My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing
Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.
Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the little girl entrusted to her care after her mother’s death. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.
When the teacher he’s after produces documentation that shows she’s the little girl’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is Miss Atherton villain or victim? She acts more like a loving mother than an abductress, and the children in her care clearly adore her. Should Stone break his perfect record?
Then a new danger threatens, and Charlotte is forced to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone becomes determined to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.
Boy, does Karen Witemeyer know how to write her heroes! I loved the strength, honor, humor, and hint of vulnerability that made Stone a man that Charlotte could finally count on. He has a soft spot for kids and the truth of the situation along with Lily's safety quickly becomes more important than his tracking record. The story is one of adventure, with some twists and plenty of action. What endeared this story to me though are the small details that subtly deepen the reader's understanding of each character and make them unique. Charlotte playing passionately on the piano to express her anxiety. Lily's obsession with dime novels of frontier heroes. The way that touch affects Stone at a deep level.
The relationship between Stone and Charlotte builds steadily as they learn to trust each other and overcome their own hesitations. Their romantic moments are heightened by the emotion of the desperate circumstances, but prove to be based on a love that each is yearning for. There are also two other couples that have roles in the mission to protect Lily who totally need novellas written about them (hint, hint Karen...)
(Thank you to the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)