mormon community, she was freed when her husband was killed trying to steal her back after she ran away from him with Angeline, the heroine of the previous story and Lettie's uhhh... co-wife. (Is that a term? Not sure what the wives of the same man call themselves). Lettie is brash, rude, and drab, all in her efforts to protect herself from more pain.
Shane came home after the war and drank himself into a stupor, losing his wife and daughter tragically. Several years later, he's still buried in the bottom of a bottle. I love how Lang doesn't whitewash his problem with alcoholism. He's smelly, lice-infested, definitely not hero material. His introduction to Lettie is when he throws up all over her shoes. Mmmm. Who wouldn't want that? She manages to show Shane at rock bottom, but also lets him pull himself out of the depths of despair and become hero material. (Side note: for another amazing alcoholic hero, read Williamson's Zeke.)
Lettie very reluctantly nurses him back to health, and we're shown that Shane really does have manners and is a fine man, albeit one who is struggling with sobriety and humanity. He and Lettie come together slowly, each nursing longstanding hurts. Their attraction is undeniable, much as they try, and their shared history of grief is one that brings understanding and eventually respect and love.
I loved the small touch of the paranormal (and it is very small indeed) with the spirit of Sam's mother guiding them together through shared erotic dreams. (Sam is the hero of the previous book).
Once again, Lang/Williamson pens a heartbreaking, sobering look at post-Civil War America and manages to make it an uplifting, rewarding experience.
The previous books:
Note: I received an ARC of this from the author (and thank you so much!).