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REVIEW: Widow Woman by Patricia McLinn

Dear Ms. McLinn,

widow-woman.jpgI know I’m not the only one who’s bemoaned the fact that not too many publishers are looking for good, old fashioned western set stories. This is a reprinted (re-electroned?) version of your book that was originally published in 1998. Now Belgrave House is allowing us western romance fans another chance to try it and it is well worth checking out.

“Widow Woman” has a great beginning. The first 100 odd pages are wonderful and had me holding my breath. You give us strong characters acting in believable ways, twists on standard plots that had me sitting up to take notice that things just might be different with this story. Would the rest of the book hold up to them or would it trail off and end up disappointing me? Rachel Terhune is a tough woman doing a tough job. She’s clear eyed, logical and has been helping to run her father’s ranch for enough years that after his death and that of her unlamented husband, she and her foreman do a decent job even if still faced with the mountain of debt left to her. Stuck between two much larger ranches both run by older men who’d love to see her acres added to theirs, life isn’t easy but it’s doable. I like that she doesn’t beat around the bush when confronting Nick Dusaq about the way they met. After all, having to hire a desperately needed cowhand after first coming across him stark naked in a stream can’t be easy when a woman is trying to be taken seriously in a man’s world. I appreciated the realism of some cowhands being unwilling to work for a woman and others needing her to prove herself. Same old same old, women have to do job twice as well…

The tension was nicely built between Rachel and Nick. She not being able to forget what he looks like and how different that was from her older husband and he having realized and appreciated the hunger in her eyes. Both know that for different reasons, they can’t allow what they feel to even be acknowledged much less go any further. And so the months pass, the cattle drive is successful and I’m totally thrown by what is a usual “western” plot being completed with over half the book still to come. And then it starts going downhill a little as we get to more conventional plots. Nick and Rachel get tossed together during a blizzard and finally give into their passions (which was quite hot) then Nick stomps off in a huff and Rachel marries. Nick stomps back in still slightly huffy and gets mad at her for doing what she had to do to survive. I finally get to see more of Nick’s background and it is one of unrelenting gloom though it does explain why he holds off from any romantic commitment. But you also slowly show us that Nick would never be like his father by how he treats his wounded younger sister. At this point, I was starting to get a bit skeptical of just how much pain you could heap on these siblings. And yet the characterization of Alba was so good. I can see a) why she’s nervous around men and b) by she doesn’t think she’s worthy of love. Why she never loses her temper because in her past even staying calm could still lead to pain and violence much less venting her anger.

Then the snows come and the cattle die and debts are revealed and the story began to sound like an old 4 reel melodrama at the Palace on Saturday afternoon. I know from other romance books that the winter weather is based on the real life occurrence of Winter of 1883. See you can learn correct history in romance novels! But I have to admit to wondering when Rachel would end up tied to the railroad tracks as the express approaches and the villain twirled his mustaches. And yet I still cared about these characters, was still caught up in the world you’d created and watched as you took one particular plot device I hate and made me believe it.

Usually I’m not much of one for historic heroines refusing to marry men because the men won’t say “I love you” but in this case, Rachel had paid her loveless marriage dues and she recognizes that with Nick it’s different. She loves him too much to put up with another loveless union. It would hurt her too badly. And Alba counters Nick’s objections about Rachel wanting the fairy tale by pointing out the practical, needs-to-be done things that Rachel’s done for years. And Nick is finally persuaded to risk a life with the woman he loves by some agreed upon ground rules. And you don’t rush us to a sugary sweet HEA after all that lifetime of pain. Okay maybe the secondary romance of Alba and Davis is almost too sweet but by gosh Alba deserves happiness and Davis is just so wonderful with her that I could deal with it. The second half didn’t quite match up to the strong beginning but everything balances out to a B for this one.

~Jayne

available as an ebook from Belgrave or Fictionwise

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

8 Comments

  1. Jan
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 12:52:18

    I think maybe you and I are the only two people left who still love a good old Western romance. I never thought of looking in ebooks.

    Is Harlequin Historical the only other place to find them in print these days? And whatever happened to Maggie Osborne?

    Huh, just out of curiosity, from Byron:
    1996 – 230 Westerns
    1997 – 200
    1998 – 205
    1999 – 240
    2000 – 215
    2001 – 175
    2002 – 150
    2003 – 135
    2004 – 100
    2005 – 120
    2006 – 100
    2007 – 75 so far
    I don’t even think it’s just Westerns so much as a general attempt to homogenize publishing, you know? Because they got rid of traditional Regencies and tried to dump historicals for a while. They’ve become Hollywood in a way, putting out many versions of the same product and not giving other things a chance.

    Anyway, I’m glad to know westerns have made their way into eformat. It seems like it’s the cutting edge for romance these days.

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  2. Jayne
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 14:29:07

    Aside from Harlequin, there are very few westerns being published these days. I did read “A Reason to Live” by Maureen McKade last year and there’s a sequel to it that was published earlier this year.

    Maggie Osborne retired from writing about 2 years ago.

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  3. Jayne
    Nov 09, 2007 @ 14:41:51

    Wow, I’m still slack-jawed at those statistics you posted. I knew it was a forlorn genre but… just wow. 75 books this year? I guess I should be happy that any are still being published at all.

    ReplyReply

  4. Mary Brady
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 05:08:47

    I like to say I’m 35 years old and I realy never liked to read. I just could never find a book I could follow along and keep reading. But one day I had Maggie Osborne’s book gave to me “Prairie Moon” I couldn’t put it down. Her book was so easy to read and kept making me want more. I never thought I would enjoy reading but this book was great! I’m looking for more of her books in large print to read. Thank you Maggie for helping me enjoy reading.

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  5. Jayne
    Jan 26, 2009 @ 08:09:29

    Mary, Maggie Osborne was one of the first authors I read when I returned to reading romance novels about 12 years ago. “Brides of Prairie Gold” was the one I started with and I can say that most of her books worked wonderfully for me. It was a sad day for me when she announced her retirement from writing.

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  6. Patricia McLinn
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 23:18:12

    I wanted to let all western-lovers (me, too) know that WIDOW WOMAN is now available as an e-book at http://www.AWritersWork.com for a great price.

    AWritersWork.com is brings the works of proven authors directly to readers. Hope you’ll check us out!

    Patricia McLinn

    ReplyReply

  7. Jayne
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 04:46:23

    @Patricia McLinn: Thanks for the information. It looks like an interesting site and the prices certainly can’t be beat!

    ReplyReply

  8. Patricia McLinn
    Oct 24, 2010 @ 17:04:25

    Thought I’d let you know that WIDOW WOMAN is also now available through Kindle http://amzn.to/bcwyT2

    It has a new/different cover … might receive a new-new cover in the future ;-)

    My other Kindle books (contemporaries; some Western, some not) are at http://amzn.to/bQhdxY

    All the best,
    Patricia McLinn

    ReplyReply

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