In Honor's Defense. (Hanger's Horsemen #3) Karen Witemeyer. 2022. [June] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Invisible people rarely received correspondence. A fact Damaris Baxter had accepted long ago.
In Honor's Defense is the third book in the Hanger's Horsemen trilogy by Karen Witemeyer. This historical romance focuses on Luke Davenport (aka "Preach"). He is our hero; and he's made appearances in the previous books. He's come to town to help a rancher find the rustlers responsible for stealing his cattle.
But who is our heroine???
Damaris Baxter has recently moved from St. Louis to Texas to become the guardian of her (now teenager) nephew, Nate. He's angry and bitter. He feels that his father's death was not accidental but instead murder. His heart is so full of anger, hurt, bitterness that there's just not much room to love an aunt he barely knows. Damaris ("Aunt Maris") loves fiercely and unconditionally. He may not be ready to love her, but she loves enough for two. She'll be there patiently waiting--no matter how long it takes. Even if he never quite loves her back.
The meet cute for this couple is adorable. Nate has trapped Damaris in the cellar. Luke has come to pay a visit to this "spinster" aunt. Perhaps Nate has seen or heard something about what's going on on their neighbor's ranch. Regardless, it won't hurt to get another perspective on the situation. But instead of a spinster aunt and nephew, he finds a seemingly empty house...except he hears someone yelling for help. The spinster is so NOT a spinster. And absolutely nothing follows is as he could have predicted....
Circumstances soon have Luke spending a LOT of time with Damaris and Nate. And he doesn't see that changing any time soon. He senses the two are in great danger...and it may take all his wits (plus calling in some favors from his friends) to keep them safe.
I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED every single minute of this one. I liked the first book in the series. I really loved the second book. Like I thought there was no way to top the second book. But I think this third book may just be my favorite in the series. Maybe. I'd have to reread the second book to be absolutely sure. But then chances are I'd end up rereading the third book again just to double check. It might just be a never-ending cycle of me trying to make up my mind.
I loved Luke. "Preach" has always been such a great character. And getting to know him in this one was great.
Damaris. What can I say about Damaris???? She was the big surprise for me. I always have a feeling that I am going to "love" the hero in Witemeyer's romances. But Damaris, well, I just ADORED her. Together these two just made me GIDDY with glee.
The book definitely had lots of SWEETness. But it also had some intense moments that were action-packed.
- Yet when one reached marriageable age, invisibility became a significant disadvantage.
- Not only was Damaris on the shelf, she was in the back corner behind the knickknacks, collecting dust.
- To be chosen for herself--it was the secret desire of her heart. To be important to someone.
- Not everything could be beautiful...Yet a thing's outward beauty should not determine its value.
- Someday he would accept her affection. Return it, even. After all, love was the strongest force on earth. Because it wasn't of earth. It was divine. God's very nature. It would win the day eventually, if she held true to her course. [Damaris thinking about Nate, her nephew]
- Grief couldn't be outrun, though. It would catch him eventually, and when it did, he'd need the very thing he swore he didn't want--his aunt. [Damaris and Nate]
- What would it be like to have someone in her life who could be counted on always to be there, always to take her side? One who saw her even when she was at her most invisible?
- Contentment isn't chained to a certain set of circumstances, Luke. It's portable. You can take it with you wherever you go.
- She's swallowed her pride so many times, all the edges had been worn smooth. [Damaris and Nate]
- Unfortunately, banishing her feelings for him was not an option. They were sprouting far too fast to cut down. And if she were honest with herself, she'd have to admit that she didn't want to cut them down.
- I didn't ask you to tell me who you were, Luke. I asked you to tell me who you are.
- Luke had kept his hands to himself, but the intimacy between him and Damaris just kept growing like the plant shoots undeterred by cobblestones, winding through tiny crevices to sprout green in the midst of a stone street.
- No story bound in paper could compare to the one she longed to live in the real world.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible