BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY – Kaki Warner
A Runaway Brides Novel , Book 3
Berkley Sensation
ISBN: 978-0-425-24750-1
June 2012
Historical Romance

New York City, Heartbreak Creek Colorado, and the Journey Between - 1870

About the worst that could happen to the Irish coming to America after the great potato famine at home happened to the Donovan Family in 1855. They were met at the boat by unscrupulous fellow countrymen making them promises of help. It was no such thing for Cathleen Donovan, however. Before long, her father and brother were dead, and she and her mother were taken to a brothel. Cathleen survived her mother, was forcibly taught the tricks of pleasing men until she was thirteen when she—and her carefully preserved virginity—were up for sale. That night she was saved, first by a fire and then by a priest passing by. Father O'Rourke took Cathleen to a judge's widow for safekeeping. Fortune was finally on her side. Mrs. Ida Throckmorton became very fond of Cathleen—now called Margaret Hamilton—and raised her as an educated and proper young lady, a distant connection of her late husband's.

Some of the Irish immigrants thrived in the new world. One such is Doyle Kerrigan, who made a fortune in investments and is greatly involved in railroads. What Dole needs now is respectability. He hopes to attain it by marrying the eminently respectable Margaret Hamilton. Though her guardian, Mrs. Throckmorton, tries to talk her out of it, Margaret falls for Doyle's good looks and charm. It isn't until too late that she overhears a conversation that horrifies her. Doyle was once a runner, one of the evil men who fleeced the incoming Irish—one of those who murdered her father! With Mrs. Throckmorton's connivance, Margaret runs away in her guardian's widows' weeds and catches a series of trains heading west. She carries with her some railroad stock certificates, a wedding present from Doyle, and some jewelry. Meanwhile, Kerrigan is furious and sends his business partner to find Margaret. It's a toss up whether the loss of face or the shares are more important than his bride.

Though not cut from the same cloth, Tait Rylander became Doyle's friend and partner after Doyle saved his life at Gettysburg . Tait is the honorable and steady one of the pair, unaware of the depth the more mercurial Doyle has sunk into in his past dealings. He has long been intrigued by Margaret but is too indebted to Doyle for his very life to act on the attraction. Yet the search and chase he's about to embark upon will test that loyalty. But he's not the only one trailing our heroine.

At risk of giving too much away, I'll just say that an eventful series of train rides ensues, followed by the arrival of Catherine/Margaret—now calling herself Lucinda Hathaway—in Colorado. It's the setting of the two earlier books in the Runaway Brides series, in which she made friends with three other women…the first friends she's ever had.

Readers will find BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY to be an emotional ride as bumpy as those early trains, but most rewarding by the end of the journey. The characterization is deep and true, and the plot well executed for maximum intrigue. It's a book I highly recommend but with one caveat…

Lucinda Hathaway was a mysterious woman in the prequels to BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY; now we get answers to our wonderings. We also get information about the other three friends, as the Colorado part of the story runs concurrently with parts of the others in the series. For this reason, I strongly recommend they be read in order. The titles are HEARTBREAK CREEK, followed by COLORADO DAWN—both also excellent books, by the way.

There remains one more of the four friends, Prudence Lincoln, a smart, cool-headed daughter of a slave and her mother's owner, also half sister of the heroine of HEARTBREAK CREEK. At the moment, she's torn between love of a good man and a mission dear to her heart. I'm sure her story will be as enthralling as the others. The four women are a close-knit quartet of unique individuals created by a talented author...and their men are no slouches, either!

Jane Bowers