An engineering surveyor with a stalker agrees to marry a widow with four children, creating a new life for both in the American West.
Roen Shepard is an engineer originally from New York who has come to Frost Falls, Colorado, to survey land for Northeast Rail. The move out West conveniently puts 2,000 miles between him and his jilted lover, Victorine Headley, the selfish, spoiled daughter of the owner of a competing railway. In church, Roen spies Lily Salt, a local seamstress and widowed mother of four, and is immediately intrigued by her small, serene smile and rust red hair. Lily’s tragic past was a subplot in the previous book in the series (A Touch of Flame, 2018): Her cruel and abusive husband perished in a fire under mysterious circumstances. Lily carries a heavy emotional load of both post-traumatic stress and guilt, but she is sensible, strong, and forthright and agrees to a marriage of convenience with Roen to provide a father for her children. For Roen, the marriage serves partly as a deterrent to Victorine, who is on her way west to claim him, but he is attracted to Lily and more than willing to see where the arrangement takes them. Unfortunately, Victorine and the violent man she brings with her are depicted with all the subtlety of a charging buffalo, and her pursuit ends with an unnecessary and suspiciously convenient plot twist. Goodman, a veteran romance writer, is known for her skill in depicting the booming American West at the turn of the 20th century, and most readers will be happily immersed in daily life in Frost Falls, although some will wish the days passed more quickly. Roen and Lily are both mature, kind, honest, and witty, and while their romance offers little excitement, it is sweet and believable.
Appealing characters and an unhurried plot make this a solid entry in Goodman's Cowboys of Colorado series.