The Texan's Touch

To Kiss a Texan

To Wed in Texas

Two Texas Hearts

Twilight in Texas

The Texan's Dream by Jodi Thomas
(Jove, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13176-8
I have loved many of Jodi Thomas' books but there is always a fear that the next one will not be as good as the last one. The Texan's Dream, part of the McLain family saga, did not disappoint me.

Warring Indians kidnapped Jonathan Catlin when he was only five, and he watched most of his beloved family die. Then when he was 14, his Indian family, whom he had come to love and respect, was attacked and killed and he was returned to the white man's life. Jonathan has roamed for years, never settling down for any length of time so that he can avoid attachments and commitments.

Jonathan is now in his twenties and his grandmother, whom Jonathan has lived with at times, has left him her ranch in Texas. In order to have free title to it, he must operate it for one year in the black. His plan is to fulfill the year, sell the ranch and leave.

But he doesn't count on meeting and falling in love with Kara O'Riley. Kara was sent west by her father in order to protect her from thugs during the union/labor conflicts in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. Her father sends her as far west as her money will take her and orders her to stay for one year, telling her he will let her know when it is safe to return. Little does Kara know what adventures lie ahead when she hires on as Jonathan's bookkeeper, a job that is supposed to last about a year.

Jonathan and Kara are engaging, genuine people who have lived through adversity, but still see the good in life. Although neither wants to admit it, they both have emotional scars that must heal so love can be found. Meanwhile, they become friends. They are attracted to each other, but their love develops slowly, and intensifies as their respect for each other deepens.

For those who have read previous Thomas stories, many of the old characters make appearances and enrich this tale. The most endearing are the "old guard", ex-Texas Rangers and lawmen who have retired on the Catlin spread. It is with their love and respect that Jonathan learns the meaning of family, which then allows him to open his heart to Kara.

As Jonathan, Kara and friends face cattle rustlers, an Irishman from her past and an Indian brother from his, they learn about themselves and each other while their love blossoms like the wildflowers in the Texas canyons.

The sub-plots, particularly that involving the Indian brother, are realistically interwoven into the story. They enrich the story and development of Kara and Jonathan's lives, an example of Thomas' great style of writing. For example, Jonathan must confront his past when he meets his "brother" Quil in a duel. Kara stands beside him and supports Jonathan as he faces his fears and guilt feelings, strengthening their relationship.

Jodi Thomas brings to life the ordeals, challenges, daily activities and rewards that confront Texans in the late 1870's. Jonathan, Kara and the others work hard but still find time to take a walk, enjoy a little music or just sit and talk with a friend. Yet when one person is in danger, all band together to offer help and advice. Their camaraderie and genuine caring for each other leaps from the pages.

Once again, Jodi Thomas provides us with a keeper. Make room on your bookshelf for The Texan's Dream.

--Shirley Lyons

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