The Wildest Heart
Lady Rowena Dangerfield, the future Countess of Melchester, had a rather unconventional childhood. While still an infant, her parents divorced, her father fled to America to escape a conviction for murder, and she herself was whisked off to India to be raised by her curmudgeonly grandfather. At her grandfather’s death, in 1873, 18-year-old Rowena returns to London. Life in her stepfather’s home is so unpleasant that Rowena is overjoyed to learn that she has inherited a title and a fortune from her father, and must travel to Santa Rita, New Mexico, to claim her half-share in the SD Ranch. Attracted to her father’s partner, Todd Shannon, Rowena soon agrees to marry him, but the engagement is threatened when Todd’s enemy, the handsome half-breed, Lucas Cord, rescues Rowena from Apaches.
Bold, stubborn, and self-reliant, Rowena is a charming heroine who thrives in the midst of atrocious circumstances––which is a good thing given the violence and abuse the men around her are unashamedly willing to dole out. There are no heroes here. But there is a first-person narrative written in a voice so smooth and sure that (once the prologue is behind you) it draws you through the complexities of the story, entices you to care about the passions of the characters, and leaves you with a desire to know more about the history of New Mexico. I devoured my way through this novel as though famished. At the end I was satiated, even if not entirely satisfied. The title, The Wildest Heart, was exceptionally well-chosen. Long before the last page is turned, it becomes quite clear that Lucas Cord, who is a “…wild young man, a murderer, and perhaps a rapist as well…” does not possess the wildest heart of all.