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Open Country: Blood Rose Book 2    by Kaki Warner order for
Open Country
by Kaki Warner
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2010 (2010)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

In this marvellously engaging and richly envisioned sequel to Pieces of Sky, Warner proves that she is no flash in the pan. She whisks readers back to New Mexico Territory, circa 1871, and to the sprawling Roja Rosa ranch that's run by the larger-than-life Wilkins brothers, Brady, Hank and Jack.

As the story opens, Molly McFarlane is failing in her desperate bid to keep herself and her late sister's children one step ahead of relentless trackers hired by her scheming brother-in-law, who's determined to bring the fallen Confederacy back to her full glory. After surviving a horrific train crash near El Paso, Molly learns that the railroad is offering three hundred dollars in widow's settlements. When the attending physician pronounces little hope for fellow passenger Hank Wilkins' survival, Molly claims she's his blushing bride. The lie leaves her sick at heart, but her desperation to keep the children safe supersedes her guilt.

Unfortunately, her plan takes a negative turn when Hank's elder brother arrives in town and immediately labels Molly a scheming gold digger. What Brady cannot deny however, is that she has a gift for healing. Trained at her father's side and experienced in all manner of surgeries during the Civil War, she pulls Hank back from death's door. Soon the new Mrs. Wilkins is on her way to Roja Rosa ranch with the children, a husband who claims he doesn't remember their courtship, and a brother-in-law who has his own motivations for keeping Molly's dark secrets from Hank - secrets that eventually follow her to New Mexico and threaten the all consuming love she finds there.

If you enjoy bold, sweeping, character rich historical romance, then add Open Country to your must have reading list. The Confederate conspiracy Warner concocts is a bit over the top, as are her villains, but in the end that's a minor quibble. The conclusion to the Blood Rose trilogy, Chasing the Sun, hits the shelves in January 2011 - I don't plan to miss wandering brother Jack's story and can only hope that Kaki Warner has plans for many more big and bold tales of the old West.

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