The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers
Original Publication 1974
Sourcebooks Reissued October 2009 , $7.99
Review Copy from Sourcebooks
New York Times bestseller with over 3 million sold - the #1 bestselling book from mega-bestselling author.
The Burton Review Rating:
"Heroine Rowena Dangerfield is sensual, headstrong, and scandalously independent, the granddaughter of the governor of an Indian province under the British empire. After his death, she travels to England and then to New Mexico, where she arrives in grand style to lay claim to her inheritance.
There she discovers an affinity with the wild and untamed frontier and meets Lucas Cord, a devastatingly handsome half-Apache renegade, whose reputation as a feared outlaw both attracts and repels her. When he encounters the beautiful stranger, unlike any woman he's ever met before, he knows instantly that he'll have to win her for his own, and not even the treachery of desperate enemies is going to stop him."
This book is an epic style saga that sweeps you into the plights of Rowena Dangerfield and her many suitors. Rowena was born to wealth, yet had a miserable childhood, and life doesn't get much easier for her. We follow Rowena from India, to England and across the pond to accept the challenge an absent father bequeathed her in New Mexico. She is kidnapped, raped, kept hostage, and still manages to keep her wits about her. Or she attempts to show that she is unbreakable, but as a reader we wonder just how much more she can take.
There are so many backstories here behind her upbringing, her family, her stepfather, and all the way to the mysteries of the people her deceased father dealt with. To go into all of the events would spoil your delightful surprise of this book, but rest assured you will not be bored. As Rowena tries to sort out her father's wishes for her, the reader is swept up in the wild west drama of New Mexico with Apache indians and renegade cowboys. And then there are always the men in Rowena's life, as there are several, and although we shake our heads at Rowena's ill-fated decisions we still crave more of the story. At 748 pages, you need to be prepared to engross yourself in this story, but it is definitely a fast moving plot with many events going on. Some may seem contrived and forced into the plot, but the overall drama of Rowena's many struggles holds our attention.
She agrees to marry a man who holds the other half of the profitable ranch that her father bequeathed her, but this is swiftly averted when Rowena is kidnapped by Indians and she agrees to marry one of the same Indian brothers that is hated by her previous fiancee. This marriage is also averted because she falls in love with Lucas, the outlaw Indian brother that she had once hated on sight when she had found him lurking in her bedroom. Confused yet? Oh yes it is tricky keeping up with all the names and some of the twisted relationships we encounter, but this is truly the epitome of a Wild West Romance Saga and there must be plenty of romantic opportunities and many characters to develop some interesting storylines around. That is achieved here, as I found myself wishing Rowena would listen to logic and fall for the good guy for once. Rowena is not exactly a character you would feel empathy for, she seems to never know when to control her troublesome mouth, and even as she narrates in first person you get a little tired of her uppity attitude despite all the hardships she has endured.
I enjoyed the characters as they each held their own for their specific purpose in the book. The good guys turned bad, the bad guys were really good (in some ways)...The good guys against the bad guys, the have's against the have-not's. Rowena herself does some eye-rolling things which would really make me stop being her friend if I were one in the first place, but the overall story was a lot of western action fun. I didn't like the way that from whatever clothes she decided to wear she was magically transformed. Dowdy clothes, everyone else saw dowdy and a frumpy muffin and sent her distasteful glances. Put her in a dress and the entire town knows who she is, a rich heiress. The heavy amount of foreshadowing gets aggravating after the fourth or fifth time. You understand there is a twist coming, and coming, and coming.. still working on it.. Aside from the cumbersome first person narrative and the fact it was subtly written in a memoir fashion, I couldn't help imagining this as a good mini-series on the Lifetime network. (Catherine Zeta Jones would work well if any film makers are listening.)
With the multitude of events going on here (which there is no way I could attempt to elaborate on without this post being unending), I understand why this novel was 748 pages. But even as I wished it wasn't 748 pages, I can't think of a part to take out. So if you are ready to sit and read for a spell and get yourself caught up in a historical romance with all the tributes of a western, this is a great choice for you. The story stayed with me when I was not reading it, and the last half of the brick of a book seemed to move faster than the first half. If there was a sequel I would be interested in continuing the saga. As it is, I'll still be on the lookout for some of her other titles. Be prepared to be consumed by some gun-slinging, hijacking fun with some captivating fire and rain romance thrown in! (You'll see!!)
There are some wonderful ratings for this one on Amazon!
Purchasing through this link adds 4% revenue to The Burton Review! Go ahead and do it, it was an entertaining book to keep you busy for more than a weekend!