Series: Smoke River (Book 2)
A baby to bring them together…
When Dr. Zane Dougherty swept Winifred Von Dannen's sister off to Smoke River, Winifred was resentful, but now she wants to be part of her late sister's baby's life. That means dealing with Zane and the shadows of loneliness -- and incredible hunger -- she sees in his eyes.
Zane knows he and his infant daughter are truly blessed. But he wants more. He wants Winifred! Is there a way he can mend this broken family and care for them forever?
Sweet, slow-moving romance. When Winifred's sister ran off to marry Zane, she wasn't happy. She and Celeste had an excellent career as a concert pianist duo and she didn't understand how her sister could just throw it all away. She was heartbroken when Celeste died before they could make up, and knew that she wanted to be part of her niece's life. That means a trip to Smoke River and dealing with Zane. Zane isn't sure what to make of Winifred at first. She's cool and composed and very different than his late wife. There's something about her that wakes up the emotions that have been buried since Celeste's death, but he has no intention of following through on them. He doesn't intend to marry again.
But Winifred has come to Smoke River with more than just getting to know Rosemarie on her mind. Her desire is to take the little girl back to St. Louis with her, as she feels that Smoke River is no place to raise a little girl. Taking her back to the city will give her many more benefits than growing up in such a backward place. She is stunned by Zane's reaction, as she thought he'd be happy to see her have all the advantages. But Rosemarie is the center of Zane's life and losing her would remove his will to live. After exchanging harsh words, then avoiding each other for a few days, Zane and Winifred come to an understanding. Winifred has some time before she has to return to St. Louis, and that time is spent getting to know both Rosemarie and Zane.
I have to say that Winifred really irritated me at the beginning. She had the stereotypical Easterner/city dweller attitude toward the West. Nothing was as good as what the city had. I didn't like the way that she looked down on the town, or questioned Celeste's reasons for marrying Zane. By the time she left to go back home, her attitude had begun to change enough that she wanted to come back for Christmas. On the other hand, I loved Zane from the start. He obviously loves his little girl. I loved the way that he cares for her himself when he isn't working, rather than leave her to a servant. He also cares for the people that he doctors, paying attention to more than just their medical needs. He is still mourning the loss of his wife, and because of that doesn't see ever caring for someone else.
By the time Winifred leaves, she and Zane have begun a tentative friendship. They exchange a few letters while she's gone. Over the holidays, Zane begins to notice Winifred as a woman, but the guilt prevents him from doing anything about it. Winifred has also taken more notice of Zane, but she has her career to think about. More letters are exchanged over the spring, and both find themselves thinking about each other quite a lot. Zane especially starts to think of what it would be like for Winifred to stay. Her return for the summer months starts out rough, as she arrives quite ill. As Zane labors to save her, he can no longer deny his feelings for her. Their attraction draws them closer together but unfortunately for him, Winifred is still focused on her career and refuses to consider giving it up to stay in Smoke River. But this time, when she heads back home, she can't stop thinking about Zane. I loved seeing the way that she started looking at her life in St. Louis differently, and accepting that maybe there is more to life than she had believed before. When a crisis sends her speeding back to Smoke River, she has a decision to make about her future. I loved seeing her come into her own as part of the town and Zane's life.
The secondary characters were good too. I especially loved Zane's servant Wing Sam and the way that he took Winifred under his wing. He had his own ways of working to see that Zane and Winifred ended up together. I also really enjoyed seeing him get his own happy ending. He was really adorable with his nerves over the arrival of his bride. I also liked seeing how Winifred helped the young lady, even though she didn't speak any Chinese herself. The other doctor was great, especially at the end when Zane needed him so badly. There was also the woman who wanted Zane and wasn't going to let anyone get in her way. I loved seeing Winifred deal with her.