Texas Glory by Lorraine Heath
published by Penguin (Topaz) in March 1998
She was given to a strangerGenre: Historical romance - Western
Cordelia McQueen was a virtual prisoner in her father's house. Until everything changed when she was shamelessly traded in a battle for land and water rights, and thrust into an unfamiliar world as the bride of Dallas Leigh.
He belonged to the land
Dallas had given his life to the land. Now he aimed to put West Texas on the map. But as he gazed into the eyes of the lovely stranger who belonged to him, he caught a glimpse of another ambition--a warm, radiant desire of the heart. Was this the woman who would walk beside him as, together, they carved out a rich future with all the promise of love?
Series: Texas trilogy, Book #2
The Story: Dallas Leigh is a man with big dreams - own land, build an empire, found a town; basically build a legacy. However, all is for naught if he doesn't have a son to leave the legacy to and unfortunately, marriageable women are scarce in Leighton. Thus, when Dallas learns that the McQueens have a sister, he decides sight unseen that she will do. He intends to strike two birds with one stone: get a wife who will provide him with an heir and make truce with the McQueens with whom Dallas has been disputing lands for years.
For Cordelia McQueen, she really doesn't know what to expect from the outside world, let alone marriage to Dallas. All she knows is that this autocratic, commanding man terrifies her... Then why is it that she is so disappointed when she discovers that all he wants from her is a son?
Can an union between two strangers really lead to happiness?
My Opinion: Last November, I re-discovered Ms Heath's writing as I read her new trilogy, London's Greatest Lover. So when I saw Texas Glory during a charity sale, there was no way I was walking away without it, even though it was a western romance. Plus, Kristie and Wendy have raved about Ms Heath's western... and I have to say I'm really glad I picked it up :)
What surprised me the most is that I enjoyed the setting of Texas Glory - it wasn't your typical western romance. What I mean is that it wasn't about a woman needing help to get her ranch through the winter, how harsh life was in that time period, cowboy work or Indians vs cowboys, etc. Yes, Dallas was a cowboy and there were allusions to his work and cattle, but it really wasn't the focus of the book. The focus was the characters, the romance and the flourishing of the new town.
I really, really loved the characters in Texas Glory, most particularly Dallas. Don't get me wrong, Dee was a very likable heroine. It was a joy to see her discover the world, enjoy her freedom and become more confident. I don't really understand why her father kept her so sheltered, perhaps so she wouldn't leave like her mother intended. However, I'm glad that she wasn't mistreated, as in abused verbally or physically. Sure, living with her brothers and father was not a walk in the park, but at the same time, she didn't have a dark, secret past and I liked that. Dee was just shy and innocent, but she caught on really fast and once she came out of her shell, it was great to see. She was much stronger than anyone thought she was and I don't think anyone can help but admire her. I also really liked that as she grew confident, she didn't lose her sweet side :) While Ms Heath did a great job with Dee's character, she's not new... We've seen heroines like Dee in many books... as opposed to Dallas who really in my opinion stood out. Dallas character was very authoritarian, commanding, domineering... he exuded power and could be ruthless when he wanted... and it's really no wonder Dee or anyone else was so intimidated by him. But then, he totally surprises the readers with his gentle side: how generous and supportive he was, how much he loved and cared for his brothers, his gentleness with children, etc. Okay, so you're going to tell me that there is a lot of heroes like him as well, but it's the way Ms Heath wrote his character, the balance between generosity and authority that makes him stand out of the crowd. It's how realistic his character was - nice and caring, but at the same time, he could utter the wrong things and be a complete ass :P But what really won me over was really how much Dallas was generous and I'm not talking money/property-wise. I'm talking of largeness of mind which you really wouldn't expect from someone so ruthless like Dallas.
I also really enjoyed the romance in Texas Glory as it was well-written and developed. Dallas and Dee started off on the wrong foot not knowing each other and Dee being terrified... However, Dallas was very considerate and decided to take his time to get to know his wife, to appease her which was the right move. I also loved how he realized on his own the mistakes he's made by marrying Dee sight unseen - how she was hurt, how she wasn't given a choice, how she didn't get a honeymoon and so on. I also thought the hardships Dallas and Dee went through together really contributed to their relationship, strengthened it, instead of being in the story just to create conflicts and obstacles.
Overall, I think Texas Glory was a great romance. I don't have any complaints about it. I loved the H/H and their romance and I enjoyed the setting and the effervescent atmosphere of a growing town. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters, I thought they added to the book... and I'm a huge fan of the "taking in the street urchin" trope :) Especially since Rawley's story was so heart-breaking and he deserved so much more in life.
My Grade: Initially, I was going to give Texas Glory a B, but after this review, really, it's a B+. I really, really enjoyed the book and as I said, I didn't have any issues with it. So why not an A? Well, I just didn't have that wowzer feeling at the end, you know. Still, a very good book and I now understand why Kristie and Wendy are such a fan of Ms Heath's western romances :P
Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath
published by Penguin (Topaz) in January 1999
e-book format by Harpercollins Publishers (Avon) in November 2010
Five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit—that's how long Austin Leigh has waited to clear his name and return to his old life. But when he is finally released, that life is no longer waiting for him. Determined to find the real killer, Austin goes on a hunt for justice—and revenge. But what he finds is something quite different: Loree Grant, a woman with her own tragedies, whose strength scatters the shadows of his past—and whose beauty eclipses the Texas sun...Genre: Historical romance - Western
Series: Texas trilogy, Book #3
The Story: Five years ago, Austin Leigh was arrested for the murder of Boyd McQueen; however, he did not reveal where he was at the time of the murder in order to preserve his sweetheart's reputation. As a result, Austin spent 5 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Now a free man, Austin realizes how much those five years have cost him. First, his sweetheart has not waited for him... and worst, she's fallen in love and married his best friend. Then, he missed five years in his family - his niece Maggie barely remembers him, his other nieces born after he went to prison don't know him and so on. Also, the music in him died and he can no longer play. Finally, while he did go to jail, he never realized that the people in town actually really believe that he's killed Boyd McQueen... and in the mean time, the real killer has gone free.
Determined to find the real killer, Austin heads for Austin - the only clue he has. However, before he can reach the town, Austin falls ill... Luckily, he is taken in by Loree Grant who nurses him back to health. Then, a night of loneliness leads to passion and to a new life... But can Austin forget the past and forge a future for himself? And then, there is Loree's past which also haunts her...
My Opinion: After reading Texas Glory, I really wanted to read Texas Splendor. I was hoping that the heroine wouldn't be Austin's sweetheart - just because I think it would have been too boring ^_^; So I was really glad to find out that Austin was going to be paired up with a heroine we haven't been introduced to yet :) I think Texas Splendor was a great sequel to Texas Glory and wraps up this trilogy very well :)
I really liked the changes in Austin between Texas Glory where he was young and carefree to Texas Splendor, where he has hardened. It hasn't made him bitter and cynic, but obviously, it has changed him, made him more down-to-earth and wary. It was also sad that his family did not understand. They meant well and they loved him and wanted to support him, but they could not understand what he went through. It was also heart-breaking when Austin found out that Becca had not waited for him :( Everything was really well written and very realistic and I thought Austin had really become a man after all he went through.
Loree was an interesting character, another very admirable woman. I think she was exactly what Austin needed - someone who did not know Austin before and who made her own mind about him after she's spent time getting to know him. However, I had a little bit of difficulty connecting with her... After a while, I just got a bit impatient because I thought with Austin, she could get over what has happened in her life... but then, everything made sense at the end, since her big secret had yet to be revealed ^_^;
I enjoyed the romance, but at one point, it was tiring the doubts between them. I understand why Loree was so reluctant and hesitant, that she wasn't sure about Austin's love for her. Nothing less romantic than have your lover scream another woman's name and then have him marry you because you're pregnant... Let say, it's pretty hard to overcome. However, you know how it is obvious to readers, to everyone else that the H/H are in love, except for them? Then again, I think Austin had the biggest grand gesture I've ever seen and at the end, there was no doubt for either :)
I also think Ms Heath did a great job with the storyline. There was a lot going on: the romance, finding the killer and Austin discovering himself and I think Ms Heath really handled it well and kept it interesting. I really like the last part of the story where Austin finally finds out what he wants out of life besides Loree and a family. I think it made sense and really fit Austin :) She has did a great job inserting the familiar faces into the story and the characters stayed true to themselves :) I loved reading about Dee and Dallas and their family, loved the scene where Dallas was a jerk - because that's so him, making mistake because he cares so much ^_^; Also, everything was tied up neatly and well... and that might be my only other complaint... About the identity of Boyd's killer - what was the chance? It worked, everything from previous books fell into place to lead to this ending... but I thought it was just such a huge coincidence ^_^; But then, coincidences do happen, so it's probably me just being picky ^_^;
My Grade: All in all, I really enjoyed Texas Splendor and thought it was a very satisfying ending to this trilogy :) However, Austin and Loree didn't grip me as Dallas and Dee did and then, there's the identity of the killer... and so, Texas Splendor is a B for me :)