In his head he was strong and a standby your woman man, but in actions he was a runner. Mercy was a better drawn to me, she was a strong woman who loved and took care of the people in her lives. This wasn't a bad story I just wish it could have been tweaked a bit for Thad's dual personality.
27 year old Mercy Clarke is one of those determined heroines who love their independence, who has had a bad marriage with her now deceased husband Nate and wishes to remain single and shoulder all the responsibilities of her familys cattle ranching business in Colorado. With a father who has been disabled from the accident that killed her husband and a younger sister to take care of, Mercy is a woman who takes her responsibilities very seriously and is determined that she would keep the family ranch no matter how much it costs her to do so. It is Thads determination that he reach Colorado that ends him up in the company of the prickly as a thorn Mercy Clarke in the town of Albiene where Mercy travels to auction off her cattle to pay off the debt on her ranch. I love an independent heroine as much as the next girl but Mercy tended to get on my nerves a bit during the first half of the story and later on redeemed herself by following up on what she felt for Thad. I loved the fact that this was a romance between an older heroine and a younger hero but that didnt factor into much of the story.
We first meet Mercy and her younger sister, Miranda, as they are driving a herd of cattle from Colorado to Kansas, along with two hired hands. And as luck would also have it, Thads sister happens to be Mercys best friend. Shes often heard Clarisse talk about her baby brother, and even though she wants nothing to do with Thad, who she thinks is a no-account drunken gambler, she also knows how much it would mean to Clarisse to see her brother, so she grudgingly agrees to take him with her, along with another young man who is friends of her family. Where Mercys mission in life at the moment is her single-mindedness drive to sell her cattle and return home with enough money to save her ranch, Thad is single-mindedly determined to find someone to guide him to Colorado. His sister has told him she knows a widow who would be a perfect wife for him, and the thought of marrying and starting a family and working a ranch again appeal to him. When Thad mentions that to Mercy, she speculates that Clarisse probably intends to introduce Thad to a widow they both know who has two young sons, and she spends some time telling Thad about her. And even when she admits to herself that she likes Thad, shes still set on not getting involved with him, because he wants a family, which she cant give him. And then I was suddenly jolted out of the story when, on page 88, the author tells us Thad was only twenty-three, but sometimes he felt like an old man. At this point Mercys age has not been mentioned, but if Thad is only twenty-three, then Mercy is probably also younger than I thought she was!
And you'd think that a cattle ranch of any size would oh I dunno - have a few ranch hands and a foreman? As in, who is managing the ranch while she's on the cattle drive? Or rather, why is SHE on the cattle drive instead of a few hands and a foreman? I don't KNOW what year Texas became a state - would have to look it up - but am pretty sure Abilene was in whatever Texas was at the time. She, her kid sister (who is 19 by the way), and two hands she hired for the trip took a herd of cattle. I thought it was customary to take every marketable steer to market at once; not just grab a handful for a month-long drive. First, the two hands bug off, then she has a run-in with some low-life who has issues with women, so our H convinces her to (reluctantly, I might add) let him come along (which I find strange since she supposedly was his sister's best friend). Wants to see sister, get married, start a family. Sister - 19 and told by heroine that she's "too young" to start a family. Likely two cow hands were too.
In "Loving Mercy" Ms. Bodwell captures the atmosphere and times of the untamed plains of Kansas and Colorado.