My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I had to read Wild Burn by Edie Harris after finishing the extraordinary The Corrupt Comte. Wild Burn was a sweet, easy western read, lacking the darker aspects of The Corrupt Comte. I enjoyed Wild Burn, though it wasn’t as gripping as the other book. The H Delaney or Del and h, Moira were a fine couple and I loved reading about them finding and falling in love.
The story takes place in a small town somewhere in the Colorado Territory, Red Creek. Moira is a former nun who has been living here for some months now, working as a school teacher. She’s also working with a local Red Indian named John White Horse to bring the surrounding Indian tribes into the society. One tribe particularly at any case, John’s uncle’s. Moira thinks this is for the best, as does John. Moira has a secret of her own that led her to shed her nun’s gown and live in this wild town. She doesn’t like to think of her past, living day to day, working hard... Even though she thinks this is her new life, Moira can’t help but feel the emptiness from time to time. And then Delaney Crawford happens in her life with quite the big splash. It turns out, the ‘dog man’ hunter and a former soldier, Delaney is called upon by Sheriff Nelson to check out a bad group of Indians who have been terrorizing the town for sometimes now. Moira certainly doesn’t think this is a good idea, no matter how handsome the man is or how much he turns her on... definitely not because he bloody shot at her on their awkward intro!
But shooting Moira wasn’t Del’s intention, let alone harming her. Del is summoned here for what he does the best, or has been doing for some years now; hunting down couple of rogue Indians. Del doesn’t like it but life hasn’t given him many choices. He is from Georgia, born and bred as a gentleman and that inherent ‘gentleman’ still tries to break free and tell him that his life shouldn’t have been this way. But Del’s own dark secret laden with heavy guilt won’t let him be. He lost his mother a long time ago; then, lost his father and their big plantation to war too. At that point, as a soldier, he mucked things up that led to the deaths of hundreds of men under his charge. When he left his ‘job’ because he couldn’t make the sense of the ravages of war, he was called a ‘deserter’. He still is called as such (people know about him as it seems he’s quite infamous), and to Del, this ‘life’ is the best choice for him. Del has tried his best to earn a place with the government through his ‘new’ position, working to eliminate the more vicious, attacking Indians. Del thinks this is one way of atoning... or maybe just a way to stay numb and be distracted from those nightmares of his past, the screams of the soldiers who died while he watched helpless, unable to do anything. When he took up on this mission, Del certainly didn’t think he’d meet this beautiful Irish woman who’d change his life and its directions once and for all.
So Del and Moira met as he shot at her... but what Del thought he was trying was to save her from an Indian. It was because John was following Moira on her regular morning walk through the woods nearest their cabins obviously for safety purposes. Del, weary and deprived of food or sleep, makes a mistake. Even though Moira is not badly injured, John is because Del’s shot hardly ever misses it’s mark; one of the reasons why he’s always called to do the hunting. Moira was almost sure she’ll complain to the Sheriff and have an arrest warrant out for Del when John, through the pain of his injury, explains to her that it was Sheriff who called for Del’s help. Moira is extremely unhappy, more so seeing John’s injury because she considers him a very good friend. But no matter, she can’t keep her eyes drifting towards this handsome stranger who is badly in need of a bath, food and most importantly, sleep.
As I read along, I got to see Moira’s daily routine, a part of which is occupied with her teaching job. She’s determined to bring the Indian’s into the society. And she most definitely wants peace. But her past still comes back to haunt her day or night, on occasions when she thought she’s grown out of it, those suddenly appear before her eyes. Moira wants to move on but it seems there’s no escape. Her feelings for Del were certainly disrupting her daily routine, not knowing how to contain or tell him without confiding him about his past. For Del, all I can say is that he fell for Moira on spot. He tried to reason, to add and subtract from those, argue exactly why he should or shouldn’t, though nothing mattered where Moira was concerned because his soul was somehow felt attracted to this woman. At first, Del thought Moira a prostitute because of her bold stance and stares... or at least some kind of fallen woman. He even thought he can have a short affair with her while he’s here because it’s been way too long he has had sex. Then, when he learns of her identity he knew there was no way he could just seduce her and then leave.
Their introduction was rather less than nice, Moira and Del couldn’t help giving into that attraction. OMG, but it was there… hovering, every time he saw her or she him. The sexual tension was superb; thick and electric as Del couldn’t help but showing her how much he wants, at first through his intense stares, then his consuming kisses. Moira had no chance but to fall. She was scared as hell because at one point, she knew that she wanted him more than anything because Del brings that ray of light, feeling of true happiness into her world like nothing has ever done before. She had an inclination that there’s no future for them, more so when he learns of her past, the rape and the story of how she had to leave the church.
No, Del still didn’t know that Moira was a nun. When she finally blurts it own in the middle of a sexy string of kisses, Del is speechless. Sh!t (was Del’s reaction)! He’s been taught that he’s not supposed to have any kind of lusty feelings for a nun, even if ex-nun! This put a little distance between them because Del didn’t know how to come to terms with this piece of information. But that didn’t mean he wanted her any less. Moreover, trouble was brewing. Del’s possessiveness or protectiveness, whatever you call it, regarding Moira was just plain visible. He couldn’t help it. He’d save her from anything, even from the rich guy who hired him. This man, Matthews, who thought he ‘owns’ the town was, about to harass Moira because she dared to bring the ‘savages’ in; three little Indian children, finally sent by their parents. What Moira thought was a step towards improvement turns out to be a big trouble for her... which is when Del steps in and puts himself in front of her to protect her reputation from Matthews’s nasty insinuations.
At first, not finding enough clues, Del decides to leave town without telling Moira. He thought this will minimize the complicacies of their feelings. But this hurts Moira quite a bit when she learns of it. One day, opportunities arise and Del’s investigation pays off. With John’s help, he begins his search of those Indians.
In midst of all these, a letter comes for Moira from the Mother Superior. This letter was the confirming that the man who raped her has been detained. She needs to travel there and give her statement again so that they can convict the man who’d surely hang for his offense. But Mother Superior’s letter was full of the crap about why Moira should forgive the man etc. etc. bla bla (sorry I was kinda mad at that just as Moira was). Moira wouldn’t go with the Sheriff because Nelson knows about her past. He is a relative to the Mother Superior, yet never did hide his dislike for her when he’d find any occasion to show. It felt like he blamed Moira for her ordeal. What a jerk! For now, Moira has only other option; to open up to Del about her secret and ask for his help in getting to her destination.
Later that night, Moira tells Del everything, hoping, praying that he’d leave her to her fate.
Del, oh, I knew he’d listen to her without any qualms whatsoever. He not only listens to her, but also promises to accompany her. Del is angry because now Moira’s well-being is now his concern. And if he can, he’d kill the man who hurt her, even if he isn’t hanged for his crime. After that, every time they made love, Del showed her how it should be between a man and a woman, and not what she experienced on that awful night. The fact of the matter is Del was such a sweetheart throughout that you can’t help but fall for him. His connection with Moira was instant; there was no denying his feelings for her, or her for his for that matter. The way he’d call Moira ‘honey’... *sigh*
Just loved the last couple of chapters that includes their journey to Denver where Moira gives her statement again, with Del hovering nearby, followed by a feeling of jealousy when a certain U.S. Marshall showed a little too much interest in his Moira’s well-being... priceless! Those chapters also made me grin like a madwoman, especially that scene on the road as they were coming back to Red Creek. *swoons* Of course, I had some idea about who was the troublemaker and exactly why he was doing it. The ending was pretty gripping. It all pays off when we finally find a certain Sheriff Crawford is assigned to preserve the safety of Red Creek. *heehee*
Right now, I’m not only quite eager for Wild Fire (more Del and Moira? Yesss!) but also, very interested to know more about U.S. Marshall Alonzo Hood. At first I thought he’d be a jerk but he’s far from that. Hmmm, will we see his book? I sure hope so! Meanwhile, 4 stars for Wild Burn.