Read with: Hardcover
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: Dal Frisco
Heroine: Fredrick Roark
Date of Publication: January 1, 1998
Started On: March 17, 2012
Finished On: March 18, 2012
The Best Man is a novel that is going to be hard to review, not because it wasn’t a splendid read in all the ways that counts. It is going to be difficult to put into words just how much the story affected me, how the characters that were brought to life in front of my eyes continued to worm their way into my heart and later on etched themselves onto my very soul to stay there for the time to come. As I have said before and I will continue to say this, Maggie Osborne is an author who is one of a kind. She delivers romances that takes you to place you rarely get to go and she gives you a story that you can sink your teeth into and cannot let go!
Joe Roark, owner of the King’s Walk Ranch dies leaving behind 3 daughters and his fourth wife a widow. Each of them grapples with the astounding will that Joe leaves which dictates that his daughters prove their mettle before they are to receive their due inheritance. If that fails to be the case, all the sweat and hard work that Joe had put into building his ranch would be in vain and would be handed over to a wife that he detested more than he did his daughters.
A man who only wanted sons and got saddled with daughters, Joe refused to let his daughters forget their place in the world. Alexander Roark Mills (Alex), Fredrick Roark (Freddy) and Lester Roark (Les); the 3 daughters whom he had pampered in his way and each of whom had disappointed him in one way or the other suddenly finds themselves tasked with driving a herd of longhorns to the market in Abilene, Kansas.
Dal Frisco is a man who is looking for a second chance, a chance to turn his life around and achieve his dream of owning his own spread in Montana. To do that, he needs cold hard cash and the news of the infamous will Joe left to his daughters pave the way for him to do exactly just that. What he doesn’t bargain for is to find daughters who look like the high strung type who carry smelling salts in their fringed wrist purses who look and behave as if they have never engaged in an honest day of work in their whole lives. But even then, Freddy with her dark hair and green eyes catch him unawares with the bolt of desire that strikes him upon the very first time their eyes meet.
For Dal, the success of the mission ahead hinges on his ability to prepare the 3 women to face and cope with the challenges of being on the road, to actively take part in delivering the herd in the exact number their father has stipulated in the will. But the number of foes who want nothing more than to see them fail work from within to bring chaos and mayhem to their venture. And through it all, the 3 sisters continue to discover the hard truths about themselves, become better women and go on to form a bond with each other that would remain unshaken till death does them apart.
Labeling The Best Man as the story in which Freddy and Dal discover each other and fall in love would not do justice to a story that is so very much more. The Best Man brings to life the characters of 3 sisters who had grown up trying to compete and outdo each other during their childhood, each resenting the other for one thing or the other. And later when adolescence had hit, the 3 of them had found themselves going their separate ways, never forging a connection befitting that of sisters. Alex elopes while Freddy sets off to embrace her dream of performing in a theater which drives a further wedge between the sisters. Les, the youngest is the one who stays behind, who feels betrayed when her father brings home a wife that disrespects everything they stand for.
For 3 people who have never tried working as a team or have never worked hard a day in their life, the training and the pace that Dal sets serves to be sheer torture. But Dal is the man who forces them to force out their inner strength, to straighten that backbone of steel that each sister has in spades, to embrace the true hidden characteristics within each of them that makes them such appealing characters. Each of them has their own fair share of faults, fears and dreams. And learning about each of them was a journey in itself and I loved every minute of it.
The men who enter into their lives are nor less appealing. Dal plays the most prominent role and he is the stuff that pure alpha men are made out of. He is strong, stubborn, has that inner qualities that makes him a good leader. But he is not without his fair share of faults either. A recovering alcoholic, Dal battles his inner demons day in and day out and the focus shifts from his desire for the drink to his need for a woman that sets his senses afire by merely just existing. Freddy drives him crazy in more ways than one and though Dal might try to tell himself otherwise, Freddy invades his heart and his soul before he is even aware of it happening.
Alex was one of the most complex characters in the story. With a past that portrays her as the most tortured soul in the story, Alex is a character that rouses equal amounts of sympathy and admiration in the reader. At first she comes across as a snob who later transforms into a woman who is able and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that she and her sisters get what is entitled to them. How Alex discovers love, forgiveness and the courage to move on in one of the most unlikely heroes to crop up put a huge lump in my throat and made me ache in ways I cannot explain. If it is only to discover Alex and the magical transformation she undergoes in this story, it is worth getting yourself a copy of The Best Man.
Les is the sister who has problems with asserting herself. The one who enters into a relationship with an abusive fiance and believes it to be her due. The sister who has the hardest time in putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next step. The one who continually faces the dilemma of doing the right thing and choosing the easy way out. And hers was a story that I read all the while wanting to infuse her with the strength to move on, to be able to stand up and give as good as she gets. And she does get there eventually, surprising herself more than anyone else by just how far she has come by the time the story ends.
Freddy is the dreamer, the one who envisions life as a stage set for acting and she plays the lead role. One hard bump after the other and the tough lessons day in and day out teaches her to face reality, forces her to come crashing down into the world of living rather than continue to walk the Earth with her head up in the clouds. Her desire for Dal is one that catches her by surprise, her innocence the factor that lures her towards a man who shakes her up and tosses her into a maelstrom of desire that she cant shake lose from.
With Maggie Osborne, you never get a simple straightforward story. She takes you on a journey filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, traversing through roads that brings joy as much as peril comes seeking you out and later on at the end you emerge victorious from all the hard labor you have toiled in, which in the end transforms your reading experience into something wondrous that you won’t forget anytime soon.
Recommended for fans of Maggie Osborne. If you have never read a Maggie Osborne, you are definitely missing out!
His mouth came down on hers hard and hot and deliberate. His kiss was so unexpected that Freddy went limp in his arms with shock. She didn’t fight or protest, couldn’t move or breathe. No one had ever kissed her like this, selfishly, unemotionally, taking with no thought of giving. This kiss was hungry, domineering, something that seared and scorched physically and left her mind reeling.
He kissed her then, not gently, not tenderly. He didn’t kiss her to comfort her. He took her mouth hungrily, almost savagely, wanting to punish her for having a body that tormented him, for telling him that his last kiss had meant nothing, needed to punish her for letting scum like Jack Caldwell call her honey, and for ever thinking about a man who wasn’t him.
He found her breasts with his hands and dropped his lips to her arching throat, tasting dust and woman sweat and a trace of something that reminded him of apples. She tore his shirt at the throat, ripping it downward, and slipped her hands inside, her fingers like brands of fire across his skin. One minute she was straddling him, the next minute he’d fallen on top of her. It was like a dam had burst within them both, releasing a flood tide of desire and urgency. And God help him, he would have taken her right there on the ground with a stampede winding down a hundred yards behind him.
For a long moment they gazed at each other, and Freddy felt her mouth go dry and her heartbeat accelerate. If the evening ended right now, she would still remember this moment for all her days. The music, the perfume of the flower baskets, and the hard look of desire in Dal’s eyes.
“Dal … Dal …” Mindlessly, she whispered his name as his kisses deepened and became possessive and deliberate. But slow. Exploring. Teasing. Never quite enough. Kisses that drank desire from her mouth and left her frantic with wanting, wanting, wanting.
Winding her arms close around his neck, she closed her eyes. To be embraced, safe in a man’s arms when she had never expected it to happen again, this would be enough.
Time sheltered their embrace, enfolding them within a summer scented capsule that felt endless and theirs alone. The fragrance of grass and sunlight and nearby water sweetened each breath. Theirs was the music of birds ans the lazy buzz of insects and the beating of two hearts. Yes, she thought, she didn’t need more. This would be enough.
This time his kiss was full and provocative, summoning sensations she had believed, had hop, were submerged too deeply to be awakened. But his fingers on her face, his mouth, his lips, stirred slumbering emotions and coaxed them to life. His hands moved to cup her head, to spread across her spine, and he crushed her against him as their kisses deepened.
He molded her body to his and another gasp tore at her throat. She had never expected to be held in a man’s arms again. Hadn’t dared to hope that she would ever stand chest to chest, hip to hip with a man who desired her. She had truly believed lovemaking was a pleasure she would never again experience in her lifetime. That was her choice and destiny.
His hands moved from her waist to her face, and he kissed the tears shining on her cheeks and eyelids. “I love you,” he whispered. “I have loved you from the moment I saw you.”
“You are so beautiful,” he breathed. Standing over her, rampant in the moonlight, he gazed down at her body. “You are as lovely and as perfect as I imagined you would be.”
Afraid to believe, afraid to trust, she dared a look at him and felt her heart wrench when she read his expression and understood that she truly was whole and beautiful in his eyes. She was a magnificent to him as he was to her.