Donovan’s Bed by Debra Mullins turned out to be the best kind of surprise. All I expected was to get my curiosity sated about Samhain’s Retro Romances. What I discovered was a guilty pleasure of a book.
Sarah Calhoun made one mistake, and the small-minded small-town gossips are never going to let her forget. Admittedly, it was a pretty big mistake. And the entire town knows that Sarah isn’t going to go to her marriage bed (if any man is ever willing to overlook her past, that is) a blushing virgin.
So Sarah has spent the last two years living down her terrible sin, and throwing herself into running her father’s newspaper. The newspaper is all she has left of him. Being a good businesswoman, instead of just a woman, barely keeps the busybodies out of her life.
But of course there is a man. His name is Jack Donovan. She’s been pursuing him as part of her work. He’s new in town, and he’s bought the biggest ranch for miles around. But…no one knows who he is or where he came from. Donovan just showed up in Burr one day with a fistful of cash and bought himself a lot of respectability. Sarah knows he must have a dark secret buried someplace deep.
Jack Donovan does have a secret, and he doesn’t want Sarah to find it. So whenever she tries to interview him, he tries to get her temper riled up. Not true anger, just to deflect her a little. And because the sexual tension between them makes the sparks fly.
But when Donovan has an ornate four-poster bed shipped to Burr from “Back East”, all the mock-flirtation comes to a boil. Sarah wants to know why a single rancher, however wealthy, lavished so much money on such an ostentatious piece of furniture.
Donovan tell her that he’s decided to settle down and find a wife. Then has the gall to tell Sarah that she isn’t on the list. Even worse, he tells that she’d be just fine for a passionate affair, but that she’s not a woman to marry.
Not having lost his entire mind, he doesn’t tell her that the reason he won’t consider marrying her is that he wants a full-time rancher’s wife, and he knows she won’t give up her newspaper. And that it is unfair of him to expect it of her. And there’s that other little problem–he won’t tell her his secrets, and she won’t rest until she finds out.
But Sarah is incensed. Telling a newspaperwoman that she isn’t good enough to marry you is not the way for a man to lead a quiet and respectable life in a small town. Sarah prints Donovan’s wife hunt as front page news the very next day, complete with his stated list of qualifications.
The poor man finds himself besieged, even in his own home!
But the more women who throw themselves at him, the more he realizes that Sarah, the one he believed was totally unsuitable, is the only woman he could possibly spend the rest of his life with.
But first they have to deal with a few pesky little problems. Like his past. And her past. And whether or not they are both willing to make serious compromises in their expectations.
Sarah was right all along. Jack Donovan really did have a deep, dark secret buried in his past. Jack wanted it to stay buried forever. Until his worst self turns out to be the only one who can save Sarah’s life.
Escape Rating B+: If you have a fondness for Western romances in small frontier towns, this is a good one. I’d forgotten how much fun these stories are. It probably helps a lot that this particular “Retro Romance” isn’t all that retro–Donovan’s Bed was originally published in 2000.
I’m even considering reading the rest of the Calhoun Sisters series, just for fun.
Do not judge this book by its cover. Donovan is probably even more alpha than the picture, but Sarah is making her way as a businesswoman in a man’s world, she’s no sweet, submissive little miss. The original paperback cover may be more lurid, but more accurate.