“The Dumont Brand” by Kathleen Rice Adams

“The Dumont Brand” by Kathleen Rice Adams combines two short stories about the Collier family of Texas before and after the Civil War. In “The Big Uneasy,” Patriarch Edson Collier has arranged a marriage between his eldest son, Bennett and Josephine Lapierre, a southern belle of New Orleans. Edson is ill and wants to see Bennett settled and producing heirs before he passes away. Josephine is willing to travel to Texas and marry a man she doesn't know; she's fleeing from her own past. When she arrives, Edson's younger son, Amon escorts her to the Collier home. She finds herself falling for her intended's brother. The Collier family has skeletons in their closets and Bennett has political aspirations. When he returns home to marry Josephine and the bones come crashing out of their hiding places, it's too much for him and he stalks off cursing his family and vowing never to step foot on the property again. It leaves Jospehine and Amon free to marry. When we meet Bennett again in “Making Peace,” he has been ravaged by war as a Confederate soldier. He returns to the Collier place, and finds Maggie Fannin squatting on a piece of their land. He regrets his actions toward his family before the war, and he's taken with Maggie. He overlooks her past; he wouldn't have been capable of that before the war. He helps rebuild the shack she's claimed as her home, and she gives him the strength to face his family.

Kathleen Rice Adams told Edson's story cleverly and with emotion. His deep affection for Jenny, a woman of color was obvious. It was not merely a sexual convenience, it was an affair of the heart. In the time frame of the story that made him a strong man. The relationships between the Collier men were layered and complicated. It teetered so that I couldn't decide if it was love or hate. Loyalty was a constant. In the first story I was drawn to Amon and liked his character. It was difficult to like Bennett, even though there were reasons for his behavior. The second story put a new perspective on Bennett and compelled me to forgive him for his previous actions. The romance between Amon and Josephine was light and sweet, but Maggie and Bennett were sizzling and intense. The two stories were a perfect combination and complimented each other well. I highly enjoyed “The Dumont Brand” and recommend Kathleen Rice Adams. 


“Peaches” by Kathleen Rice Adams

“Peaches” by Kathleen Rice Adams is a short historical romance centered around the Christmas holiday. Ruth Avery and her boys have taken over the school house that neighbors Whit McCandless's ranch. Whit has no time for the holiday festivities or anything social because a ranch won't run itself. He has little patience for Ruth, and in his opinion, she'll never be able to mind a bunch of the town children when she can't keep track of her own. Whit's aunts are meddlesome but mean well. They work to throw Whit and Ruth together in hopes to ignite a spark. Ruth's first impression of Whit is callous and harsh, but his actions betray his demeanor. She wasn't looking for romance, but there may be holiday magic in the works.

Kathleen Rice Adams is fast becoming a new favorite author for me. She succeeded in entertaining with her touching story about Whit and Ruth in “Peaches.” I found depth in this short story that didn't seem possible to achieve in so few pages. Ruth and Whit were well developed, and the minor characters were filled in enough to make the whole town believable. Whit came off one way, but as the story unfolded, I learned his secret reasons for his intolerance to peaches, and with ease, the author made me want to comfort him. Ms. Adams turned Whit inside out, had him do things outside his grumpy nature, revealing his true heart, and made me see him in a whole new light. I rooted for him to find peace, and to do something about his feelings for Ruth. The attraction between Whit and Ruth was bold, I was aware of it, and still it sizzled in the background until suddenly, there it was - front and center. I loved the story and the way it came to life. I highly recommend “Peaches.” 


“The Last Princess of Meigen” by Rachel A. James

“The Last Princess of Meigen” by Rachel A. James is a historical romance. Princess Alena was not of royal birth, and her father-in-law believed she'd bewitched his son into marriage. She had married the prince for love alone, and after he died, she was left as a servant to the King. Alena suffered from a breathing affliction which strengthened the king's belief she was possessed. When the King forced her to enter a marital agreement to unite two kingdoms, she traveled to Angularem to meet her betrothed. She found herself captivated by a physician who treated her breathing illness, and had to choose between what her heart wanted and loyalty to her king. Her king had been known to be vicious, and deceptive, and he held Alena's son to force her to comply with the marriage arrangement. She struggled to find her own strength and purpose in order to free herself and her son from the king's grip.

Princess Alena lead a happy life while her husband was alive. Once he died, she wasn't comfortable in her role as a princess and the constant struggle she felt trying to fit in, trying to find a purpose and be useful was sad. While helping the physician at Angularem and learning medicine, she blossomed; it expanded her character, transformed her and made her stronger. When she was faced with her father-in-law's presence, she battled to hold on to the person she'd become. I liked that person she became, and her strength in standing up for herself and her loved ones. I applaud the author. Alena could have been the rescued damsel, but Ms. James went a different route that required a heroine. The other characters were interesting: a wickedly evil father-in-law stirred trouble, a pregnant princess Teagan was proficient with a longbow, a betrothed king Niall still mourned his wife. I was captivated enough by Teagan and Niall to read more and look for other books by Ms. James. I enjoyed this book for the sweet love story between Alena and Sherwin, and for the other elements of excitement, treachery, and deceit. I recommend  “The Last Princess of Meigen” by Rachel A. James.