Title: Hearth Stone by Lois Greiman
Home in the Hills Books One
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
With her chance at the US equestrian team shattered by an injury, Sydney Wellesley arrives at the Lazy Windmill ranch angry and heartbroken. But the rugged red bluffs and wild high plains of the Black Hills inspire her to purchase land where she can train her own Olympic hopefuls. Everything’s going according to Sydney’s new life plan–until her funding suddenly dries up. . .
Alone in the ramshackle house she had planned to raze, Sydney is ready to admit defeat and slink back to civilization–until she discovers an injured mustang. Seeing herself in the desperate wild mare, she feels compelled to save the animal at all costs, little knowing that the horse just might return the favor. For as Sydney’s circle grows to include an autistic child, an earthy array of local characters, and hired help in the form of Hunter Redhawk, a man as indomitable as the land itself, she realizes that heroes are everywhere–and healing is the first step on the road to true happiness.
Hearth Stone is the first heartwarming installment in Lois Greiman’s Home in the Hills series. This charming novel is a lovely story of new beginnings for Sydney Wellesley when she impulsively purchases a dilapidated ranch nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Leaving behind a life of privilege is only the first of many changes for Sydney as she finds love and friendship while forging a new life for herself in the wake of a devastating accident.
Sydney is the only daughter of a wealthy but cold and controlling businessman. Following the accident that ends her promising career as equestrienne, she breaks off her engagement to her cheating fiancé and escapes to the Lazy Windmill Ranch. She falls in the love with surrounding area and purchases a neighboring property which she plans to turn into a training facility for other equestrians. When her father demands she return home, Sydney stubbornly defies him, but she quickly discovers she might have bitten off more than she can chew when he cuts off her access to her credit cards and checking account. Luckily for her, Hunter Redhawk is the type of person who cannot in good conscience leave her to fend her for herself, so against his better judgment, he agrees to help her make some much needed repairs on the ranch.
Sydney has spent her life trying to live up to her family’s impossibly high standards and she is somewhat distant and cold when she first arrives in SD. She is also rather helpless since she has never had to take care of anything on her own. Lacking even the most rudimentary skills, Sydney is out of her depth, but she refuses to give up her dream. Working side by side with Hunter, she begins to warm up to him and she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Vura Lambert and her young daughter, Lily. But most surprising is the kinship Sydney feels for an injured Mustang she rescues. Her vision for her ranch transforms during the horse’s recovery but will she let her need for father’s approval alter her plans?
Hunter is a somewhat mysterious man who reveals little about his past. There is no doubt he is a decent, kindhearted person, but he is the epitome of the strong, silent type. He is not easily ruffled and he has a quiet, reassuring presence. He also expects Sydney to pull her share of the weight and he is willing to teach her what she needs to do to help him. While Hunter shares affectionate anecdotes about his family and his childhood on the Rosebud Reservation, it soon becomes clear that there is a tragedy that haunts him.
The relationship between Hunter and Sydney develops slowly over the course of the novel. Sydney is sometimes unintentionally offensive but Hunter takes her prickly attitude in stride and with good humor. It is easy for him to see how sheltered and out of depth she is, but he cannot help but admire her plucky approach to achieving her dream despite the odds not being in her favor. At first reluctant co-workers, their friendship grows as they let down their guard with one another and begin to exchange confidences. There is also a growing attraction that smolders under the surface of their comfortable friendship but in the aftermath of a fiery kiss, an unexpected distance springs up between them.
Hearth Stone is a very touching beginning to the Home in the Hills series. The characters are richly developed and although flawed, they are sympathetic and likable with believable issues to overcome. The novel’s setting is distinctive and adds to the story’s overall appeal. Lois Greiman does a wonderful job keeping the storyline fresh and unique.
Although a spin-off from the Hope Springs series, Hearth Stone easily stands on its own.