With Heart is the third book in Dorothy Garlock's depression era series. I approached this series tentatively, thinking it was unlikely anyone could make the depression romantic. Well, I was wrong. Dorothy Garlock has the skill to close the door on my world and draw me willingly into hers. A world more absorbing than I ever thought possible.
It's 1938 and newspaper reporter Kathleen Dolan has realized a dream. An inheritance has allowed her to invest in the Rawlings, Oklahoma, newspaper. Johnny Henry, who appears in each book and has grown up over the course of this series, is the owner of a struggling ranch in Rawlings. His brother-in-law, Tom Dolan, has asked Johnny to look after his niece when she arrives in town. The request is no trouble for Johnny once he sets eyes on the feisty redhead.
Kathleen quickly stirs things up in town. Her reporter's instincts have led her to investigate the medical practice of the town's only physician, Doc Herman. A doctor no one visits, except pregnant women. She suspects him of delivering and then selling the babies, but Doc Herman is also the mayor, county commissioner and someone who would make a very powerful enemy. There are many mysteries in this small town,
including murder, and Kathleen, with Johnny's help, is determined to solve them.
This is the start of a tempestuous relationship. Kathleen is drawn to the handsome cowboy immediately, but Johnny, influenced by his past, is intimidated by the educated journalist. She is a published author and newspaper reporter. He has barely finished fifth grade and has never read a book. She is from a respectable family and he is the son of a whore. He cares for Kathleen but knows he has nothing to offer. His on again-off again behavior bewilders her and sets up a pattern that will continue even beyond the conclusion of the book. (More on this later).
Although a bit of a hothead at times, Kathleen is my favorite heroine of the series. She's a forceful, modern woman who refuses to let anyone push her around. Johnny, on the other hand, is a real heartbreaker. A man so scarred by a tortuous past that it has left him with little self esteem.
As they work together to uncover the myriad of secrets in town, a cast of strong secondary characters, especially Adelaide, the co-owner of the newspaper and her boyfriend, Paul, assists them. Paul would make a wonderful hero in his own story. Many of the characters that populated the previous books make an appearance in this one, but without the confusion that sometimes plagues a series. In fact, I did not read the series in order, and still the story lines and characters flowed seamlessly.
The mystery is the primary focus of this book and often the romance takes a back seat to solving the crime. This is too bad because the book seems to merely scratch the surface of Kathleen and Johnny's complicated relationship. In the end, I was not ready to let them go.
Fortunately, in an intriguing excerpt at the end of the story, we are given a glimpse into Dorothy Garlock's next book, which continues the relationship of Johnny and Kathleen after they have been separated by World War II. I, for one, will be waiting impatiently for the next installment in what looks to be an emotional conclusion to this couple's