Jillian Hart's debut novel shows a fine understanding of wounded hearts and the courage it takes to risk those hearts again.

Elizabeth Hodges arrives in Cedar Rock trembling from a combination of fear and the hope of meeting Jacob Stone and his six-year-old daughter, Emma.

Jacob's advertisement for a mother for Emma touched Libby's heart and their resulting correspondence has given her hope that she may finally have found the family of her dreams.

As it turns out, the tall, handsome blacksmith and his lively daughter are more than Libby could have hoped for. Just as Libby's dream has come so close, however, she fears that she may lose it, as she wasn't totally honest with Jacob and fears she may be pregnant.

Jacob Stone has been less than honest as well, for the marriage he offers won't include his heart or his bed. Devastated by the death of his wife, Jacob refuses to risk his heart to love or another woman to childbirth and is willing to marry only to give Emma a mother.

When Libby confesses her pregnancy, Jacob has the perfect excuse to escape the gentle woman who could easily mean too much to him. The warm and gentle humanity of LAST CHANCE BRIDE is a welcome dose of sunshine after a long winter. SWEET (Mar., 350 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Cindy Royce