Friday, May 17, 2013

Kaki Warner -- Open Country

Kaki Warner -- Open Country

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ . ♥   {4.85}
Action: ♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣♣ / Romance: ♥♥♥♥.♥ / Sensuous: ♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠.♠
Action: 3.0 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 4.5 / Sensuous: 1.0 / Suspense: 3.5  //  Historical Flavor: 2.5 // Laughter: 16 / Grins: 3 // Tears: 6 / Teary: 7

  2011: RITA Finalist for Historical Romance
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Setting:     Savannah, Georgia
                  Jeanerette, Georgia
                  El Paso, Texas
                  New Mexico Territory (The Wilkins Ranch (aka: RosaRoja Rancho))
Era:           1871 - 1872
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All you have to do is read Open Country, the second book in The Blood Rose Trilogy, to know that Kaki Warner is one truly gifted author.   Open Country is an insightfully-written book, full of characters that reach deep into the heart of readers, grasping their attention with both hands and not losing one drop of interest, even after reading the very last sentence of the book.   Surely Warner studied psychology to create characters so vibrant, so realistic, and so dynamic that they resonate within a reader's soul.

You could not help but be fascinated by Patrick Henry "Hank" Wilkins when this 'bigger than life' hero was introduced in the first book of the trilogy (Pieces of Sky).   There is just something about a raw, rugged, silent, thinking man that appeals to a woman.   (Even though she wants to throw her hands up in frustration because he will not talk to her.)   Hank had already won the hearts of readers and the women of New Mexico with his amazing Wilkins' smile and his thoughtful, assessing gaze and he is sure to have even more hearts dropping at his feet after they finish reading his own emotionally moving story.   Hank may be the strong, silent type, but there is a fierce, vulnerable heart beneath all that hair and muscle and that beautiful face.

The heroine, Molly McFarlane, however, stole the show.   Molly has to be one of the most strong-willed, independent, self-reliant heroines to ever grace the pages of a book.   And, yet, she is also extremely vulnerable.   Molly is a perfect example of Warner's ability to create a character with so many layers that one is sure they will never reach the core of her personality.   But it is all those well-developed layers that creates that invisible, unbreakable thread of connection between Molly and the reader -- especially if said reader suffers from abandonment issues.

Another skill that Warner presents during the telling of her stories is her ability to move the story along at a strong, steady pace as she creates an original sequence of events that moves her main characters into place so that they can meet one another -- and end up having to spend time together, so they can slowly develop a deep, abiding love for the other.   When Molly arrives in Savannah, Georgia, at the home of Daniel Fletcher, to see to her dying sister she is shocked to see the neglect her brother-in-law has heaped upon Nellie.   Nellie, however, begs Molly to leave her to die alone -- to promise to take her children out of the reach of their mean, dangerous stepfather.   And Nellie leaves Molly totally confused because not only is Fletcher a worthless husband and stepfather, but he is involved in something shady.   Thus, Molly takes eight-year-old Charlie and six-year-old Penny and heads west towards California.   (In a nit-picky little aside, what is their last name?)

The underlying suspenseful aspect of the story is further enhanced as it becomes obvious that Daniel is involved with some very unsavory characters as he is called to task by Edward Rustin in Jeanerette, Georgia.   Warner wields a much-used tool to paint a ghastly picture of Rustin, the leader of known Confederate sympathizers, by portraying him as dark and ugly as his surroundings and appearance.   Daniel hates standing before a decaying man sitting in a wheeled chair, who does not bother to light a lamp because he cannot see.   Daniel is sweating in fear because he has been unable to locate a book that he is sure one of the children took.   The plot thickens as not only is Daniel told to go after Molly, Charlie and Penny, but Rustin sends another after them as well.

Since this book is a character-driven romance, there is no need to keep the suspense at a nail-biting level, but Warner keeps it alive by offering insights into the fears that have been plaguing Charlie and Penny since their mother married the worthless Daniel Fletcher.   On the train traveling through Texas, Charlie tells Aunt Molly that he has seen the monster that got his mother and grandfather twice during their westward flight.   Molly cannot help but wonder if the bear of a man sitting at the front of the car, who keeps looking at her, is one of the men tracking her.

The second sequence of events that take place put Molly in that bear's path.   The train Hank and Molly is traveling on derails, killing two and mortally wounding Hank.   The passengers are taken to El Paso and Molly, who has been nursing since she was thirteen, goes to the church to help with the injured.   When she overhears the railroad representative, Mr. Harkness, explaining that the railroad was going to have to give the widows of the dead $300 in compensation, she swallows her guilty feelings for devising a desperate, yet vile plan to get $300 from the railroad when Hank dies.

And, again, here is where Warner just shines when it comes to character development.   In order for all the pieces of the puzzle to be positioned in their proper place, certain characters have to be introduced to move those pieces around the board.   Thus, three very important characters are introduced.   And even though these characters are minor, Warner paints such a credible picture of these people that you have to marvel at her understanding of human nature.

The Reverend Thaddeus Beckworth and his wife, Effie, are waiting at the train station to take the passengers into the church to be tended.   Effie may be kind-hearted, but she is also blessed with a meddling nature -- one who is driven to help out by interfering in others affairs if need be.   But here is what is so phenomenal about Warner's characters, she paints realistic pictures of them in their private settings which makes the story flow like an unobstructed waterway.

You cannot help but smile as Thaddeus, in a typically husbandly fashion, listens to his helpmate of 32 years as she proses on about how he must help Molly get the money from the railroad when her fiancé dies.   Thaddeus, who struggles to avoid conflict is thinking more about his wife's rounded bosom than Molly's dilemma and after years of knowing he must bow to his wife's 'suggestions' accepts that he must marry an unconscious man to his fiancé to continue to live in peace with his wife.

The next hurdle to be leaped is how to keep the newly married couple together.   Molly is appalled at the air of defeat and lack of sympathy that the El Paso physician, Dr. Murray, exhibits when she goes to make sure that her 'fiancé' is indeed dying.   Dr. Murray is a tortured, self-medicating product of the grisly war.   Having spent years amputating limbs and watching soldiers die, he has lost all hope, and, quite possibly, his sanity.   Molly's desire for money suddenly morphs into compassion for the neglected patient lying on the infirmary table.   Molly refuses to let Dr. Murray cut off Hank's arm as she determines instead to save not only Hank's life, but his arm as well.

As Molly worries about what she is going to do for money now that she's determined to save Hank, our big, bold hero from book one explodes into the picture.   Hank's oldest brother, Brady Wilkins, does not believe Molly's story about Hank asking her to marry him before the derailment because Hank has been shy his entire life, and even more reticent towards women since that featherhead, Melanie Kinderly left him high and dry two years ago.   Since Molly demands Brady's help as she spends hours operating on Hank's arm, Brady can see her skill far outweighs that of the crazy Dr. Murray and decides to blackmail Molly into returning to the Wilkins ranch with him to tend her 'husband.'

Click!   Now that all the puzzle pieces have been put together to enable Hank and Molly to spend time together at the ranch, the action and adventure aspect to the story screeches to a halt so that the emotional and romantic aspect of the story can take center stage.

Warner displays her superior talent by using three skills during her storytelling that makes for an excellent read.   The first is her ability to draw readers deep into the story by tying them to the characters with the deeply-felt emotions of laughter and tears.   The second is her most wonderful sense of humor.   These pages are peppered with some of the most humorous scenes and well-written dialogues to ever grace the pages of a book.   The third is her ability to put magic in her words as she creates original, multi-faceted personalities that add an incredibly rich flavor to the story.

By the time Molly reaches the Wilkins ranch, she is extremely conflicted.   Molly has never been a good liar and does not like deceiving this man she has come to admire, but she doesn't know quite how to extract herself from a situation that could give her a chance at the girlhood dream she gave up on a long time ago -- that of having her own husband and children.   Second, Molly finds herself falling for Hank and does not want to suffer a broken heart when she must leave the ranch (as per her deal with Brady) when Hank is well and Jessica has delivered her babies.

Ah, yes, Jessica is pregnant again.   And that is the principal reason Brady forced Molly to come to the ranch.   Brady is a nervous wreck because Jessica lost one baby during her first pregnancy (Pieces of Sky) and their daughter, Abigail, was born breech.   Molly is strong enough to face Brady head on and confront him for his manipulations and when she realizes that Hank is going to hate her because of her deceit, she succumbs to tears.

Absolutely loved that Warner included Brady and Jessica in this second book of the series.   It was so nice to get to see how the relationship with Brady and Jessica continued to grow as they interacted with Hank and Molly and the rest of the members of their extended, boisterous family.   Really enjoyed the scenes between the brothers as they discussed wives, ranching and mining in Brady's office over a glass of whiskey.   They were so fundamentally masculine.

"What's wrong with you?"
Hank quit scratching and looked at him.
"Why are you talking so much?"
"I'm practicing."
"Practicing talking.   I thought you already knew how."
. . .
"So what's going on, Hank?"
. . .   "She wants me to court her."
Brady stared at him for a moment then shook his head.   "Hell."
"I know."   (page 126)

The friendship that developed between Jessica and Molly was just as potently entertaining.   Having spent her teen years following her father from hospital to hospital, Molly had never had a friend and she was pleased to not only be welcomed into the family but to become a 'sister' as well, especially to Jessica, who just by her appearance made her feel inferior.

She felt hopelessly inept in social situations.   She had no flair, no interest in small talk, and no inclination to flirt.   Most Southern women burst from the womb with all the correct phrases and mannerisms etched into their memories.   They knew instinctively how to coo, and bat their eyelashes, and flit through life like dainty butterflies.   And what they weren't born knowing, they were taught by their mothers.   (Molly, page 76)

Warner developed Hank's character beautifully as he evolved from striving to sail his ship alone to feeling a sense of worth at now being responsible for not only a wife, but two children as well.   Warner's skill at painting pictures of her characters with words is definitely obvious as we see Hank through so many different eyes.

"Hank isn't that easy to know, since he shares so little of himself."   (Jessica, page 189)

the man filled a room with his indomitable presence, charging the air with his male energy and creating an aura of safety that drew people like moths to a flame.   (Molly, page 189)

Jessica called him the calm one, the steady one.   But around Molly he found himself slipping into an unfamiliar role.   He felt reckless, illogical, distracted.   He teased, he laughed, he felt more involved and less an observer than he ever had.   Just watching her walk into the room made him smile.   Maybe that's why her betrayal hurt so much.   All his life he'd been "the big one," "the one with the beard," "the second brother."   But when Molly had smiled at him, those almost-green eyes crinkling at the corners and that tiny scar on her top lip curving into a crescent, he felt like the most important man in the room.   (Hank, page 229)

He normally left the worrying and family obligations to Brady.   He was good at it, and Hank wasn't.   Hank had always done his part, but he'd never felt essential to anyone.   Necessary.   (Hank, page 314)

Even though he was deceased, the role that Matthew McFarlane played in Molly's life was powerful.   As the story unfolded, it was obvious that Molly was so determined to be loved and needed by her father that she became a nurse and tended to the dying and wounded in spite of the fact that it so traumatic to her that she always threw up afterwards.   Molly could only see the genius in her father's actions.   Hank, however, was able to see the toll that her father's inattention to his daughter had wrought on her spirit.   Basically, Molly had been as alone as Hank.

Somewhere in her mind she stood on a hilltop and screamed.   (Molly, page 238)

Two other supporting characters that added great enjoyment and entertainment to the story were Charlie and Penny.   The interactions between 'Papa-Hank' and Charlie were especially moving as Hank began to father a boy who had lost so much in so short a time that he was mired in anger and misery.   Hank exhibited the perfect balance of love and correction in his voice as he called Charlie to task for his unacceptable behavior.   But, without question, the best and most wonderful scenes in the book were the morning visits that Penny (and her sticky little fingers) paid to Papa-Hank.   If ever one wanted an example of the best laughter-inducing scenes featuring a child, one has only to turn to Open Country.   These scenes were absolutely, positively priceless.

Three other minor characters were added to the mix to enhance the story even further.   Dougal (the old Scotsman who was Jessica's 'guardian' in book one) had joined the Wilkins family.   He could be found laying around exchanging quips with Brady when he wasn't off chasing the newly widowed Consuelo.   Also, it was nice of Warner to close the book on the relationship that had plagued Hank for two years.   Hank ran into Melanie (Kinderly) in Val Rosa and found that his feelings for this shallow woman were nowhere near as intense as his feeling for Molly.

Feeling like a man who had survived his own hanging, he thought how lucky he was to have avoided binding himself to this woman forever.   (Hank, page 176)

The aura of suspense never left the pages of the book.   As expected, the monster Rustin sent after Molly, Gordon Hennessey, finally caught up with her in the mining town of Redemption.   Warner does not fail to put true horror into her stories as she revealed this villain, who was so depraved that he make your skin crawl just imagining him.   Not only was his burn-scarred skin revolting, but his lack of emotion was literally chilling.

Although the way Hennessey hurt and spoke to Molly was particularly unpleasant, his appearance happened at a most opportune time.   When Hank saw the brutality visited upon Molly by Hennessey, he realized that Molly was still vitally important to him and he must make amends for his own guilt-inducing actions -- the actions Hank took after he had been delivered the devastating blow of learning that Brady and Molly had been lying to him while he had been 'courting' and falling in love.   Many readers may get up in arms about Hank's out of control behavior towards Molly when he learned he'd been played, but his conduct fit the story line and was presently inoffensively.

Warner displays a talent that is totally phenomenal.   In Chapter Seventeen, she had just presented readers with a succession of scenes that couldn't help but inspire a sense of unease, horror and tension.

No, she wasn't all right.   She'd had to amputate a child's leg and then watch him die.   She'd been treated like a whore by her husband.   She'd been terrorized by a murderous deviant who had threatened everyone she cared about and left her so battered she couldn't even feed herself.   Of course she wasn't all right!   (Molly, page 260)

Reader's are on pins and needles because we're right there experiencing everything Molly is going through -- the emotional devastation because of the chasm between Molly and Hank, the physical pain from Hennessey's little visit with Molly in the livery, and Molly's fear of what is going to happen to her loved ones.   But, rather than leave the reader's mired in Molly's abundant misery, she forces out peels of laughter because we're right there experiencing her frustration at the hands of Hank's "helpful" ministrations:

Molly sank onto the edge of the bed, exhausted, in pain, and wondering how she would ever get to sleep with a double knot the size of a billiard ball digging into her stomach and two dozen hairpins poking into her head.   (Molly, page 261)

What pure, unmitigated talent!   Warner has the most amazing ability of taking readers to both ends of the emotional spectrum with lightening bolt speeds.

Warner is also very talented when it comes to building the romance factor between Hank and Molly as they spar using plenty of innuendo in their conversations.   (And one mustn't forget Penny's mention of (and Hank's inability to quit thinking about) bouncing bosoms.)   The attraction between these two lost souls is potent and has readers hoping that they overcome all the obstacles thrown in their path to find happiness together.

Whatever indefinable and invisible connection existed between them, it flared tenfold the moment his mouth touched hers.   Like a shock of energy , it moved through her, tingling along her nerves, vibrating under her skin.   (Molly, page 135)

Heart twisting in her chest, she looked down at him . . . the man she had wronged and had lied to . . . than man who made her heart race simply by being in the same room with her.   She saw laughter in his dark eyes, affection in his smile . . . and guilt almost choked her.   (Molly, page 136)

He needed this woman, he realized.   He needed her to ease the loneliness, to laugh with, to turn to when doubt plagued him.   He needed her the way he needed his next breath.   And he needed her to need him that way too.   (Hank, page 289)

Although it was to be expected (having read Kaki's article in Petticoats & Pistols ("Westerns, Sex & Romance") which reveals her position about explicitly-written sex scenes), the lack of sensuality in this book is still disappointing.   You would think with all the fun innuendo and the desire that passes between Hank and Molly that they would want to share their lovemaking with readers as well.   But, alas, they slammed the door in our faces.

One character that was missing from the story was the youngest Wilkins' brother, Andrew Jackson "Jack" Wilkins.   Like a worrisome tooth, Jack's absence from this story was explained as his being lost since Brady had not heard from him (nor Elena Ramirez) since they headed out to California in Pieces of Sky.

The historical flavor that one expects to find when they pick up a 'Western Romance' is mediocre in Open Country.   Yes, Warner does a great job of describing the countryside and using some old west events, mannerisms and terms, but the actual flavor of the story did not have that exciting "Old West" feel to it that the older Western Romances possess.   The love story that Warner told about Hank and Molly could just as easily have been placed into a 2013 setting and flowed just as smoothly.

Warner created a unique situation in the action-packed closing scene when Molly confronts Hennessey.   At first it seemed Warner was going to do the 'To Stupid To Live' thing with the heroine.   And even though Molly probably should have turned to the Wilkins men, her arguments for not doing so were valid.   But Molly faced Hennessey as a warrior woman with an inspirational game plan.   Very impressed with this rendition of the heroine vanquishing the bad guy.

In closing, Open Country, the second book in Kaki Warner's The Blood Rose Trilogy is another wonderfully entertaining and engaging read.   This beautiful romance includes: {1} Hank, a handsome, aloof, thinking kind of hero who appeals to the softer, romantic side of a woman; {2} Molly, a compassionate, strong-willed, self-reliant, determined heroine who recovers from all the blows thrown her way; {3} plenty of action to open and close the story with a bang; {4} such a rich deeply-felt emotional connection to the characters that you laugh and cry with them; {5} a sweet, yet fun, slowly building romance that develops between two vulnerable protagonists; {6} an aura of suspense pervades the well-told story line; {6} well-described, multi-faceted supporting characters reveal Warner's incredible understanding of human nature and add more interest and intrigue to the story; {7} a visit with the hero and heroine from book one; and {8} Penny, the cutest little girl in New Mexico.   The story is well worth reading in spite of {1} the lack of a strong historical flavor and {2} the lack of sensuality in the story.
--Vonda M. Reid (Wednesday, May 15, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.)     [312 ]

Books In The Series: "The Blood Rose Trilogy"
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.01-2010Pieces of SkyBrady Wilkins, eldest brother, rancherJessica Abigail Rebecca Thornton, Englishwoman
02.06-2010Open CountryPatrick Henry "Hank" Wilkins, middle brother, rancher, oversaw mineMolly McFarlane, Civil War nurse
03.01-2011Chasing The SunAndrew Jackson "Jack" Wilkins, youngest brother, wandererDaisy Etheridge, aspiring opera singer

Characters Found In "Open Country"
Character Description
Patrick Henry "Hank" Wilkins[Hero] looks like bear, great size, hairy; beard (7) work-worn hands; assessing stare; concealing beard (9) dark brown eyes (11) compound fracture of left forearm; dark brows; wide stern mouth; strong nose marred by small lump of scar tissue; dark spiky lashes; tooled leather belt with silver buckle; back to back R's burned into gun holster; right handed (15) early 30s; powerful man; heavy shoulders; muscular arms (16) cool skin over firm muscle; huge biceps (26) numerous scars and callouses on surprisingly elegant hands; broad palms; long blunt-tipped fingers; mostly clean, square-cut nails; strong, hardworking hands; high, broad forehead indicated intelligence; strong limbs proof of years of strenuous labor; abundant white teeth; a fit, clean-living man; sun-darkened skins on arms and face; scar on wrist (27) soft sable brown hair several shades darker than Mollys (28) strikingly handsome; beautiful in a roughly masculine way; sharply defined jaw (30) tiny white lines in corners of his deep-set eyes (31) warm chocolate brown eyes (40) "biggest, meanest, most elusive man in the territory" (41) 33-y-o; 3 years younger than Brady (59) shy; doesn't trust women; grew beard because women chased after him (62) hard headed (63) guarded his emotions; intense concentration (73) the steady one (78) ran mining business; not a talker; reticent (99) markedly precise when numbers were involved; magical touch for fixing things; gentling horses (100) wide shoulders; big feet; stern demeanor (104) didn't lie, manipulate, coddle (105) beautiful, warm, chocolate brown eyes (105) insatiable curiosity about how things work, dismantles anything can get hands on (117) perfectly sculpted torso; starkly delineated slabs across his chest and down his abdomen; "so vibrantly alive he seemed to fill the room with his energy" (138) "He always seemed to be watching, assessing, observing, but gave little indication of what he thought." (142) sharply analytical mind (143) had protective streak, particularly to smaller, weaker (175) "the man filled a room with his indomitable presence, charging the air with his male energy and creating an aura of safety that drew people like moths to a flame" (189) had Daltonism (red-green color blindness) (198) the calm one; the steady one (228) Patrick Henry Wilkins; named for revolutionary orator (287) piney tang of soap he used, old smoke, musky male (318)
Molly McFarlane[Heroine] from Atlanta; nurse (2) years of medical training at her father's side (3) years of being invisible (8) no experience with children (10) sable brown hair (28) sound of South in rolling cadence (32) spent life traveling with father (34) poor liar (35) trained at her father's side since 13-y-o; lost mother when 13; no beaus; no girlish chatter; no party dresses; had no idea how a man's mind worked (47) throws up after surgery (48) small; long legs; trim through waist; lot of shiny sorrel-colored hair that tended more towards brown than chestnut (54) kind eyes; hazel eyes with a green cast; intelligence shimmered in her pale face; pretty face; strong cheekbones; deep-set eyes; determined chin; stern mouth if not for the crescent-shaped scar at the outer right corner top lip, softening the angles of her face; slipped behind mask of cool efficiency (55) smelled of lemons (57) hard headed (63) formidable temper (64) awkward; too serious; at 15, went to surgical wing of Our Lady of Mercy Hospital (77) less than opulent bosom (91) 26-y-o (122) witty; earnest (128) gently rounded bosoms (180) didn't so much as marched, chin high (244) smirky smile; healing touch; forgiving spirit (355) independent; did not ask for help; bold one moment, blushing the next; smarter, more headstrong, more complicated than any woman Hank knew; far too self-reliant (378)
. . . . . .
Adelinename Jessica picked for a girl ; Jessica's mother's name (330)
Paco Alvarez[No Appearance] Brady gave him a choice between hanging himself or enduring slow dismemberment (224)
Dr. Solomon Andrews[Actual Historical Character] [No Appearance] designed steerable airship, Aereon (310)
Effie Beckworth[Brief Appearances] waiting at El Paso train station to aid passengers (12) loved a good, rousing crisis (19) married 32 years; meddling ways; kind and gentle heart; multiple chins; nice-rounded chest (20) no children; energetic attention (23) a smile that would make any God-fearing man sweat (24)
Reverend Thaddeus Beckworth[Brief Appearances] waiting at El Paso train station to aid passengers (12) Thaddeus; wore spectacles; struggled to avoid conflict (19) married 32 years; loved Effie (20)
Agnes Beecham[One Appearance] El Paso; hired to clean Hank; sturdily built; middle aged; nickname: Bunny; beefy hands; beefier hips (67)
Bishop[One Appearance] Wilkins ranch hand; followed Hank, Charlie to jail (333)
Franklin Blake[No Appearance] reputation for shady deals and brutality towards his workers; wanted to buy Wilkins' mine (244)
Buck[No Appearance] Iantha's husband; runaway slave; had been with Wilkins family over 20 years; gifted carpenter until rheumatism crippled his hands; read clouds way a cartographer read maps (125)
Buddy[Animal] dog; pitiful little thing; half-starved stray; lame front foot; attitude every bit as defensive as Charlie's (202) unblinking black eyes (203)
Martha Burnett[Brief Appearances] white oval face; slouch hat (89) younger than Molly; pretty in buxom, overblown way; quite a talker; prostitute (90) hard knowledge behind her blue eyes (229)
Charlie[Major Secondary Character] Nellie's son; 8-y-o; lost grandfather, father; looked small, lost; too knowing for his age (2) chewing thumbnail (9) lost so much; trusted no one; auburn hair; woke screaming with night terrors (10) had mom's face, auburn curls and wide green eyes (22) wiry body (107) dark auburn curls; square set of skinny shoulders (110)
Elmer Clements[Actual Historical Character] [No Appearance] looking for way to deliver gas to battlefield or into food and water supply (310)
Consuelo[Brief Appearances] Mexican housekeeper (122) 50s; kind face; lovely eyes; missing teeth kept her from looking bonnie (131) widow (132)
Ezra Cooper[One Appearance] ran Redemption livery stable (253)
Curly[One Appearance] Wilkins ranch hand; followed Hank, Charlie to jail (333)
Jeff Davis[Actual Historical Character] [No Appearance] president allowed McCullough to carry out highly questionable and unethical experiments (309)
Dougal[Secondary Character] from Scotland (83) did little but argue with Brady, sleep sprawled out on couches and harass the children (123) old Scotsman (130) bushy eyebrows (131) contentious nature; more hair in ears than on his head (132) a soldier for years (275)
John Doughty[Actual Historical Character] [No Appearance] schoolteacher trying to devise way to put chlorine gas into artillery shells (310)
Droop[ANimal] Langley's horse; a trail-wise old gelding (360)
Enrique Escobar[One Appearance] Wilkins ranch hand; guarding barn (288)
Daniel Fletcher[Brief Appearances] Molly's brother-in-law; elegant home in Savannah; usually fastidious (1) weak; bully; shifty gaze (2) not a stupid man (22) known Confederate sympathizer (304)
Angus Foley[Brief Appearances] deputy U.S. marshal from the area (302) quiet type; quiet hands; sideburns that came around to join his bushy mustache; dark unblinking eyes that took in everything but gave nothing back; a hard-lined lawman with heart of stone (303) gravely voice of tobacco user (304) predator eyes (306) would run roughshod over anyone who got in his path (325) worse than Brady for having to be in control (334)
Lupe Garcia[Brief Appearances] Maria's sister; looked after the Wilkins children (116)
Maria Garcia[Brief Appearances] Lupe's sister; looked after the Wilkins children (116)
Pilar Garcia[No Appearance] cousin to Lupe and Maria; hired to be wet nurse to new twins (353)
Mr. Gruber[One Appearance] owned Gruber's Fix-It; wiry little man; shiny bald head; startling black eyebrows; half spectacles; look of man impatient man who didn't tolerate interruptions (170)
Mr. Harkness[Brief Appearances] railroad representative (12) solicitor (19)
Billy Hartnet[No Appearance] Molly had to amputate leg; died anyway; 14-y-o; not a miner; father died of snakebite last year; supporting mother, sister; delivered messages (234)
Heathername Jessica picked for a girl (330)
Helen[One Appearance] owner of Helen's Haberdashery; middle-aged matron; improbably dark hair (171)
Hench[Brief Appearance] Wilkins ranch hand; found Molly's tracks to west (365)
Gordon Hennessey[Important Secondary Character] ugly; face melted (8) loved puzzles; wanted the children, reason he took the case (195) damaged face (196) puckered burn scar that covered left side of his face from hat to chin; aura of evil about him; cadaverously thin; moved with sensuous hip-rolling gait; when spoke, gestured in an exaggerated way; voice was a lisping hiss; a wrongness about him that went deeper than the scar; elegant, almost feminine hands; narrow hips; eyes as dark and empty as an abandoned well (247) breathe stank of cloves; his mom set his hair on fire (248) ropy web of puckered scar tissue that rose in wine-colored ridges across ruined scalp; crooked yellow teeth (249) beyond madness; less than human; a monster (251) an animal; never stops (342)
Hillsboro[No Appearance] Redemption; had stable of girls (91)
Iantha[Rare Appearances] ancient Negro woman; supervised the kitchen (123) Buck's wife; runaway slave; had been with Wilkins family over 20 years (125)
Mr. Jones[Brief Appearances] from Washington City in the District of Columbia (302) well-spoken man of middle years; sound of education in his voice; sharp hazel eyes; a banker's smile; a haircut that left most of his ears exposed; left ear had a chuck missing in the shape of a bullet hole (303)
Maude Kinderly[No Appearance] Melanie's mother; no love for the Wilkins family (176) died of smallpox outbreak at fort (174) a vicious woman at best (189)
Melanie Kinderly[One Appearance] the one woman Hank tried to court; Hank never told Brady what happened (127) blonde; pretty; petite (173) Hank hadn't seen in 2 years; looked the same; round-cheeked face; wispy blond hair; soft gray eyes; subtle changes; weary eyes; faint worry lines marred smooth forehead; wiser, more subdues smile; breathy childlike voice; husband died of small pox (174) like a small child in temperament and intellect; a cloying need to please (175) overworked imagination; fantasy quality that shielded her from reality; "life a dime novel adventure to her"; baby stillborn (176) a lovely girl; utterly cowed by her mother; no match for Hank's sharp mind (189)
Henry Kirkland[Actual Historical Character] [No Appearance] looking for way to deliver gas to battlefield or into food and water supply (310)
Carl Langley[Brief Appearance] one of Wilkins' most reliable hands; a good man in a crisis; went to Val Rosa with Hank and Charlie (327)
Amos Logan[Brief Appearances] one of the younger RosaRoja hands; fighting with Charlie in barn (200) afraid of dogs (203) around 14-y-o; big for his age; gangle; thatch of wheat-colored hair; chipped front tooth; no meanness in him (204)
Professor McCullough[One Appearance] The Professor: member of rebellion (5) McCullough; a chemist; a Lincoln Conspirator; developed potent poison gas; Matthew McFarlane knew him (309)
Matthew McFarlane[No Appearance] Molly's father; doctor; man of integrity (5) died one month ago (1) brilliant surgeon; supposedly committed suicide (46) energetic; flamboyant; charismatic; shoes didn't match; vest buttoned crooked; a genius; hair needed a trim (77) traveled a great deal; studied under different surgeons (140) "political beliefs were characterized less by societal ideals than a general dislike of governmental interference (147) Charlie called him "mappa"; focused; "Medicine was everything to him." (157)
Miley[Brief Appearance] Wilkins ranch hand; found Molly's tracks to west (365)
Dr. Murray[Brief Appearances] El Paso physician; gaunt; patch over one eye (12) infirmary on Front Street (13) gaunt; middle-aged; wore black leather patch over right eye; less hair on head than chin; mostly gray stubble; slurred words as if drinking spirits; slim wrists; narrow, long-fingered hands; short trimmed nails (17) sad eye, more gray than blue, a downward slant (18) tangle of troubled emotions; sampled own medications (25) no sympathy; no interest; no emotion whatsoever; air of defeat (30) operated at Fredericksburg (46)
Nellie[One Appearance] Molly's older sister; lung fever; married Daniel on rebound when first husband died (2) mere shadow of lovely woman she had once been; unhealthy pallor; green eyes bright with fever; lank auburn hair (3)
Doc O'Grady[No Appearance] Val Rosa doctor (60) Irishman; more drinker than doctor (212)
Grandmother Oona[No Appearance] ex-slave; gift with infants; hired to care for new twins (353)
Paul[No Appearance] Melanie's husband; died of smallpox outbreak at Fort (174) Melanie's father's adjunct (175)
Penny[Major Secondary Character] Nellie's daughter; 6-y-o; lost g-father, father (2) flyaway blond hair (8) sucking thumb (9) brown eyes (23) cinnamon brown eyes; talker (84) allergic to cats (286)
Don Roman Ramirez[No Appearance] owned RosaRoja; too proud of Spanish heritage to refile patent on ranch because Hidalgo Treaty proposed by Mexican government (101)
Elena Ramirez[No Appearance] recovering from surgery (84) Sancho's sister; daughter to previous owner of ranch (96) went to California to have her hip operated on (102)
Sancho Ramirez [No Appearance] Elena's brother; son of previous owner of ranch (96) burned rose bushes and ranch to ground 30 years after birth (99) killed lot of people; tortured Sam; killed own parents; killed by Jessica (105)
Sheriff Rikker[Brief Appearances] Brady contacted (295) rode out to ranch from Val Rosa (302) sheriff in Val Rosa since time of feud between Wilkins and Ramirez; a loner who held his thoughts close; Brady called him a "quiet seeker" (303)
Edward Rustin [Brief Appearances] lived in Jeanerette; sat in wheeled chair (4) glue that held men together; using gold stolen from Confederate coffers 10-y-a to foment a rebellion (5) bloated hands; blind milky eyes (6) kidneys failing fast; "He stank of decay, and the fingers gripping the wheels were so swollen they looked ready to split like sausages roasting on a fire" (194) palsied fingers moved restlessly on the desktop like fat, blind worms (195) leader of known Confederate sympathizers (304)
Anna Strobel[One Appearance] plump arms; wispy gray hair; thick accent of some Central European country; Hans wife; watery blue eyes (227)
Ben [Thornton][Brief Appearances] Brady's "son by intent, if not blood"; loved fiercely (82) 2-y-o; redheaded terror like his mother (83) wild (117) took after Jessica; dark auburn hair; intelligent brown eyes; Brady's temperament; boisterous; stubborn; fearless (123)
Victoria [Thornton][No Appearance] Ben's twin; stillborn (187)
Tiger[Animal] yellow kitten Hank gave to Penny for Christmas (286)
Judge Clement Utley[One Appearance] circuit judge in the Val Rosa area; small thin fellow; bald dome; gunmetal blue eyes that reflected the disillusion weary look of man who saw more than he wanted to; reputation for quick judgments and harsh sentences; strict abolitionist with a deep hatred of anything south of the Mason-Dixon Line (335)
Eldon Whittaker[Brief Appearance] Rikker's deputy; intellect of a radish; gun skills so poor, Rikker didn't issue him bullets (333) blond hair (334)
Abigail Wilkins[Brief Appearances] breech birth; Brady and Jessica's daughter (82) "Abby"; already a beauty; mother's ready smile; father' s striking eyes and dark hair (123)
Andrew Jackson "Jack" Wilkins[No Appearance] [Hero of Book 3] Hank's brother (48) followed Elena to California (102) Andrew Jackson Wilkins (287)
Brady Wilkins[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 1] Hank's brother; from New Mexico (34) nearly as tall as Hank; leaner; wore dusty black Stetson; sheepskin jacket; Levi Strauss trousers; large revolver in holster on right hip; weathered skin; dark stubble; couldn't see mouth beneath black moustache; icy blue eyes; purely masculine assessment (35) beautiful eyes in a hard face (37) not as handsome as Hank, but arresting; family resemblance in strong jaw, stubborn chin and high, intelligent forehead; eyes of glacial ice; ruthless; protective; driven (40) blue eyes (44) volatile, rough-speaking man (45) vitally male; more complex than most men (47) smile that rocked her back on her heels, white teeth, dimples, dancing aqua eyes (48) changeable as quicksilver (49) arrogant; tall; lean; black hair and mustache; big toothy grin; strange colored eyes full of mischief (58) size and manner could be intimidating (64) oversaw ranching and cattle interests (99) oddest sense of humor; loved land (100) habit of sticking his nose in where didn't belong (126) likes to manage people (197) named after Grandpa Brady, mother's father (287) belligerent stance (304) a "see it, do it, worry about it later" type of guy (310)
Jessica [Thornton] Wilkins[Major Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 1] Brady's wife; third pregnancy; good breeder; prim; English; red hair (48) inability to follow orders an endearing trait to Brady (49) "Her Ladyship"; English; tall; red hair; crazy hats (58) English accent (66) striking; slim neck (75) amber brown eyes (76) feminine; gracious; striking; exceptionally tall; regal; curly red-gold hair; wide, intelligent eyes; smile that rivaled Brady's; crying turned nose red, skin splotchy (77) a force of nature (79) copper brows (81) all starch and fancy hats; lots of rules (127) steel wrapped in velvet, draped with a smile (188)
Samuel "Sam" Adams Wilkins [No Appearance] Hank's youngest brother; buried on RosaRoja (101) tortured by Sancho and left to die in desert (105) 12-y-o when died (106) Samuel Adams Wilkins (287)
  Brady thinking of the names Thomas Jefferson and Samuel (for his brother) Thornton (Jessica's family name)
Samuel Thornton Wilkins[One Appearance] Brady and Jessica's newborn son; first twin; "Sam" (350) Samuel (for Brady's brother) Thornton (Jessica's family name) (330)
Thomas Jefferson Wilkins[One Appearance] Brady and Jessica's newborn son; second twin son; "TJ" (350)

Locations, Organizations Found In "Open Country"
Location / Organization Description
October 1871Prologue (1)
November 1871Chapter One (7)
Andersonville PrisonMolly and her father tended sick there (36)
Bickersham HallJessica's home in England (115)
Blue Mesalandmark near Wilkins Ranch (184)
El Capitanthe tallest peak in the Guadalupe Range north of El Paso; Molly could see from the hotel window (21)
East of El Paso, Texas,setting; Chapter One (7)
Empire HotelEl Paso hotel where Molly, Charlie, Penny were staying (21)
Fort Unionfeatherhead Hank interested in, ran off with soldier from Fort Union (62)
Gruber's Fix-ItVal Rosa; did small item repair (169)
Helen's HaberdasheryVal Rosa; across street from Gruber's Fix-It (169)
Jeanerette, Georgiasetting; 200 miles west of Savannah (4)
Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellionarticle Matthew McFarlane wrote (46)
Milford's Emporium and General StoreVal Rosa; Molly shopped for Christmas gifts (168)
Missouri VolunteersHank's father left Saint Joseph in 1948 to join Missouri Volunteers to fight in Mexican war (101)
O'Hara's Apothecaryin Redemption (244)
Our Lady of Mercy Hospitalwhere Molly learned to mop blood and sew flesh in surgical wing (77)
The Peoples BankVal Rosa bank; Christmas tree in front (168)
Ratontown where judge was coming from (327)
Redemptionmining town that served the Wilkins mine (79)
RosaRoja RanchoRed Rose Ranch; named so in 1939 when previous owner's wife planted 100 rose bushes in commemoration of son's birth (99) 88,640 acres granted to Ramirez family by Charles the Second of Spain; involved in feud (100) Hank's father saw ranch in 1948 (101)
RosaRoja Valleywhere Wilkins ranch sat (79)
Saint Joseph, MissouriHank's father left Saint Joseph in 1948 to join Missouri Volunteers to fight in Mexican war (101)
Savannah, GeorgiaPrologue (1)
Sierra BlancaHank loaded machinery onto train (9)
Sultanasteamboat; involved in accident; Charlie and Penny's father aboard; killed (48)
Val Rosatown; 25 miles from Wilkins ranch (60)
Wilkins Cattle and Miningthe Wilkins' brothers mining operations and ranch; of New Mexico (34)

"Open Country" Quotations
Yes, there are a lot of quotes listed here (and almost tell the story), but Kaki Warner's words are magical -- they speak to me.

52Her touch was his lifeline, her voice his beacon.   (Hank)
62she began flinging salt into the broth with all the vigor of a woman trying to stone ants.   //   Nor did he mention the soup was probably salty enough now to cure pork.   (Brady)
72The fragility of male pride never ceased to amaze her.   (Molly)
76She felt hopelessly inept in social situations.   She had no flair, no interest in small talk, and no inclination to flirt.   Most Southern women burst from the womb with all the correct phrases and mannerisms etched into their memories.   They knew instinctively how to coo, and bat their eyelashes, and flit through life like dainty butterflies.   And what they weren't born knowing, they were taught by their mothers.   (Molly)
100When he had something to say, he spoke.   When he didn't, he didn't.   (Molly)
105Life would never hand him more than he could handle.   (Molly)
105"This is hard county . . . sometimes we have to make hard choices.   Its not civilized like the city.   The rules are different here.   . . .   You do what you have to, then you move on."   (Hank)
109"What matters is not taking out that anger on people weaker than you . . ."   (Hank)
119The man had the strangest way of controlling the conversation without saying a word, using silence to compel one to speak while he said nothing.   (Molly)
119She wasn't that talkative herself and preferred to observe rather than participate in conversations.   (Molly)
127"Women do tend to complicate things."   (Brady)
138he was noticing her noticing him (Molly)
149Jessica's lips twitched.   "Did he agree to that?   Because if he didn't give his word, then it doesn't count."   She resumed kneading.   "That's how they dodge my edicts.   I've learned if I get a promise, I get results."   (Jessica)
150Children too?   Molly thought peevishly.   As well as fractious horses, balky mules, and any kind of machinery?   The man should join a traveling circus.   (Molly)
159"I don't know what to do with you, wife," . . .   "But maybe next time, you'll take off the robe and we'll find out."   (Hank)
176She saw what she wanted to see, believed what she wanted to believe.   (Hank, about Melanie)
179Conversations with Penny were always a challenge.   (Hank)
183Apparently she saw flaws undetectable to the male eye.   //   The rituals of women.   They enthralled him.   Having grown up in a predominately male household, he didn't often get a chance to observe them, and when he did, he was completely captivated.   (Hank)
190"I need a friend.   A woman friend.   They add so much to one's life, don't you think?"   (Jessica)
197"I've found the only way to keep him from trying to take control of my life is to tell him nothing about it."   (Hank)
201He didn't know how to convince the boy to talk to him, or let him help with whatever was troubling him.   It was frustrating, and he was beginning to understand how Brady must feel when Hank treated him to one of his long silences.   (Hank)
209They'd all been in on it, and that knowledge -- that betrayal -- was like a bullet to his chest.   For a moment it hurt so bad he could hardly breathe.   (Hank)
216But he was no longer hers to touch.   In truth he never really had been.   (Molly)
218What he was feeling couldn't be put into words, and he was so raw and ragged he wasn't sure what he might do or say.   (Hank)
219He no longer recognized himself, no longer knew the man he had become.   Fury was roaring through his mind, demanding release.   She had tricked him, deceived him, made him believe he could have it all.   Lies.   All of it.   (Hank)
225"You wanted.   When do we do what I want, Brady?   When do I get to decide how to live my life?"   . . .   "you let me think my mind was failing"   . . .   "How could you do that to me?"   Hank valued his intellect most . . .   (Hank)
231As he worked, he tried to reason through why he was so angry.   That's what he did best: he analyzed, dissected, broke things down into manageable parts to see what they were made of and how they worked.   But this had him baffled.   This wasn't something he could hold in his hand and examine dispassionately.   This was all emotion, and he'd spent too many years walling off that part of his mind to understand what he was feeling now.   (Hank)
232She'd already stolen his name, his trust, his belief in himself and the man he'd always thought himself to be.   He couldn't give up his pride as well.   (Hank)
238Somewhere in her mind she stood on a hilltop and screamed.   (Molly)
242Had she fallen to the point where just to endure was the most she could hope for? //   She had dreamed of so much more.   (Molly)
243She would get through this.   She would find a way to heal the wounds they had dealt each other.   After all, that is what she did best, wasn't it.   (Molly)
245 For one unreasonable moment he almost hated her for exposing the lonely sterility of his old life.   (Hank)
265He wished they could skip all the "I'm sorries" and just start over again.   But there was too much still left unsaid, and too many questions waiting for answers.   (Hank)
270"You're not leaving.   The marriage stands.   We'll work this out.   No more discussion."   (Hank)
271Definitely sarcasm.   Which baffled him.   What had he done now?   (Hank) {so typically male}
289He needed this woman, he realized.   He needed her to ease the loneliness, to laugh with, to turn to when doubt plagued him.   He needed her the way he needed his next breath.   And he needed her to need him that way too.   (Hank)
298Not knowing what else to do, he patted her shoulder and stood quietly at her side, offering silent support or a listening ear, whichever was needed.   (Hank) {this line spoke to the 'I don't know what to say' person ever present within me}
299He'd never known caring about someone could be so worrisome.   Life had been a lot easier when he'd held himself apart and kept his emotions under control.   But not nearly as much fun.   (Hank)
317And in the instant his gaze found her, all the love she felt for this man came back to her through his eyes, and she knew in the deepest, most vulnerable part of her that he loved her as much as she loved him.   He had never given her the words, and maybe never would, but it was there in his touch, in his smile, in that connection that flared between like an arc of pure light.   (Molly)
322Kids, he found, spoke a special language that was sometimes as convoluted as a sidewinder's track.   (Hank)
324Jessica said it with a tone of impatience, but Molly thought her eyes told a different story.   (Molly)
325It was like pairing a ball gown with hobnail boots. (Molly)
326the deputy marshal was so focused on his job he didn't see people in his path.   (Hank)
327It wasn't that he minded talking, but sometimes all those words interfered with productive thinking.   (Hank)
352Not that she yearned to have more children -- especially after today -- but knowing she couldn't even if she wanted to . . . well, it changed her, diminished her in some subtle, indefinable way.   (Jessica)
355But telling her that and admitting how deep his feelings for her were, well, that would change everything.   She would own all of him then.   (Hank)
378He blamed her father for that.   In forcing her to be so independent, he'd taught her not to ask for help.   And in keeping her so isolated by her work -- his work, really -- he'd taught her that her wants and worries weren't as important as those of the people she served.   (Hank)
379He didn't like what she'd done.   But he understood why she'd done it.   (Hank)
385"All these years I've worked so hard to fix everybody else, I never realized I was the one broken."   (Molly)

"Kaki Warner -- Open Country" Review and Information Links
Rated Posted Site Notes, Comments, Etc.
----Kaki Warner's WebsiteAuthor
----Kaki Warner's FacebookAuthor
----Kaki Warner's TwitterAuthor
----Kaki Warner's BlogAuthor
. . . . . . . . .. . .
5.0001-....-2011A Romance Review--Pat // poorly done
B+ / subtle06-05-2010All About Romance--Jean Wan // very good
4.48 average{31 reviews}Amazonas of: May 16, 2013
3.0006-09-2010Babbling About Books and MoreKT Grant {gr5} // great review (agree and disagree)
4.00 average{35 ratings}Barnes & Nobleas of: May 16, 2013
4.0005-31-2010Book Binge--Rosie // good, but not crazy about her writing style
----Fantastic FictionList of Kaki Warner's Books
----Favorite Author NotificationList of Kaki Warner's Books with publication dates
----Fict FactList of Books In The "Blood Rose Trilogy"
----Fiction DBList of Kaki Warner's Books
3.0008-14-2010Fresh Fiction--Kate Garrabrant (Babbling About Books and More)
4.09 average{65 reviews}Good Readsas of: May 16, 2013
4.0006-03-2010Heart to Heart: The BN Romance Blog--Maria Lokken {gr9} // okay, short on detail
3.86 average{18 ratings}Library Thingas of: May 16, 2013
5.005-26-2010Once Upon A Chapter--Lisa Jo {gr18} // extraordinary
--05-26-2010Once Upon A Chapter--Lisa Jo // Interview // excellent detail about characters
4.20 average{38 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: May 16, 2013
Rating: 9 / Heat: 304-20-2010Reader, I Created Him--Kat Latham // great, heavy on Hank
--01-10-2011Reader, I Created Him--Kat Latham // Interview
positive05-19-2010Reads Books and Writes Poetry--Gautami Tripathy // okay, nothing special
4.0004-18-2011Romance Around The Corner--Brie C. {gr13} // great review, agree and disagree
4.00 / hot06-....-2010RT {Romantic Times} Book Reviews--Kathe Robin // PR review // no way is this book "hot"
4.67{11 reviews}Shelfarias of: May 15, 2013
4.5005-28-2010Smexy Books--Mandi Schreiner {gr2} // great review, lots of story detail
A+02-27-2011The Good, The Bad, The Unread--Sandy M {gr16} // excellent
--07-05-2011The Good, The Bad, The Unread--Sandy M // Interview // interesting, fun, Heartbreak Creek
4.0006-17-2010The Romance Reader--Jean Mason // great, lots of story detail
4.50--The Romance Readers Connection--Jeri Neal // nothing special
Rating: 9 / Heat: 304-20-2010The Season For Romance--Kat Latham // [duplicate] [Reader, I Created Him]
4.8505-17-2013Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Fiction DB, Good Reads, Library Thing, Shelfari

♥   Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥   Very Subjective Rating
♣   Will add your Open Country review link to table, just ask

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