Emily Brockinger has seen first hand the horrors of the west. Almost every member of her party has been killed by Indians, and now she is left to wander further with the only other survivor, a three year old boy named Thorton. Along the way she meets Cloud Ryder, a half-Indian cowboy who wouldn’t dare pass up the opportunity to get to know Emily better. He agrees to escort her and Thorton to her brother’s home if Emily agrees to share his bed during their journey.
Ryder has a reputation for being a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy. He intends to make Emily another conquest in his long list of lovers. Of course, along the way he discovers Emily is not the weak northern lady he thought she was. In fact, Emily is unlike any of the other women he has known…one he can’t stop thinking about and isn’t sure he wants to live without. Emily knows enjoying her time with Ryder is wrong, considering the way he conned her into their bargain, but she cannot help herself. With each passing day, her feelings for Cloud grow stronger despite the heartbreak she is certain will follow. Faced with a few trials, Emily and Cloud must discover whether or not their relationship is worth the risk.
Compromised Hearts started out slow and unimpressive. The hero was immediately unlikeable. He came off as somewhat of a creep who sought only to use Emily for his pleasure and had no qualms about it. This could have been a minor problem, but the heroine was such a pure and likable character that you truly felt sorry that she is in this situation with Cloud. Her plight is not an easy one and then Cloud seeks to take advantage of her so it seems somewhat unfair and unrealistic.
As far as this romance novel goes, it’s not really that romantic. Emily is not concerned at all about selling her body, Cloud has no sense of romance whatsoever, and both characters have next to nothing in common. Perhaps what is most disturbing is how Thorton’s character is completely neglected. The young child saw his parents murdered days earlier and along this journey is forced to spend the nights with strangers or brothel owners in order for Emily and Cloud to sleep together per their agreement. Cloud also has a list of conquest that would span the length of a football field….and then some.
Despite the problems with the novel, as the story went on, it did improve. The characters became more likable and the story more entertaining. Compromised Hearts took on a tenderness that was very satisfying. The story’s villains are introduced in the second half which adds a good dose of intrigue and drama to this couple’s journey. The secondary cast of characters is greatly expanded as well in this portion of the book and includes some wonderful additions.
The book was not a total disappointment, but there were some problems that became hard to overlook. It was mainly the attachment to the lead heroine that compels you to read the book the conclusion. Also the improvement of the second half of the novel makes it a worthwhile read. The dilemma these characters face is fascinating and you will want to see it through to its conclusion. The story itself is entertaining and interesting, but it is the characters that truly ensure this novel falls short of perfection. If the first half of the novel would have had the same quality as the second half, the novel would have been near perfect, or at least fully enjoyable. Compromised Hearts had some major character flaws, but a promising story line, which made it an average read.