Hannah's Heart Jill Henry
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6119-6
Colton Kincaid, retired bounty hunter with a mysterious past rides, into town with his small, two-year-old son Zac. As he approaches the hotel he is met by Hannah, who graciously introduces him to Rose, the manager. In the course of his conversation with Rose, Colton learns that Hannah was the wife of Charles Sawyer, the man he had come to join in a partnership to run a horse ranch. Charles had recently been killed in a terrible accident.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Charles' evil brother Glenn is making a move on Hannah. He has wanted her and the ranch forever, and has apparently talked the bank into recalling her loan because she is now a single woman. Hannah turns him down flat, determined that she will not be a man's indentured servant again.

Colton shows up to see Hannah just in time to help Glenn make his exit. Luckily he is there as a mysterious fire starts in her horse barn, and is able to help her at least save the horses. Since Hannah was already teetering financially, this is a severe blow…but she is willing to suffer the ultimate loss of the farm rather than to save it at the price of another brutal marriage.

Colton's first wife was killed by avenging relatives of someone apprehended by him, and he is mindful of Zac's need for a mother. Thus the idea of a marriage of convenience is an obvious solution to his problems and Hannah's. She will have none of it, although he has the money necessary for the ranch and a small son she adores. She has the ranch and substantial charm. Thus issue is joined as they square off, each bringing to a relationship their pasts filled with guilt and fears.

Henry has done a very nice job of creating her principal characters. Instead of springing them fully-fashioned into the fray, she has layered their personalities and the reader watches as the characters mature. The plot line is very old and predictable, but since the reader is so involved with the characters, this does not become a serious drawback.

Adding a sweet touch to the burgeoning romance is the presence of Zac, a charmer who seems quite precocious. Although there is violence in the acts of savagery committed in this novel, at the end, one is still left with a feeling of gentleness that could have only been achieved by the relationship of Hannah and Colton. Low points for plot originality and high points for likeable characters make this book a very acceptable read.

--Thea Davis

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