Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Series Review: Outlaw Hearts + Do Not Forsake Me by Rosanne Bittner

Outlaw Hearts and Do Not Forsake Me
by Rosanne Bittner

Genre: Western / Romance / Adventure / Historical

Ages: 16 and up

I received advance e-copies of these books through NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Outlaw Hearts:

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.

My Thoughts:

Western romance is not my usual cup of tea; while I read a few every once in a while, it is rare that I have enough to say about one to fill a review. Outlaw Hearts, however, caught my attention. It took almost half of the book to do so, though. Miranda Hayes, Randy to her friends, is a sweet, likable, almost too-perfect heroine. Jake Harkner is her opposite with a plenty of flaws and a dark enough past for three romance heroes. I liked them well enough at first, and the story was entertaining, but there was no pop.

The 'pop' I was looking for never really showed, but the story and characters gradually grew in intensity and depth until I was engrossed. I confess I came close to tears at a couple of points in the second half. It caught me by surprise, which was nice. I always love a story that manages to exceed expectations.

The story has several very dark elements such as rape and murder, but despite that there was a peculiar sense of innocence to it, even during the sex scenes. The villains and heroes were always very easy to tell apart; the only morally ambiguous character was Jake, and even he took to the high road with relative ease. There are gently placed Christian themes throughout, no heavy-handed preachiness.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It turned out to be unexpected and refreshing, both sweeter and more dramatic than anticipated.

Do Not Forsake Me:

Miranda Hayes' life was changed the day she faced down infamous gunslinger Jake Harkner...and walked away with his heart. Their fates have been intertwined ever since. Hunted by the law, fleeing across a savage land, their desperate love flourished despite countless sorrows. Now, twenty-six years later, their family has finally found some measure of peace...balanced on the knife's edge of danger.

Jake has spent his years as a U.S. Marshal atoning for sins, bringing law to the land he once terrorized. But no matter how hard he fights the demons of his brutal past, the old darkness still threatens to consume him. Only Miranda keeps the shadows at bay. But when outlaws looking for revenge strike a fatal blow, Jake risks losing the one woman who saw past his hard exterior and to the man inside.

He always knew there'd be the devil to pay. He just never realized he might not be the one to bear the ultimate price.

My Thoughts:

While the first part of Jake and Randy's tale just got better and better, part two, Do Not Forsake Me, did the opposite. It started well enough, though there was the minor annoyance of a certain character dying off-page for no good reason...Anyway, I liked the new side character, Jeff, a writer who wished to pen the true story of notorious outlaw turned lawman Jake Harkner, but other than him this book had very few redeeming qualities.

The core story was okay. Not great, but okay, maybe even good. However, it could have been told with maybe 150 fewer pages. It was the sheer repetitiveness that really got me. Every time something happened, the author showed every single character's reaction to it. Separately. This might have been okay once or twice, or maybe if the characters' reactions had varied, but it happened over and over again and their reactions were nearly identical. Yes, Randy is sick and it may be serious, let's show Jake's reaction, their son's reaction, their daughter's, a neighbor's, another neighbor's, etc. The repetitiveness was not limited to that, though; there is a guy who is in love with Randy but who will never do anything about it because he's so noble and knows she loves Jake, exactly like in the first book. *facepalm* I could go on, but then I would just be ranting.

My other biggest complaints are the moral plot holes. The male characters make a big deal over trying to be less violent and not kill people, yet at the end they basically just shrug off shooting an unarmed man in the back and promise each other not to tell the women! He may have deserved to be shot, but still, it was painful.

For the redeeming factors, there was Jeff (mentioned above), and Randy. Her storyline was the only one that kept me reading; I had to know how sick she was, but that curiosity was mostly leftover from enjoying her story in the first book.

Overall, this book was pretty bad. It tried copying Outlaw Hearts too much rather than trying new things, the characters quickly dulled as they repeated the same conversations over and over again and even though it was not an unusually large book, it felt way too long. My advice would be to read Outlaw Hearts and just skip this disappointing sequel.

Content Ratings: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme).

I rate it 7.10 for several uses of the f-word as well as quite a bit of mild to mid-level swearing.

I give it 7.10 for multiple scenes of varying explicitness.

I rate it 7.10 for rape (not graphically described), murder, violence against children, fights, torture, etc. Little was described with gruesome detail.

                         Lieder Madchen