Banning has created a good blend of history and romance, setting her story in the American West as the transcontinental railroad nears completion. The characters are well-developed and several secondary characters add humor and depth.
Wash Halliday is a war hero, or so they say. He is just happy to be released from the Confederate prison where he has spent the last few years, and to be working for the railroad, making a new life for himself and his country. Back in his hometown of Smoke River, he tries to convince Jeanne Nicole that she doesn’t own the land that the railroad will be building on shortly. The widowed Jeanne’s only source of income is the lavender field she has cultivated and must harvest. Wash wins this particular battle, but as their attraction grows, he keeps her at a distance, afraid to let himself care again. (HARLEQUIN, Feb., 278 pp., $5.99)