Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
Tags:Conard County, Rachel Lee
Digging through my sprawling TBR mountain range during one of those “I don’t want to read anything-I’m going crazy I need to read something-I don’t wanna read anything, ARGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!” periods of insanity, I found this sweet and lovely installment from Ms Lee’s very popular Conard County series. I don’t know that it solved my issues, but it engaged my attention so that I read it in one sitting. Published in May 1997, some aspects of the story may seem slightly outdated, but the characterization and writing voice are just lovely.
Here’s the much hated back cover blurb:
He was her only hope
Esther Jackson needed Craig Nighthawk’s protection. The father she’d helped put away for murder was now seeking her out, so against her reclusive nature, she welcomed the darkly handsome Nighthawk into her home, hoping he could keep her safe.
She was his only peace
Craig knew all about fear and isolation. After all, he was still being tried and convicted by the people of Conard County for a crime he hadn’t committed. All he wanted was to be left alone. Until he met Esther, and discovered in her loving arms a peace he would safeguard at any cost…
Conard County-Where the Wyoming sky spreads bold and blue above men and women who draw their strength from the land and from the bonds of the love they share.
Did I mention that I hate the blurb? ‘cause I seriously do. It has close to nothing to do with the actual novel inside, yet boasts a lot of the exaggerated angst that so annoys me about so many category novels.
(Yes, I know I’ve said those same words often, but since I don’t write the blurbs-only read the novels so misrepresented by them-I plead innocence of any wrongdoing and instead ask that any annoyance be directed at whomever does write these awful blurbs.)
Anyway, on with the review.
Half hiding from her past, half running from her own memories, Esther has come to live just outside of town in Conard County. Without being an outright recluse, her natural shyness and reticence couple with her fears to keep her mostly apart from the community.
For his part, Craig has always felt like an outsider-first, as a full blooded Native American growing up on a reservation; later as a long distance truck driver hauling cargo across the entire country. But it was only after being falsely accused of (and arrested for) raping a young girl, that the full extent of his differences from the rest of the community hit him. Still, he wants a better life for his sister and her family, and thus stoically endures the town’s disapproval.
Generally speaking, a virgin heroine in her late twenties, or even early thirties, would give me a rash. No, I do not advocate promiscuity but I have to confess that I just don’t see all that many late bloomers running around in the world I live in so… In this case, however, it made perfect sense; it’s consistent with Esther’s character development all the way through.
While Craig’s character was just a tad too perfect-honest, gentle, understanding, strong, sexy, handsome, and so on and so forth-he was still drawn with enough realism and humor for me to like him. Then of course, Ms Lee writes seriously amazing sexual tension. While the actual sex was partly tame and partly faded to black (metaphorically speaking), the lead up to it? Wow and oh man! It’s excellently done.
There is also humor in both of the main characters-not raucous or extravagant, but enough to show that neither of them takes him/herself too seriously to enjoy life. Some of the humor is provided by their dogs (and one particularly stubborn ewe), without becoming too precious to bear.
Something else that is very well written is the heroine’s fears and the hero’s reaction to those fears. There is understanding and compassion, but not pity, as well as a sincere wish for her to overcome the trauma of her childhood and youth. There is not even a hint of “get over it already”-just the knowledge that she can’t achieve true peace within herself until and unless she does overcome it.
Esther’s confrontation with her father, in contrast, feels rather flat and… well, passionless. Further, there is the dreaded epilogue with wedding bells, future children and the proverbial picket fence to irk at least this reader.
All in all, though, I found Nighthawk to be truly deserving of the regard it enjoys among Ms Lee’s fans. 7.75 out of 10.