Julianna's Reviews > Texas Splendor

Texas Splendor by Lorraine Heath
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Sep 08, 09

bookshelves: desert-island-keepers, historical-romance, read-2009
Recommended for: Fans of Heartwarming Western Romances and Beta Heroes
Read in August, 2009, read count: 1

Reviewed for THC Reviews
Rarely have I found an author who is able to write a complete series with every book in the series being consistently good enough to earn keeper status from me, but Lorraine Heath's Texas Trilogy did exactly that. It is also equally rare for an author to tug at my heartstrings in quite the way that Lorraine Heath does, but somehow her stories always manage to make me teary-eyed more than once along the way. Texas Splendor was no exception. It is an emotionally complex tale about how things don't always turn out the way we might expect, but something better may be waiting about the bend; about how even our greatest pain and biggest mistakes can turn into something good; about how people's destinies can be intertwined in truly unexpected ways; about dreams lost and found again; and about forgiveness of something that a first glance may seem unforgivable. As with the other books in the series, Lorraine Heath delves deeply into her characters feelings and motivations, making them very relatable and sympathetic. She also has a way with building an emotional connection and exquisite sexual tension between the hero and heroine. For once, I didn't mind this couple making love right after meeting, because the author made it all about them offering mutual comfort during an extremely vulnerable and lonely time for both of them, and didn't have them declaring their love for one another immediately afterward. Although they were both deeply affected by the experience, they were also quite realistic in their expectations and were mature enough to understand that love had nothing to do with it at that moment. In fact, Austin made a stupid mistake in the heat of passion, which caused friction between them that lasted even for a while after they're married. Also, the whole experience brought them closer together when they otherwise probably would have parted ways. I really appreciate Ms. Heath's ability to backtrack after a moment of passion like Austin and Loree shared and then slowly build a real, lasting, and believable love relationship between them.

After seeing Austin as a major secondary character in his brothers' stories, I knew that he was going to be a gentle beta hero like Houston, but still with his own personality and set of talents. Spending five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit hardened Austin, but not enough to make him mean or hateful. That just wasn't in his nature. Even though he was a changed man, I was still able to see glimmers of the boy/young man I came to love so much in the previous books. Austin has always craved a female presence in his life ever since his mother died when he was a little boy, and I think this side of him became a protector to all the women who became a part of his life. In fact, it was his desire to protect the reputation of the woman he loved which landed him in prison in the first place, and when Loree finally divulges her secret, Austin was prepared to once again take the blame in order to protect her too. Although his brother, Dallas, had a hard time seeing Austin as anything but an irresponsible kid, I think that Austin proved his deep sense of responsibility many times over. He is also incredibly sweet to Loree. I loved how he always called her Sugar, and the way he often took her shoes and stockings off to rub her feet and make her more comfortable could be both cute and sexy at the same time. Austin was definitely the type of guy who could make a woman feel pampered and cherished. While he wasn't quite a virgin when he met Loree, he was very much a sexual novice, which just added to his appeal for me. I think the best thing about Austin though, was his amazing musical talent. The horrors of prison had quieted the music within his soul, and the moment he rediscovered it again was so incredibly beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes.

Loree is a strong heroine who was the sole survivor of a brutal, murderous attack which left the rest of her family dead. This event drove her do something she is not proud of, and she harbors this dark secret throughout most of the book. I have to admit that I correctly guessed what it was early on, but this knowledge did not diminish my enjoyment of the story, mainly because it was not so much about the mystery as about how Loree's secret affects her marriage to Austin both before and after it comes out. Because of what she did, Loree also doesn't feel like she deserves Austin's love or to realize any of her dreams. When Austin finds her, she is basically punishing herself, but her self-recrimination isn't overdone. Loree still longs for her dreams very much, and does reach out to grasp some happiness when the opportunity presents itself. Her experiences also make her accepting of Austin and his past in a way that others are not, and eventually, she very bravely admitted her secret and faced the consequences. In her heart, Loree was a kind and gentle person who was driven to do something uncharacteristic because of extraordinary circumstances which was something I found to be very thought provoking.

I love the family saga feel of the Texas Trilogy. All three of the Leigh brothers as well as their wives and families play substantial roles that are interlaced throughout each of the books. It was wonderful to visit with all of them again and see them so involved in each others' lives. Houston and Amelia still have a slight edge as my favorite couple, and it was so much fun to meet their kids and see how their lives have changed. Dallas is still as stubborn as ever, sometimes irritating, yet sometimes making me laugh. It was rather funny when Austin punched him for the exact same thing Houston did in the first book, which goes to show that he apparently didn't learn his lesson, although he was big enough to admit that he'd made a mistake. Dee has come a long way from the timid woman she was in the beginning of book #2, and has expanded Dallas's vision of the town of Leighton to the point that it has almost become a character unto itself. Rawley and the other kids are growing like weeds and really developing their personalities. Becky and Cameron, Austin's first love and best friend respectively, played a big role too. They are definitely at odds with Austin when he returns from prison, because he feels that they betrayed him in the worst possible way. The beauty in the author's portrayal of these characters was that I understood how all three of them felt, Austin being angry because Becky didn't wait for him like she promised, and Becky and Cameron loving each other but feeling guilty for it. In spite of all that had happened between them, I couldn't help but want them to still be friends, and when the reconciliation happens, it was yet another beautiful moment. I also have to say that I loved the nice long epilogue that brought everyone back together a decade in the future, letting me see that this family is still strong and the next generation will definitely carry on the legacy started by the three Leigh brothers.

Overall, I think Texas Splendor may have been the most emotionally charged book of the trilogy, and that's saying quite a lot since the other two were very emotional as well, especially Texas Destiny. I think this may be owing to Austin being so much more demonstrative in his feelings than the other two brothers were. Also, both Austin and Loree are two very tortured souls who must find healing for their battered hearts, and they are quite observant, sensitive and intuitive of the others' needs and understanding of things that happened in their pasts, which only added to the intensity of the romance. My one and only minor complaint is that I've noticed the author has a tendency to repeat certain words and phrases, but although noticeable, it didn't really detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. Ms. Heath is extremely talented at bringing to life complex character-driven plots which really make me think in a deep and profound way and thoroughly satisfies me on an emotional level, and in doing so she also creates flawed but extremely likable characters who I find myself wishing existed in real life. Texas Splendor is book #3 in the Texas Trilogy, preceded by Texas Destiny and Texas Glory. As I predicted in my review of Texas Glory, I'm happy to know how things turned out for this family, but equally sad to let them go. These three books have certainly earned a permanent spot on my keeper shelf, and I hope to revisit them at some point in the future. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing my exploration of Lorraine Heath's back-list.
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Reading Progress

08/27/2009 page 33
10.44% "I couldn't wait to read Austin's story. If the beginning is any indication, I think this one may be as good as the other two in the series."
08/28/2009 page 64
20.25% "I can't wait to find out more about Loree, and I love how the mystery is building." 3 comments
08/28/2009 page 90
28.48% "Wow! I think this may be the most emotional story of the trilogy. Austin and Loree are both incredibly tortured souls."
08/29/2009 page 120
37.97% "I think I may have figured out who the killer is, but if I'm right, it'll put another big wrinkle in things."
08/31/2009 page 221
69.94% "I'm loving this story and I'm getting some extra reading time in today which is a bonus.;-)"
09/01/2009 page 316
100.0% "Yet another wonderful book in the Texas Trilogy and a great wrap-up for the series. Review coming soon."

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Rane (new)

Rane Love me some Beta Hero! Great Review Julie!


Julianna Thanks, Rane! I adore those Betas too.;-)


message 3: by Angelc (new)

Angelc Great review, Julie! I love Lorraine Heath but I haven't read any of her westerns.


message 4: by Auntee (new)

Auntee Yet another author I've never read but must investigate...great review, Julie!:)


Julianna Thanks, ladies!

Angelc, I'm the oppostie. I've read four of her books so far, and they've all been westerns. I can't wait to try her Regencies, Contemporaries and YA too.

Auntee, I highly recommend LH. I was just thinking that the emotional depth and heartwarming nature of her stories kind of reminds a little of Catherine Anderson, who I know you're a fan of just like I am.


message 6: by Angelc (new)

Angelc Julie, her regencies are some of my favorites! I've read a few of her YA too and they are really cute.


UniquelyMoi ~ 1-Click RockChick Rarely have I found an author who is able to write a complete series with every book in the series being consistently good enough to earn keeper status from me, but Lorraine Heath's Texas Trilogy did exactly that.

I absolutely agree with this statement! I loved each and every one of these books and will read them again and again.

Wonderful review, Julie!


Julianna Thanks, Dhestiny!:-) Lorraine Heath is such a wonderful author. The Texas Trilogy is my all-time favorite series and it's hard to imagine another beating it.

Have you read her book, Always to Remember? If not, I highly recommend it. It's right up there at the top of my favorites list too. If you enjoyed the Texas Trilogy, I bet you'd love it.


UniquelyMoi ~ 1-Click RockChick Thank you, Julie! Nope, I haven't read that one. Yet. :)


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