Monday, May 10, 2010
Wildflower Hearts by Vickie McDonough
Vickie McDonough is quickly becoming my favorite writer. With her skilled way of building her story world in the Dakotas amidst the rugged and untamed beauty of the badlands like a Rich Mullins CD, she did it--she placed me there and made me never want to leave. From there, she crafted characters who grew on me, from independent and proud Mariah, the dime store novelist who steals master artist Adam MacFarland's heart, to Anna MacFarland and her US Marshall Beau, and finally, my favorite of the three short novels' heroes, Quinn MacFarland and his young bride Sarah.
Each story stands alone, but all three together build until the last and eldest MacFarland sibling falls hard to romance. McDonough's lively and suspenseful plotting and pacing make each of these stories un-put-downable, but at the same time, I wanted to savor every nuance and relish every word. I have read many books that compelled me with a clever plot or engrossing characters to skim to the end, but in Wildflower Hearts, the writing itself was so lovely, I had to pour over every line.
In Wild at Heart, Adam MacFarland must overcome a secret he has kept since his father's untimely death, a secret that keeps him from peace with God and his calling as an artist, and accepting the love of others. When he invites a novelist from back east to spend time out on the family ranch for research, he never suspects a woman. Not to mention, a woman like Mariah Lansing. Refined and accomplished, she surprises him with her pluck and willingness to adapt to ranch life. But is the attraction he feels for her enough to over come a burden of guilt and regret that seems destined to keep him single the rest of his life?
Outlaw Heart features Anna MacFarland, Adam's twin, who has been chided to learn the arts of housekeeping and to give up her tomboyish ways by her practical older brother Quinn and her mother. She yearns for freedom and adventure, which takes her to Bismarck in search of work outside the home. She finds excitement of a different sort, in the aftermath of a bank robbery. Confused for an accomplice by the town Marshall, she is followed by the handsome Brett Wickham, who seeks to avenge his brother's death in the robbery before he retires his badge. Can Anna prove her innocence with her sweet carefree ways and steal his heart before his overwrought sense of justice ruins the potential for romance?
Quinn MacFarland's romance, Straight for the Heart, proves the old adage "the bigger they are the harder they fall." Quinn has been the solid rock after the father's death, the go-to guy that saved the family ranch. Now that his mother has passed and his siblings have married and moved away, he is alone with a well-intentioned but meddling grandmother who plots to marry him off. Enter nineteen-year-old Sarah Oakley, an orphan left to care for her two younger siblings after their parents' tragic death. She had sought refuge with an uncle who turned out to be a dangerous outlaw, and as she attempts to escape with his gold and their lives, her path crosses with Quinn. Can the aloof but tender heart inside him yield to Sarah's innocence and devotion?
After reading two of McDonough's previous books, and loving them, I am on the fast track to fan-hood. This short novel collection not only did not disappoint, but each was a surprising delight.