Cowboy Winn Sutton is on the trail, driving cattle to market, when a cow with a mean streak and a skittish horse, cause a freak accident that leaves him with a serious head injury. Two of his friends take him back to Wichita, the nearest town, but by the time they arrive, Winn is unconscious. He is left in the care of the local doctor, and awakens to find himself totally blind. The doctor gives Winn reason to believe that the loss of his sight may not be permanent and makes arrangements for him to recuperate in the home of a widow whose ranch is nearby. Having been abandoned by his friends and unable to find his way around, Winn has little choice but to accept the hospitality of the young woman with the voice of an angel.
Since the murder of her husband a year ago, Cynthie Franklin has been struggling to keep her ranch afloat and raise her young son, Greg. Cynthie's husband never bothered to explain his business dealings with her, so understanding the bookkeeping is like trying to decipher a foreign language to her. On top of that, her ranch hands are pretty certain that several head of her cattle have been stolen and her husband's killer has never been found. Despite all that's on her plate, when the town doctor asks her to look after a blind man because of her experience in dealing with her blind father, she agrees to help him if she can.
Winn sees himself as useless, but even without his sight, he's able to help Cynthie with the books. He and little Greg also form a close bond, and soon Cynthie finds herself falling for the handsome cowboy. She tries to find other things Winn can do to make him feel useful again, but it's difficult for him to fathom the things he can do when there are so many things he can't do anymore. When the lives of Cynthie and her ranch hands are placed in jeopardy by the man who most likely killed her husband, Winn may discover that he's more valuable than he ever would have thought.
Wait for the Sunrise is a fairly sweet historical romance with a lazy pace much like I imagine life in the Old West was like. Most times a slow pace would be a detractor, but in this case, it was like the proverbial turtle, slow but steady. I didn't feel like anything was just filler. Instead, each scene gradually moved the plot forward. The relationship between Winn and Cynthie is equally slow-building, but that's part of what made it sweet. They both feel a certain degree of attraction for one another almost from the start, but they take their time getting to know one another. However, if there was one thing I would consider a weakness, it would be that both seem rather uncertain of their situation and very tentative around each other. Since Winn is blind, he has nothing on which to base his opinion of Cythie except her voice, which sometimes sounds cold and proper to him. Cynthie, on the other hand, is at first a little jealous of Winn's easy relationship with her son. Not to mention, a neighboring rancher is trying to court her. She doesn't seem to have a particular attachment to the other guy, but since he was an associate of her dead husband, she often entertains him, always treating him politely on his frequent visits. All these things, as well as general uncertainty cause Winn and Cynthie to hold back a little too much, IMHO. There are many times when one of them wants to say, or ask, or do something, but for one reason or another they don't. To my way of thinking, this put some distance between them, and there were times when I felt like their attraction and them falling in love was being told a bit more than shown. When all was said and done though, I did feel like they were right for one another and that they had a happy future ahead of them.
Winn was a cowboy, working on a cattle drive, when a particularly mean cow got loose from the herd and caused a whole lot of trouble. When Winn went to assist one of the younger hands with reigning her in, his own half-wild horse got spooked and threw him, which led to him getting a nasty head injury. A couple of his fellow cowhands took him to the nearest town to see the doctor, but by the time they got there, he'd already lost his sight and fallen unconscious. Winn awakened the next day to find that his friends had abandoned him in this town full of strangers and the doctor was sending him to stay with a young widow on her ranch. Between the loss of his sight and the loss of his friends, Winn is pretty much at loose ends, but he still tries to make the best of his situation by being polite to the young woman, even if he can't exactly be helpful at first. He feels pretty useless, but in spite of that, he isn't overly given to throwing pity parties for himself over the blindness. In all fairness though, he was initially led to believe the loss of his sight might only be temporary, and later, after he discovered that it was permanent, he did go through a few moments where he thought the world would be better off without him. Thankfully though, he finds a friend in Cynthie's young son, who keeps the boredom and most of his inclinations toward self-pity at bay, and gradually he begins learning his way around her ranch without help. I liked that Winn was a proper Southern gentleman, or at least he was until the aftermath of the war sent him west to become a cowboy. Despite being in the Wild West though, he's managed to maintain a lot of his gentlemanly charms and demeanor, and when he and Cynthie start getting closer, I thought it was sweet how he worries about her reputation even when she doesn't.
Cynthie was a little harder for me to get to know, and as a result, I didn't develop a clear liking for her until later in the story. She is a widow, whose husband had been murdered one year before. The killer had never been found, and ever since his death, she'd been struggling to keep her ranch afloat. Her husband had never let her in on his business dealings, so she found bookkeeping to be a challenge, while suspecting that several head of her cattle had been stolen. The doctor asked her to look after Winn, because her father had been blind and she had some experience in caring for a sightless person and teaching them to care for themselves. Cynthie is also a good mother to her four-year-old son, Greg. At first, this is about as far as her characterization goes. I was getting antsy to learn more about her relationship with both her husband and her father, but little is said about either. I think perhaps the author was holding back a lot of Cynthie's backstory to maintain an air of mystery, but I also think that she could have given the reader a little more information, especially about the father, without giving too much away. Eventually, we learn a few more tidbits about her past and we get to see more of the person she is in the present, making her a likable and admirable heroine. It just took a little longer to get to know her than I would have liked.
I liked Louie, Jeremiah, and Peter, Cynthie's ragtag band of misfit ranch hands, but the real stand-out supporting character was her son Greg. Although occasionally, I felt like he talked a bit "big" for a four-year-old, he's a cute and precocious kid, who brings a lot of light into Winn's darkened world. I loved the relationship between these two, and how fatherly Winn is toward Greg. Greg is extremely wary of Kyle, the man who is trying to court his mom, but with Winn, he falls into a very comfortable friendship from the moment they meet. It was sweet how they're able to bring a great deal of comfort to one another.
Despite a few weaknesses, Wait for the Sunrise was an enjoyable read. I can't really explain why, but even when I wasn't quite feeling the tension between Winn and Cynthie and even when I was feeling some distance from the characters, I still had a good time reading it. Maybe it's just because I've had an affinity for frontier stories since my childhood, reading Little House on the Prairie, and it felt familiar to me. There was also a light mystery thread surrounding who murdered Cynthie's husband and who was stealing her cattle, which unfolded slowly, piquing my interest. Whatever the reasons, I can honestly say that even though it wasn't a perfect read, Wait for the Sunrise was a pleasant one. This was my first book by Cassandra Austin, but it has certainly left me open to trying others that she wrote.
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