United by chance, bound by fate, consumed by passion.
Miranda Hayes has lost everything-her family, her husband, her home. Orphaned and then widowed, desperate to find a safe haven, she sets out to cross a savage land alone…until chance brings her face-to-face with notorious gunslinger Jake Harkner.
Hunted by the law and haunted by a brutal past, Jake has spent a lifetime fighting for everything he has. He’s never known a moment’s kindness…until fate brings him to the one woman willing to reach past his harsh exterior to the man inside. He would die for her. He would kill for her. He will do whatever it takes to keep her his.
Spanning the dazzling West with its blazing deserts and booming gold towns, Jake and Miranda must struggle to endure every hardship that threatens to tear them apart. But the love of an outlaw comes with a price…and even their passion may not burn bright enough to conquer the coming darkness.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca 2 June, 2015 (originally published in 1993)
Time and Setting: America, 1866
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Jill
Was it foolish to believe that deep inside, every man had some good in him?
In 1866, the American Civil War has ended, and Miranda Hayes has lost her mother, father and husband. Her brother, her only remaining family, has left the family farm outside Kansas City, and headed off to Nevada. One day when she is in town, she comes across Jake Harkner buying supplies in the general store. For years Jake has ridden with an outlaw gang. After a fallout with them, he has left, and is trying to find a new life. When he is recognised and challenged, he defends himself. Miranda, watching the confrontation, pulls out her own small pistol and fires at Jake, believing herself in danger.
Jake escapes, badly wounded, and comes across a rundown farm to hide out. Unknown to Jake, this is Miranda’s farm. When Miranda find the unconscious Jake at her home, and feeling bad about the gunshot would she’s inflicted on him, she nurses him back to health. With his former gang and the law on his trail, Jake knows that he needs to leave before he brings his problems down on Miranda’s head as well. And so begins the epic story, romance and journey of a widowed lady and a notorious outlaw.
Originally published in 1993, Outlaw Hearts is being reissued by Sourcebooks ahead of its sequel and Rosanne Bittner’s newest title Do Not Forsake Me in July 2015. Having first read this many years ago, this book stands the test-of-time and feels neither dated nor unoriginal.
Growing up with a father who abused him physically and emotionally, Jake took to violence as a way of life, robbing banks and killing with an outlaw gang. Jake truly is a bad man; he’s robbed and killed innocent people. But there’s a core of goodness in him, nurtured by his mother, untouched by the violence surrounding him, and ultimately set free when he meets up with Miranda or Randy as she’s known.
There is a little bit of talk about God and faith, but this is to be expected in an era when faith and belief were more pervasive, and people placed their lives in God’s hands. But Randy’s belief in Jake is almost as powerful as her trust in God.
This is a romance, but it’s much more. Spanning twenty-four years, from when twenty year-old Randy first meets thirty year-old Jake, this is the journey of a couple as they fall in love, with their lives and love tested over the years. Through the Midwest, the Oregon Trail, across to California, and into Colorado, it can be almost an unrelenting read with the problems, violence and heartache that assault Jake and Randy and their children. With a real sense of time and place, Ms Bittner writes a historically accurate portrayal of life in the American West of the second half of the nineteenth century.
Rosanne Bittner is a prolific writer. She has written some of the finest stories in the western historical romance genre. Different writers have different strengths. Some specialise in characterisations, plot or dialogue, etc. With Ms Bittner it is undoubtedly her story-telling. Jake and Randy’s story is just as captivating and fresh today as it was twenty-two years ago.
If you’re after action and adventure, an epic family saga, an enduring love story set in the Old West, you won’t find better than Outlaw Hearts. Highly recommended.