I chose Blue Moon by Jill Marie Landis, an author with a fairly sizable backlist and one that I haven't read a lot of. I think the only book I'd previously read by Landis was Glass Beach. These days, I think her books are more inspirational and she's had several set in Hawaii since I think she lives there now. But back in the '90s, she set her books in various frontier locations. Blue Moon takes place in Illinois.
An innocent girl of nineteen, Olivia Bond is on the run from an ugly and dangerous past. She finds herself alone, lost deep in the frightening world of an Illinois swamp. Then, out of the mist, comes a man to save her.
A reclusive loner, Noah LeCroix believes he has no need for the outside world, or for the things he gave up long ago. Home. Family. And true love. At first, Olivia is frightened by Noah's mysterious, silent nature. Then slowly, he begins to touch her heart and soul. But just as these two strangers begin to find true happiness, the dangerous secrets of Olivia's past threaten to rip them apart. Now Olivia and Noah must overcome the sadness of their pasts, if they can dare to dream of the love that comes only once in a lifetime...
From the author note, Blue Moon takes off not long after Just Once, in which Noah is best friend with the hero, Hunter Boone. Usually I prefer to read books in order, but if anyone knew the dust and dirty work I went through to find Blue Moon, you'd forgive me for not trying to dig up Just Once.
Yes, Blue Moon is an older book (if you count books written in the 90s as "old"), and for me it translated well. But for some, there are a few things that may tick readers off. Olivia is only 19 years old, for one, but it rings true for the time period, even if you can't imagine your 19-year-old sister braving new frontiers and setting up a homestead. The beginning sequences depict the back story of how Olivia winds up running for her life in the swamp and are harsh and raw, but not graphic. Her mysterious, dirty past is that she was essentially stolen from her family and sold into "servitude" to a rich gambler, Darcy Lankanal. Since he's owner of the most popular whorehouse in New Orleans, it doesn't take much to figure out what Olivia's role was. While she wasn't pushed into prostituting Darcy's regular customers, she still wound up being Lankanal's sole property and his preferred bedmate. It's not long before we find out that he'll do anything to get her back.
While I'm not a diehard fan of frontier romances with Indian heroes, I can't help but reflect on how much I enjoyed Blue Moon. As mentioned before, I'm not much on virginal heroes. But I did love me some Noah LeCroix. He's a quiet man, and my heart broke for him many times over. When he and Olivia reunite her with her family, they're met with the disastrous conditions in which her father and stepmother have been living in. Since her dad isn't a farmer by trade, his skills as a teacher and writer aren't much use on the frontier. He begs Noah for help in hunting to build up a supply of meat for the family to last the winter; in turn Olivia's dad, Payson, offers to teach Noah how to read. All Noah wants to do is be able to spend more time with Olivia before he's forced to go his own way.
What follows is a beautifully written love story that features a man who has never known the definition of love. He's at odds with how to deal with Olivia and his new found feelings for her, but he knows he'll give anything to prevent her from further nightmares. What Noah finds out surprises him though. While he may be new to the romance game, he's experienced love before but in different guises. First, for his mother who taught him the essentials of survival and the way of their people; and secondly, for his best friend, Hunter, who treats him like a brother.
So far this year I have read more older books from my TBR pile than I have in past years. It's amazing how many books I bought back when I first started this and still haven't read! Honestly, this has been some of the best reading I've done in ages.