Too often heroines or heroes let pride stand in the way of romance and the heroine, Lucy Ames, is guilty of this in Winnie Griggs' novel What Matters Most.
Lucy is a single mother of a six year old son living on the outskirts of a small Texas town. She saves Reed Wilder from two thieves who have beaten him senseless, she takes him back to her home to recuperate.
Reed is actually searching for Lucy. He and his wealthy family believe she is a scheming opportunist who slept with his brother while he was married and stole a family heirloom; he also believes that Lucy's son Toby is his nephew. He keeps all this information hidden from her though and to pay her back for saving his life, stays on the farm as a handyman for a few weeks.
Lucy really likes Reed and he seems non-judgmental whereas everyone in the town has deemed her a wanton. She is defensive with Reed at times and extremely private about her past. She withdraws every time Reed brings up her association with Toby's dad. She has confessed that she never married her son's father.
Lucy is both likable and incredibly frustrating. She is kind hearted, independent and resourceful but she is also way too stubborn, prideful and defensive. Even when this is brought gently to her attention she won't bend much. She is keeping her own secrets.
Reed sees Lucy in a new light but also realizes that Toby deserves to be part of his father's family. I thought the dialogue was well done but I never felt like there was a lot of sexual tension and there is very little physical romantic expression between the leads. Without giving too much of the plot away, a figure from Lucy's past in New Orleans has a part to play in this novel. However, the author does not establish the character well nor does she tie up all the loose ends. Finally, I was not overly fond of the way Lucy's temperament ran hot and cold towards Reed. Initially she was full of compassion for a wounded stranger, then she was kind to a recuperating man, then prideful and resentful that she needed his help around the farm, then distrustful and stubborn and finally loving. Reed has a much more consistent character; he distrusted Lucy initially thanks to his detective's report about her but then allowed himself to get to know her which transformed him into a loving man.