Publication Date: June 1, 1997 (republished May 29, 2018)
Series or Standalone: Texas Trilogy #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: War; panic attacks; gun violence; kidnapping; references to suicide, rape, murder, slavery, physical abuse
I am finally starting my deep dive into Lorraine Heath’s back catalog as she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors, and let me tell you – Texas Destiny did not disappoint. This book was the first book in her first-ever series, Texas Trilogy, and has all the hallmarks of what I’ve come to love about Lorraine Heath’s books. Fantastic characters, a romance filled with lots of pining and angst, so many feelings, unconventional situations, and so much more! Despite publishing over 25 years ago, this book is still worth picking up today.
Amelia Carson arrives in Texas as the mail-order bride for Dallas Leigh – a man she’s never met. Texas is an escape for her after growing up in war-ravaged Georgia, and she believes she’ll be able to build a new life with Dallas. However, when she gets off the train at Fort Worth, the cowboy picking her up isn’t Dallas but his brother Houston. Houston plans to pick up his brother’s wife, deliver her to Dallas and return to his solitary existence taming horses. Scarred from the war (both inside and out), Houston’s little competition for his handsome brother. Amelia possesses the courage to survive in the wild lands of Texas and the ability to see past Houston’s scars to his soul. Houston will do anything for Amelia – except betray his brother. Yet as the two travel through the open ranges of Texas, they cannot help but lose their hearts to each other even if they cannot be together.
From the first paragraph, where I learned that Houston Leigh wears an eye patch, I immediately thought, “oh yes, this book is for me.” Lorraine Heath excels at writing incredibly complex, rich characters, and Houston Leigh is the perfect example. This man carries so much pain, grief, and guilt with him, and all I wanted to do was hug him. He was badly injured during the Civil War, leaving him with major scars on his face and dealing him a blow to his self-confidence. He thinks he’s unworthy of love, has become a shell of himself, and needed Amelia to draw him out. He also tries hard to deny his feelings for Amelia, but from their first meeting, he’s hooked and shows he cares in so many small ways.
Amelia took me by surprise. She’s only 19 years old, yet she feels so much older. The Civil War also left her with invisible scars, but she’s managed to take her destiny into her own hands. I found her incredibly brave as she heads across the country to marry a man she’s never met and weather some ROUGH conditions on the way to meet him. She’s got spunk and charm – she has a way of drawing Houston out of his shell and getting all the Leigh brothers to open up and confide in her. She always seems to have the perfect read on others, and I loved that about her – she knows when to push and when to pull back in conversations to get people to open up and trust her.
Houston and Amelia together were the perfect pair. This is a very slow burn – but the slow burn is soooo worth it in the end. First off, I love the premise of this, as it leads to so much mutual pining that they cannot act on. The connection between Houston and Amelia was undeniable, and Lorraine really knows how to build that sexual tension! Plus, it’s jam pack with fantastic tropes that readers will love. Second, Lorraine takes this romance in so many unexpected directions! During the book’s second half, I was on the edge of my seat as I had NO IDEA where the story was going or how Houston and Amelia would get their happily ever after. Lorraine really GOES THERE with the story, and, oh boy, it was so much fun to read! The plot moved things forward at a rapid pace, so the slow burn didn’t feel painstakingly slow. Seriously, the romance in this was perfect as Lorraine throws enough things at the reader to tease them on the romance (sexy shaving, anyone?) while also throwing up barriers to them getting together. It’s a trip.
This also wouldn’t be a Lorraine Heath book without some angst and pain. This book truly packs a wallop to the feelings. Poor, poor Houston. Poor, poor Amelia. I don’t want to go into too many details about everything in their past that caused them pain, as it’s best to experience it as you go, but just know there is some HEAVY stuff in this book (see the content warnings). However, it’s handled beautifully and made me so emotional that I may or may not have cried multiple times.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other Leigh brothers, who also play a major role in this story. While Houston is our main male character, his brother Dallas and Austin (yes, their names are VERY Texan) are critical players in the story. I went on a journey with Dallas in this book. In many ways, he’s sort of the villain as he’s the main obstacle in the way of Amelia and Houston getting their HEA. He’s also not the easiest person to like as he’s used to giving orders and getting what he wants. I started out hating Dallas, and it definitely took some effort to like him, but somehow, Lorraine Heath turned my feelings around on him, and I felt sympathy with him by the end. I cannot wait to get his story next.
Meanwhile, with Austin, I would do anything to protect him. Sweet baby Austin is so pure and innocent with his violin and passion for music. He was relatively untouched by the trauma of the war as he was so young, and I want to keep him that way, though I know there will be PAIN in his book. He provides levity in a book that could feel dark otherwise, and it’s so easy to like him.
As a side note, I will say some people may find it uncomfortable that the Leigh brothers fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Amelia’s father owned a plantation. I had to reconcile my feelings on that at the beginning. However, this book in no way glamorizes the Civil War or slavery – I think it does the opposite in some way and shows the true horrors of warfare – but it does bear mentioning.
I swear I could go on and on about this book as I fell absolutely head over heels in love with it! After this, I devoured the rest of the series in quick succession, and they did not disappoint! It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Texas Destiny claims that title. There’s just something magical about the romance and these characters that captured my heart. I’m now even more excited to dive into Lorraine Heath’s backlist after reading this series, as there are so many stories to uncover and characters to meet!