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Two Texas Hearts

The Texan's Touch by Jodi Thomas
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-515-12299-8
Jodi Thomas has made post-Civil War Texas her own, and The Texan's Touch is an enjoyable romance with something of a twist. The hero, Adam McLain, is not a rancher or a cowboy or a ranger. Rather he is a doctor, who has come to Texas to start anew after the horrors he experienced serving as a surgeon for the Union army. The heroine, Nichole Hayward is equally unusual. She is a woman who has lived for years disguised as a man and who has been a member of a legendary group of southern spies and raiders, the Shadows.

Adam and Nichole meet in the spring of 1865; the doctor is kidnapped from his tent in a Union encampment by members of the Shadows and taken to treat a wounded comrade, Nick. Adam soon discovers that Nick is Nichole, something no one else in the group except her brother knows. He treats her wounds, saves her life, and, exhausted, falls asleep cradling her in his arms. He knows that he is a dead man; the raiders cannot let anyone who has seen their faces live. But in Nichole's arms, Adam finds a contentment he has not known in years.

When morning comes, Nichole finds that she cannot kill the man who has saved her and with whom she spent a night filled with rare peace and warmth. And so she gives Adam a chance to escape, knowing that she will probably never see him again.

The war ends shortly thereafter, and Adam and his brother Wes head home to Indiana. Their parents have died during the war and the family farm is now in the hands of their younger brother, Daniel, who farms on weekdays and follows his calling as a preacher on Sundays. Daniel's wife and childhood sweetheart, May, is expecting their first child.

Wes has merely come home for a visit. Like so many other ex-soldiers, he feels unable to take up his old life. He plans to light out for Texas and make his fortune selling cattle. Adam plans to marry his long time fiancée, Bergette, and set up a medical practice in his hometown.

But Bergette is not the sweet woman Adam remembers. Her father has made a fortune during the war and she has become primarily concerned with status and fashion. When Nick and her brother show up at Bergette's dinner party, well, all sorts of problems emerge.

Thomas surrounds the romance of Adam and Nick with a fine cast of secondary characters and an exciting storyline featuring stage robberies, cattle rustling, and a threatened lynching. Nick is anything but a passive heroine, but rather is brave and resourceful in the face of danger. Adam knows he loves Nick beyond imagining, but wonders if she can live the settled life he so desires.

Thomas offers the reader an exciting story; she also provides a delightful romance. The Texan's Touch is a book I can recommend without reservation to all those who enjoy a well told western romance, and especially one about Texas. I shall look forward to Wes' and Daniel's stories.

--Jean Mason

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