by Rita Hestand

November 2001
ISBN: 1-894841-07-7
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It's not very often that our first meeting with a heroine involves the poor thing being face down in the dirt of a rodeo ring with imminent death staring right at her, but that's what happens to Candy Arnold within the first few pages of this interesting new romance by Rita Hestand. Candy is a trick rider with the rodeo - just the latest in a series of cowgirl-type jobs she's tried since her divorce from the unpleasant lawyer Charles Fargate.

It seems it's not her day to die however, as salvation, in the handsome form of one Joe Munroe, sweeps her out of the path of the rampaging bull and into his arms. Ordinarily, this would be the signal for a case of romantic attraction/lust/desire to develop, but this story takes a slightly different path. Candy Arnold is a complex woman, struggling with issues that will strike close to home for many of her readers. Candy is plagued with self-doubt; she worries about her looks, her ability to succeed and her social awareness. Her sense of sexual self-confidence is next-to-nil and some of these concerns can be laid at the door of her failed marriage.

Joe, on the other hand, is a relatively straightforward man! In other words, he wants Candy, but is afraid of rejection. (It's the fragile ego thing again.) He has some past history trailing around after him as well, but is much better able to put it behind him than Candy is. All these hangups aside, the basic issue between both Candy and Joe is one of trust, and this is really the story of how two wary people learn about trust and placing their faith in someone else. It's a triumph of hope over experience. Both characters have their faults; Candy is too ready to welcome her ex back into her life - I'm not sure that any woman who'd been through Candy's experiences with Fargate would have welcomed him back with anything less than a 357 magnum!! And Joe is a bit too controlled - you gotta love a man who knows when to stop, but he stops an awful lot - must have been the endless days riding his property.

The secondary characters are well drawn and play their precise roles with enthusiasm, but seldom overshadow the love story that develops between Joe and Candy. The pacing is brisk and this book fortunately avoids the dreaded "exposition" disease - several pages of deep introspection by hero or heroine that do nothing to advance the plot. The settings are an important and accurate part of this tale - I had to get something to drink several times to wash the dust of the ranch out of my throat while reading it!! (One small criticism - if you're going to have the hero give the heroine small cuddly animals, be advised that the majority of your readers are going to want to know what happened to those little balls of fluff - bunnies and puppies absolutely MUST be accounted for throughout the story!!!)

So if you're looking for an eBook that will drop you into the middle of an untamed land and fascinate you with a glimpse of the people who live there, then consider Suspicions of the Heart - a romance with a generous dash of Stetsons and longhorn cattle.

Reviewed in January 2002 by Celia.

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