Texas Destiny - Lorraine Heath My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

This is my first Lorraine Heath book. Though there were times, in the narrative, I thought things are going a bit slow for my choice but the long and short of it, I was very very moved by this book. There were a few unexpected twists and turns did bug me, for which I couldn’t bring myself to give it a 4+ star. But, I can say this; I loved the way Ms. Heath tells a story, the narratives and the characters, their interactions and the overall history of the terror and aftermath of American civil war. I’m not a ‘history fanatic’ in that sense and I can’t quite say I ‘enjoy’ reading about wars, since ANY war IMO, only brings unimaginable amount of loss and distraction for the humanity, there’s no way I’ll ever condone/enjoy reading one. But, what was done was done; it’s a part of the history. And history is something we have to know for our own survival.

Houston and his older brother Dallas were soldiers in the civil war. They were very young, just entering their puberty but their father, who was a rather harsh and crude man thought that’s old enough to join the war. So they did and they came back alive ... hardly. At least that’s true for Houston. He was scarred so badly on the face and body; almost lost a side of his face, an eye and hearing, that I felt tears in my eyes reading about it over and over again in the story. He likes to keep to himself but he helps Dallas building his own empire and take care of the youngest one, Austin. Houston loves horses. He feels at ease with horses. I understood why, life can’t be easy for a man who lost so much in a war, at such a young age. So, about 11 yrs after the war, things are starting to change. In this faraway part of Texas, where it seems like no one will ever venture out, Dallas has made lands, money and a place for himself. Houston lives there too, albeit apart, in his own cabin. The nearest station is about 3 weeks away on a wagon. It’s a lonely existence, with all men and horses. There is a brothel nearby, in a seedy place but that hardly counts as anything. So, Dallas thought for a ‘mail-order’ bride for himself to extend his own family. He’s been courting, through mails, a woman named Amelia. After a year of correspondence, Amelia said yes and now, she’s coming to this remote area to marry. Dallas spent the last year working on a big house for his bride and doing almost everything to ensure her comfort and happiness.

Just before the day of her arrival, Dallas breaks his leg while breaking a horse. So, he sends Houston thinking he’ll keep to himself and won’t take advantage of his intended bride. Houston was waiting for Amelia on the station when the story starts. I liked him on the spot; he’s a gruff, reserved man and I knew why. He didn’t like to be in this crowded place and was cursing Dallas for sending him. And, then Amelia appears. I loved this scene, where Amelia first sees Houston and thinking this is Dallas tries to touch his wounds, feeling for him. It was such a prominent scene in the story. The way she saw Houston from the beginning, it looked like they belong to each-other. And, their journey from Fort Worth to Dallas’s land was one hell of a journey. They weathered so many obstacles while enjoying a few things too, including each-others company, which only made them come closer and in the process, fall in love. I loved it all. The better part of the story was about their journey, which took 43 days instead of 3 weeks. The narration of the little things amongst all the big incidents they had to survive, made that journey a great read for me.

They survived a snake bite to Amelia, a hurricane, a wagon accident which left them almost without any supply. Houston wasn’t very talkative in the beginning but Amelia made him talk more about himself and the life around him. I liked the fact that these two did understand each-other like no one else. We’ve also learned about Amelia’s own nightmarish life in the war and how she survived rape and being killed, whereas her father and older sisters didn’t. Even her mother didn’t survive as a whole. The nightmares she has because of that, how she lived her life as a maid in her own house, which was taken over by a Yankee. Houston understood. He talked about his own childhood, which was FAR from happy. His father was a horrible man, unable to love anyone or anything. Houston was always cuffed and slapped by him as the man preferred Dallas, calling Houston ‘unmanly’ for his sensitive nature. Houston loved his mother; I think all the boys did, only Austin was too young to understand what was happening. I was in tears again, learning about Houston’s own nightmares, his life in the war and how they found their mother dead when they returned home. It was so agonizing to read those, reminded me again how life can be unfair to people who deserve nothing of the sort.

Yes, I loved seeing these two depending on each-other so much. I should’ve been pissed because Amelia was betrothed to Dallas but I knew Houston needed her more than Dallas. And Dallas, outwardly, did come off as rather cold because his only thought was a son, who’d take care of his ‘empire’. Reading about Houston’s own desires, things he had to suppress because of his disfigurement and a few misconceptions (which were sorted out later on) about himself. I couldn’t help crying, knowing about his bleak existence, always thinking he’s not good enough for Amelia; that he thought he’s a coward trying to run away in the war which resulted in his own injury and his father’s death. No, I didn’t think his father’s death was his fault, but Houston saw it this way nonetheless. I felt so much for him, when he’d look at Amelia and yearn for her, knowing she’ll never be his. And then, when they came closer, with a neat friendship and a breeze of love whispering around them, I really wanted them to succumb. But, Houston kept his word; despite their kisses, knowing Amelia wants him too, he never took it further. He kept Amelia safe throughout the journey, slept with her in his arms but nothing occurred. I was amazed that he, a man, who knew nothing about soft touch of a woman (except for an occasional whore, whom he had to pay double for her services, even then he’d never enjoyed that), won’t just fight for this woman who actually returns his feelings. But, I thought it was praiseworthy that he kept his word…

Amelia came off as an almost saintly figure. She endured all those troubles without a word of complaint. After the wagon accident, which actually left them almost without anything, I was wondering how they survived for another 2/3 weeks. There were times though, her questions and inquiries to Houston about things seemed kinda weird to me (I don’t know how else to put it). They came off as ‘not very smart’ IMO. I think it was just me but can’t explain why I felt that way. Anyway, it was Amelia who told Houston that he should make his dream of horse breeding real by capturing a few wild Palominos. Houston was reluctant, again, because of his misconceptions about himself. I would’ve wished that he was stronger to take a stance for himself but I sympathized with him knowing the situation he was in. With Amelia’s insistent, he finally gave into the temptation and delayed their journey to capture those horses.

When they were finally reached Dallas’s place, Dallas was a bit pissed because of their delay. We met Austin and I instantly liked this sensitive 16 yrs old boy, who loves to play violin but hides it, thinking his older brother won’t approve. And, this is where, also the story took unexpected turns which left me a bit ... I don’t know, unhappy. Amelia kept on reaching for Houston, telling him she wants him and Houston kept pushing her away, thinking it’s best for her. I understood why he might thinks this way but I would’ve loved to see him conquering his fears for love; at the least, give this a try with her. But, when he let Amelia marry Dallas, I was agape. Why? Then again, Dallas knew that there was something going on between his brother and Amelia, hell, they even fought over it! I think he should’ve done the right thing by making Houston see reasons and marry Amelia, instead of he himself marrying her. But of course, that blockhead was thinking of his future son and also, convinced himself that Houston only feels lust and not love! Before the wedding night, Amelia talks to Houston and again, asks him things I thought she shouldn’t have. I mean woman, you're married his brother! Also, before marriage, her questions like “Will Dallas love me?” to Houston seemed too odd to me.

Yet, I couldn’t blame Amelia about this mess, really. I understood her obligations to Dallas but it was Houston who didn’t reassure her about the state of their relationship. I didn’t think she could do anything else; she didn’t even have a place to return to since she left Georgia to make a life here, in this godforsaken land. Still, after their talks I couldn’t believe she said ‘take care’ to Austin and Houston when they were going to the whorehouse, something she knew and man, it seemed so awkward! I was scared that Houston would finally do the ‘deed’ but thankfully, Amelia was too precious for him. I was relieved beyond words because the book was already becoming awkward for me.

But before the marriage was consummated, Amelia was abducted by horse thieves. Dallas and Houston went out to save her. Houston was injured badly while doing something brave and equally stupid, for Amelia and to prove himself. Before jumping off the horse, thinking he’d die anyway, he finally voiced the words Amelia always wanted to hear. Then, Amelia took care of him day and night. Dallas was patient. I felt it was such an odd situation for all of them. Anyway, Houston regained consciousness and this time, I was so sure he’d would do something about his feelings. But, NO! It took Austin to reason with him; the younger brother, whom they still think as a baby, saw things in a way one can only deem as wiser (despite him saying “I’m not learned in these matters”) than the other two blockheads! I instantly admired Austin and wanted to give him a hug. There were other smaller things about him throughout the book I loved reading but this was priceless. Then Houston goes to the house and barges into the bedroom... Yes, the bedroom while Dallas and Amelia were about to... *resigned sigh*

The misconceptions/misunderstanding Dallas and Houston had between themselves were solved later, when they had a talk brother to brother. But, I thought Houston’s words to Amelia as his wedding vow were really beautiful:

“I’m not a brave man; I’ll never be a hero, but I love you more than life itself, and I will until the day I die. With you by my side, I’m a better man than I’ve ever been alone. I’m scared to death that I’ll let you down, but I won’t run this time. I’ll stand firm and face the challenge and work hard to see that you never have any regrets. You told me once that you wanted to share a corner of my dream. Without you, Amelia, I have no dream. With you, I have everything I could ever dream of wanting.”

Tears burned her eyes as he glanced back at the preacher. “I’m done.”

Ok, I think I’ve touched on the matters that seemed odd/awkward/unnecessary to me. I would’ve loved it far better if Dallas and Amelia didn’t get married in the first place and didn’t seem so cozy with each-other, certainly not after everything I’ve read about Amelia and Houston. Even then, I honestly enjoyed Lorraine Heath’s writing style along with the history, the characters and the basis of the story so it’s 4 stars for me. I very much look forward for the next two installments of the book.