As the illegitimate son of an English nobleman, Grayson Rhodes could never hope to inherit and had few options open to him in the stifling strictures of London society. In hopes of earning his fortune and finding some equal footing with a father whose love he had craved but never truly received, Gray set out for the wilds of the American frontier in Texas. He and his two friends are unexpectedly hired to work the cotton fields of a group of women who lost their husbands in the Civil War. It is backbreaking work, but Gray has never felt more alive and he owes that in part to lovely farm owner, Abbie Westland. Gray would like nothing more than to possess her land, but he is surprised to find within himself a desire to possess the woman even more.
Abigail Westland married her husband, John, at the tender age of sixteen. With eleven children to support, her parents needed to get a few of them out of the house, and John was in need of someone to help tend his house and land. Abbie was eager to marry him and enjoyed caring for him, but wasn't prepared for all of her responsibilities as a wife, namely the marriage bed. Although John gave her three children, he never showed her any true affection. Instead, he was a hard man whose mistress was the land. Consequently, she was relieved when his name showed up on the rolls of the war dead, but couldn't help feeling incredibly guilty about it. Abbie has sworn never to marry again, but when the charming Englishman comes to work in her fields, he stirs an unfamiliar sense of desire within her. Gray shows her all the pleasures she's been missing out on in life, and makes her feel loved and cherished in a way she never has before. Happier than they've ever been, Abbie and Gray set out to make a new life for themselves, but when Abbie's past comes back to haunt her, any hope for a future together may be lost even if the love they share still burns bright.
Wow! I'm beginning to think that Lorraine Heath simply doesn't know how to write a bad book. It's been a while since I last picked up one of her novels, but considering her stellar track record, I'm not sure why. A Rogue in Texas is now the sixth book in a row I've read by her that earned a spot on my keeper shelf. I did initially have a little bit of trouble getting into the story. Trying to skip back and forth between a cultured English accent and a Texas drawl in my head was somewhat challenging and distracting, but that was more of a personal issue than any weakness of the writing. I also didn't feel the connection between the hero and heroine at first, but about halfway through, that all changed as their relationship took on a sweetly romantic turn with just a little spice to heat things up. Then there was a major plot twist which made the latter part of the book very emotionally taut with many difficult choices needing to be made with no easy answers in sight. A Rogue in Texas is definitely one of those stories that gradually grew on me as the narrative progressed.
Abbie is a strong woman who has learned to do what needs to be done in order to survive. She was married off at the young age of sixteen to a man who was older than her. He wasn't a bad man per se. He provided for her and never abused her as I initially thought, but he was a man who was already married to the land when he took Abbie as his wife. With him, the land always came first, and sadly, Abbie and their children received little more than scraps in an emotional sense. Abbie's husband was a hard and distant man who never showed her any tenderness or affection. In some ways, she was little more than a slave to cook, clean and keep him company. She always did things to his liking, suppressing her own feelings and preferences. Then he went off to fight for the Confederate army in the Civil War, and didn't return. It was something of a relief to Abbie to have his name turn up on the rolls of the dead, but of course, she felt guilty over not loving him enough to be able to mourn him. Over the years since he left, she has done a very respectable job of holding together their cotton farm, but is in need of some extra help bringing in the harvest which is how Grayson came to work for her. Abbie is rather disconcerted by the charming Englishman. She's a little afraid of him (or at least of the feelings her stirs within her), and isn't quite sure what to make of his gentlemanliness as she has never been treated with that kind of deference before. In spite of being a widow with three children, Abbie might as well have been an innocent for all she knows of desire and love-making. She never knew what true love and passion between a man and a woman meant until meeting Gray.
For all his declarations of being a disreputable rogue, Grayson spends the entire story showing just how much of a gentleman he can truly be. Gray was the eldest son of a nobleman, but a bastard, so even though his father claimed him and paid for his upbringing, Gray is unable to inherit the title and also never felt completely accepted either by his father or society. He came to Texas looking to start a new life and become a land-owner which would put him on more equal footing with his father. At first, I thought his intentions toward Abbie were somewhat mercenary. As a widow who now owned her late husband's farm, she presented a quick and easy way for Gray to gain the land he desired. I think he was rather surprised to actually fall in love with Abbie. Her love in return made him want to be a better man, because the thing he longed for the most in life was simply to feel wanted and loved by someone who didn't care about his paternity. In spite of not having close family ties growing up, Gray understands and relates to Abbie's children extremely well. He has an instinctive sense of how to be a great father, and not too surprisingly, the kids end up loving and respecting him more than their biological father. I love how he likes to read to the family every evening and do fun things with them. The way he and his friends put together the knight's tournament for them was a blast. I thought it was really sweet how Gray brought a dose of gentlemanly behavior to the rough and tumble Wild West. He really knows how to treat a woman right. I love the little romantic gestures he makes toward Abbie like bringing her flowers, but the wicked rogue in him occasionally comes out to play like when he spies on her taking a bath. It was very romantic how he insisted on giving Abbie a day of real rest where she didn't have to do anything at all, and best of all, I loved how he introduced her to pleasures of all sorts.
I enjoyed Abbie and Gray as individuals, but it took a little while for me to warm up to them as a couple. I think this was partly due to Abbie being a bit prickly in the beginning and Gray, as I mentioned earlier, wanting to own the land. They do slowly start to fall for one another, but I wasn't entirely sure why. After her unsatisfying marriage, Abbie has sworn off men, and according to Gray's friends, Abbie is definitely not his type. It just made it a little difficult to relate to their attraction initially which is an uncharacteristic weakness for a Lorraine Heath story. It also didn't help that Gray was pretty set on leaving as soon as the cotton picking season was over, and Abbie fully expected him to go too, which in my opinion put some distance between them, as though they weren't wanting to get too involved. It may have taken a while to get there, but about halfway in, I finally started sensing that distance closing. Their first love scene was tender and romantic with both of them giving freely of themselves. I loved how Gray treated Abbie like an equal and gave her choices in their relationship, which is something she'd never experienced before and was desperately in need of. By the time the plot twist came, my heart was absolutely breaking for them not being able to be together.
A Rogue in Texas is the first book in Lorraine Heath's Rogues in Texas series. It introduces the reader to Gray's two friends, Harry and Kit, who came over from England with him and are also seeking their fortunes. These two charmers become the heroes of the next two books in the trilogy. Before the story is over, the three friends have come up with the idea of going into the cattle business. Harry is a consummate gambler and after spending a number of evenings at the saloon, he has gotten to know the saloon-owner's daughter, Jessye, who is a bit of a spitfire and a tomboy. It looks like she'll be bankrolling their endeavor and going on the cattle drive with them in her and Harry's book, Never Love a Cowboy, which should make for an entertaining story. Overall, A Rogue in Texas was yet another winner from Lorraine Heath's talented pen. I'm constantly amazed at how much I love her stories, and will definitely be looking forward to continuing this series.
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