The Heart of a Hero

 
The Dreammaker by Judith Stacy
(Harlequin, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29086-1
****
It’s 1884 and Kaitlin Jeffers finds herself penniless after a con man takes off with her life savings -- money she was going to use to finance her dream of becoming an actress. Then one day she sees a notice in the newspaper that the con man has died, and a local sheriff is holding on to his belongings until someone comes to claim them. Using her acting talents, Kaitlin is determined to get back her money and her dream.

Turns out that the con man was busy, and when she gets to the sheriff’s office, Tripp Callihan is already there. He, too, has been swindled by the con man, and he’s come to claim what’s rightfully his. Kaitlin just can’t walk away and after a heated debate, the two decide to split the belongings 50/50.

They are now the proud owners of a run-down general store in Porter, Nevada. Kaitlin only recovered a fraction of her lost savings and is determined to live out her dream. After convincing Tripp, the two enter into a business partnership. The agreement is to fix up the store, open for business, make a nice profit, and then sell it to the highest bidder.

Of course, nothing goes according to plan, starting with the arrival of Tripp’s six-year-old son, Charlie. Normally, I find no charm in the use of children in historical romances, but I really liked Charlie. He’s a normal six-year-old, who looks forward to starting school, wants to help his father and likes cookies. Charlie adds a depth and emotional element to Tripp that enhances his romantic hero status. And thankfully, Charlie is not used to bring the two leads together.

There’s also a slew of secondary characters that gives The Dreammaker a nice small town feel. These characters strike a nice balance in the story. The main focus is always Kaitlin and Tripp, but there’s also Rafe and Julia, neighbors with marital troubles. Stacy also throws in an ambitious mayor’s wife, a schoolteacher, a preacher and a nosy gossip. They all add a wonderful dimension to the story that enhances the small town atmosphere of the book.

This historical romance does not break any new ground, but is a light and amusing read. Kaitlin and Tripp are opposites that develop a great chemistry right from the start. A cozy read, sure to please those looking for a romance with a small town, western atmosphere.

--Wendy Crutcher


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