When a mysterious battered stranger is found on her land, a young woman rancher struggles to protect her heart—and a secret—from him.
Goodman (The Last Renegade, 2012, etc.) draws us into the life of Wilhelmina “Willa” Pancake, who's running her alcoholic father’s ranch and raising her precocious sister, Annalea, in 19th-century Colorado. When Annalea discovers an unconscious man on their property, Willa is wary but offers him sanctuary till he recovers. Israel McKenna soon remembers who he is but not why he ended up nearly beaten to death in an unfamiliar town. He decides to stay at Pancake Valley Ranch even after he heals, hoping to uncover his lost memories but also to get a read on Willa. She's not so sure he’s revealing all that he remembers. Goodman’s novel, with a romance plot that hints at Richard Nash’s classic play The Rainmaker, is also enlivened by the interplay between Israel and Annalea, a pigtailed charmer. The ensemble cast of Willa's father, Shadrach “Happy” Pancake, and dog, John Henry, provides both humor and poignancy to complement the developing intimacy between her and Israel. The cloud on the horizon is both their pasts, with hers—a scheming rival rancher’s son, her childhood love—finally intersecting with his. Characters from Goodman’s This Gun for Hire (2015) also make an appearance as the novel goes from a startling revelation to an unexpected yet fitting climax.
Readers of Western historical romance will enjoy the novel’s deft blending of suspense, humor, and family drama.