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Joan Johnston

REVIEW:  Wyoming Bride by Joan Johnston

REVIEW: Wyoming Bride by Joan Johnston

Dear Ms. Johnston:

Two things converged at once to induce me to buy and read this book. First, there was an emailed recommendation from someone I knew who said that this was the best Johnston book in a long time. I confess I can’t remember reading a Johnston book but I’m all for ‘Best in a long time” recommendations. Then Ridley suggested she would like to see more Western historical reviews. I felt like the world was calling for me to read this book even though I had to buy it at $7.99. After weeks of buying books at sub $5, buying a book at $7.99 that ends up being terrible makes you all sorts of cranky. Bear that in mind as you read this review. As an aside, I did think of returning the book but figured that we did have a dearth of Western historical romances on the blog.

Wyoming Bride by Joan JohnstonThe story opens with Hannah, an orphan, contemplating whether she made the right choice in marrying stranger Mr. McMurtry. He wasn’t the gorgeous man in the white hat that she had dreamed of and she dreaded the marriage bed.  However, Mr. McMurtry was a kind man and willing to take in Hannah’s two siblings.

Despite this, Hannah thinks unkind thoughts about Mr. McMurtry, particularly that his skinny physical form isn’t pleasing, and I chide myself to be patient. Not everyone can play the role of pragmatic heroine. There is room in the genre for others. I swallow and move on. Mr. McMurtry is a really decent man and I was almost excited to think I was going to read a romance about this kind mercantile owner who was going to become the man of Hannah’s dreams. Alas, no that is not the book.

Instead, Mr. McMurtry dies from cholera he contracted from the sickbeds of infected people he had tried to comfort. McMurtry and Hannah and the two girls were kicked off the wagon train after Hannah’s twin pits two men against each other in hopes of winning the affections of one. The two men end up killing each other in a fight. These girls really are a prize.

Hannah and her sisters are separated after their lone wagon gets attacked by a band of horsemen described as “clearly not white men.” Oh, yes, the sole appearance of Native Americans as marauders of innocent white women. Later in the book, they are referred to as “savages”.

“He thought Ashley Patton might be responsible. That he gave guns to the Indians so they could attack the smaller spreads.”

“It makes a crazy sort of sense. Patton’s enough of a greenhorn to think he can control a bunch of savages.”

It’s not like the marauders being Native American were integral to the plot. They could have been a band of white outlaws and the story wouldn’t have changed at all.  Back in the 1980s, this was de riguer but in 2013 one would have thought we could discard that tired and racist trope.  I guess not.

The book shifts to the Creed brothers, Flint and Ransom, who play the heroes roles in this book. Flint is in love with his brother’s soon to be wife, Emaline. He felt like he was better than his brother and that he had saved his brother multiple times only to lose the woman of his dreams to his brother. He leaves their engagement party and vows to marry the first woman he sees which would be the heroine who is lying in a ditch somewhere after the wagon train attack (which she can’t remember). He asks her to marry him and she, being orphaned, widowed, pregnant, says “we’ll see. Depends on whether you are a good man or not.” (This is my summary of several lines of dialogue)

But secretly she is a bit thrilled because he is so hot and her previous husband was not. (I haven’t forgotten that Mr. McMurtry was a saint but apparently Hannah has). Hannah also doesn’t reveal that she is pregnant.  Hannah and Flint’s romance is not sufficient for this book.  Instead, we also get the romance of Ransom and Emaline.  Emaline reveals that she does not expect them to have intercourse because she is afraid of childbirth.  Ransom is shocked and dismayed.  However, Emaline proposes that they spend a month living together at his two room ranch house where he lives with Flint and that they sleep together and she’ll show him how wonderful sex free life can be.

The four of them will live in a house together while Ransom and Flint try to woo their wives. Ransom and Emaline will sleep together and Flint and Hannah will as well (because the sofa is too hard for Flint).  The characters’ ages in this book are young.  Hannah, for example, is seventeen, but I expected the way that they acted to be more mature. Instead, I felt like I was reading a high school version of the Old West.  At one point, Flint goes horseback riding and tells his horse how fine Hannah’s pink nipples are.

The set ups are obvious and so are the resolutions. Helena comes to figure out that Flint is in love with Emaline and he doesn’t appreciate having another man’s babe foisted upon him.  He looks longingly in Emaline’s direction but also is constantly comparing her disfavorably with Helena.  Emaline finds it harder to resist Ransom in bed than she originally thought.  There is danger presented to both couples in the form of a local rancher who believes that one of the two women would be better suited as his bride.

There is a distinct disconnect between what the text tells us and then what the characters want the readers to believe.  For instance, Flint is confronted with his two women – the one he has asked to marry him and the one he believes he loves.

Flint did a quick comparison of the two of them. One was immaculately turned out, her shiny brown hair tucked neatly into a bun, her dress buttoned to her throat and her wrists, falling all the way to the tips of her black, high-button shoes without a wrinkle.

The other wore scuffed brown shoes that had likely walked a thousand miles, a pair of Ransom’s Levi’s with ragged ends where she’d trimmed the legs to fit her, and one of his own plaid wool shirts that hung nearly to her knees. She’d gathered her blond curls into a single braid that hung down her back, but wisps had escaped to frame her face in a golden halo.

Flint felt the pulse throb in his neck and realized it wasn’t Emaline who was causing the frantic beat of his heart. It was the waif he’d rescued.

Maybe that was it. Maybe it was the fact that he’d found Hannah, like a lost penny, that made her so attractive to him. Maybe it was the mystery surrounding her during the days before her memory had returned. Maybe it was the desperation he’d felt to find a woman— any woman— so he wouldn’t be alone in the house when Emaline and Ransom returned to live here as a married couple.

Of course, none of those reasons explained why he was still attracted to Hannah when Emaline was standing in the same room with her. Standing right beside her, in fact, where the two women couldn’t have been more different than a wolf and a dog.

One was feral, one domesticated. What did it say about him that he preferred the wild one?

The “wolf” was the one clothed in the high button dress with her hair done up in a bun and the “dog” was the one wearing the jeans and men’s clothing. Pardon me for being totally baffled by this entire passage but it’s this type of writing throughout the book.

I felt these characters had the maturity of teenagers, not those who lived in a harsh land eking out survival and their own empire. Hannah is throwing herself at Flint one minute and then sobbing the next. His touches and caresses are arousing because he is young and virile whereas Mr. McMurtry was skinny and unattractive.

A woman’s fear of pregnancy and death could be very real, but it came off as so obvious and heavy handed in this book. There was so much telling and “as you know bob’s” throughout, that the entire narrative felt fake and forced.  There was no nuance in this book. Every time there was a conflict, I felt like a hand was being reached out from the book and slapping me across the face.  “Are you paying attention? She’s afraid of child birth. Slap slap slap.”

This book, like the cover, represents old school romance. If you enjoyed the westerns of the 1980s, then this might appeal. D

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Shattered by Joan Johnston

REVIEW: Shattered by Joan Johnston

Dear Ms. Johnston:

Cover image for Shattered by Joan JohnstonI had really enjoyed Outcast and was looking forward to reading this even though it clearly was part of a long running series, a series with which I don’t have even the passing acquaintance. I can see by the Amazon reviews, however, I should be grateful I wasn’t one of the fans that had followed the series and the build up only to have my expectations completely dashed. I can say that there is nothing about this book that would compel me to pick up another in the Bitter Creek saga.

Kate married poorly to a selfish man who cheated on her. One night she walked into a hotel room that she and her husband were sharing and found her husband with another woman. Her husband just waves her away. Kate proceeds to leave the room, return to the lobby and picks up the handsomest man in the room for a one night stand. Kate gets pregnant by this stranger and eventually delivers twins. Kate stays marries to her philandering husband for some reason. Kate’s mother in law is the former governor of Texas who has higher political ambitions. Her main problem is keeping track of her son. He is supposed to be dead but Kate knows that he is alive. Kate’s mother in law hires someone to find out the paternity of Kate’s twins. It turns out to be Wyatt Shaw, the son of a mob boss.

Wyatt finds out he has twins and guess what? He wants them back. Upon seeing Kate, he realizes he wants her too. He’s never forgotten that one wild night 10 years ago. Unfortunately for Wyatt, Kate is in love with Jack, a Texas Ranger with a black mark on his record. Jack is recently separated from his wife and has found solace in Kate’s arms. As soon as the two of them can arrange a divorce and/or receive confirmation of Kate’s husband’s death, they will marry.

Jack was kicked out of the house by his wife, Holly, because she was afraid to love him. Complicating matters is that when Kate was in a coma from a gunshot wound, Jack and Holly had sex and now Holly is pregnant. Please note that Jack and Kate were purportedly in love with each other at the time of her gunshot wound and subsequent coma. I wonder if coma is secret code for “cheating but not cheating”?

But Kate doesn’t really mind. She’s totally accepting of Jack and knows that he loves her. Problematically when Wyatt shows up, she can’t stop the physical reaction she has toward Wyatt. Oh dear me, how can that be when she is supposed to love Jack?

The fact is that Jack and Kate really have no idea what love is and that would be perfectly fine if learning about true love was part of their character arc. But it’s not. Both are so spineless that in the end, it’s probably good the two didn’t get together because two gormless worms should not live above the earth and procreate.

So Wyatt drags Kate and the two boys to his remote compound near Houston and demands that Kate sleep in the same bed with him. Because Kate is the aforementioned gormless worm, she cries but acquiesces. Apparently in Texas, you are required to sleep in the same bed as a man who impregnated you, even if it is 10 years ago, or else dire consequences ensue. Like getting a spine. It should be noted that Kate is from a very powerful family but at no time does she call on them to help her out. Pride is one reason. Because it’s far better to go and b be forced to sleep in the bed of a man you believe is a criminal and responsible for heinous acts than to ask your family for help.

Of course, Kate cannot be forced to sleep in the same bed as Wyatt without having sex with him again but good girl that she is, she confesses this to Jack who at first gets mad and jealous but then decides that they will work things out.

Let’s turn to Jack and his wife, Holly. Jack and Holly have a 6 year old son and right when Jack needs to get a divorce he finds out that the son has AML and needs a bone marrow transplant. Soap fans will understand where this story goes.

In the end, Jack and Holly rekindle their love. Kate and Wyatt fall in love. At some point, after much sexxoring of the other partners, Jack and Kate confess to each other than they are not in love and wish each other the best. The end. Cue rainbows for everyone.

The characters are completely wooden. No one had any authentic reactions to what was going on in their lives. The plot was completely ridiculous. It read like a cobbled together script of a few episodes of a bad soap combined with a TNT action show.    There was a ton of backslapping by people I assume were from other Bitter Creek novels but had nothing to do with the storyline other than to add “there, there, it will be all rights” along the way.   Lame.   The only thing that would have saved this story is if someone had their head chopped off in the beginning but turned back up at the end to fall in love with Kate’s mother in law or something. D

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link), Harlequin (non affiliate), eharlequin, Kindle (non affiliate link) or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free (and I probably would have been pissed if I had paid for it).