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Chasing the Sun    by Kaki Warner order for
Chasing the Sun
by Kaki Warner
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2011 (2011)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Travel back to rugged New Mexico Territory and the sprawling Wilkins Ranch, circa 1873, one last time and discover how a short liaison with a San Francisco saloon singer turns Jack Wilkins's world upside down.

Jack has carried a torch for Elena Ramirez for as long as he can remember. When she announces that she is giving her life to God and the church, Jack is angry and confused by this ultimate rejection. He drowns his sorrow and disappointment in drink, falls into an affair with singer Daisy Etheridge, and a few weeks later signs on to a cargo ship bound for Australia.

When Daisy discovers she's pregnant, she has no illusions about marrying her baby's father. Jack Wilkins' restless spirit and broken heart would never allow him to settle down. Her complete focus turns instead to raising her daughter and pursuing her singing career. When an audition offers Daisy a rare opportunity to train with Madame Sophia Scarlatti (aka The Sicilian Songbird), she's ecstatic - until she's informed that she'll have to find her own way to Rome.

Desperate to fulfill her lifelong dream to perform onstage she travels to New Mexico in hopes of persuading Kate's uncles to invest in their niece's future. Unfortunately, that plan dies a quick death when she comes face to face with Jack, home at last from his world travels and thrilled to discover he's a father. He offers marriage and the chance for them to become a real family, but Daisy wants no part of it. How could she trust a man who still has feelings for the unattainable Madonna that is Elena and who's incapable of staying in one place for more than a few weeks at a time?

Jack decides to switch tactics and actually woo the woman he's pretty sure he's fallen in love with. But Daisy is determined to resist. As days in his persuasive presence and among his loving, boisterous family turns to weeks, Daisy's resistance begins to falter - will she be able to turn her back on Jack Wilkins once and for all, or succumb to their passion?

The most believable relationship the author builds here is that of the strong, if combative bond between the Wilkins brothers: Brady as the responsible one who often takes his role as eldest too seriously; Hank as the quiet thinker and peacemaker; and Jack as the headstrong, reckless wanderer. They constantly clash, but their loyalty to each other, their families, and the ranch, is unshakable.

That's not to say that Jack's campaign to win Daisy doesn't shine, as do various sub-plots that pull Brady, Hank and their wives and children back into the storyline as well. Warner's incredible skill at bringing the life, times and sprawling vistas of historical New Mexico to life only adds more colour to the panorama that is Chasing the Sun - beautifully written and well plotted, it's a fitting end to one of the best western historical romance series I've had the pleasure of reading.

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