Dear Ms. Finch,
I love a good American set historical romance. And I’m glad to see that Westerns are coming back into fashion. The brawny Texas Rangers, open skies, roughing it under a canopy of stars, coyotes singing in the distance, rattlesnakes rattling, flash floods and tornadoes …’er maybe not all of that but I’ve missed them over the years.
I love the choice of your opening scene. “Middle of Nowhere, Texas.” I imagine that would cover a lot of territory. Hud Stone, our brawny Texas Ranger, is disgusted with his latest assignment but since it comes straight from the Ranger Commander, he’s got zero choice in the matter. Instead of continuing his search for the low down dog who gunned his partner in the back leaving him for the coyotes to find, he’s got to head to one of the worst hellholes in Texas and pick up the Commander’s daughter then escort her to meet her father at the Ranger camp.
Gabrielle Price is far from the spoiled princess Hud imagines her to be. Thanks to her friendship with a street urchin, she knows the world is a bitch of a place at times and how to defend herself when it gets that way. And thanks to her conniving, stuffed shirt, soon to be ex-fiance, she gets another lesson in bitch. She also develops a dislike for one bossy Ranger despite the fact that she enjoys kissing him.
Determined to avoid traveling with Hud, she sneaks off with another group but to no avail. Hud follows, finds her then it’s off on a cross country trip to meet Daddy. Only he doesn’t count on falling for Bri, the twister in the middle of a thunder storm, getting wet, getting passionate, getting pissed when he thinks she’s headed off again on her own. But did she? Because someone else is also hot on their trail and plans on making their lives a lot more bitchy.
Okay, so I’ve missed some Westerns but perhaps not all the stuff that’s in this Western. There were times when I both enjoyed and hated Hud and Bri. And many of the secondary characters didn’t thrill me either.
Hud works better for me. He’s a Ranger first and foremost who sees to his horse’s needs before his own. He’s (generally) good at what he does, is honorable, is determined to see the job through. But he has emo, “oh, everything that goes wrong in this book is my fault” moments and makes some critical mistakes when he should have been on his most alert. There they are, traveling through some rough country and a panther almost gets their horses while he and Bri sit and have a confab about his past life.
Then there’s the storm that overtakes them, complete with tornado, hail and a flash flood. Has he never seen a storm brewing in Texas? Then he jumps to a conclusion that almost ruins Bri’s day. Sex sure does muddle his thinking when it counts. And I thought he was in such an all fired hurry to get Bri to her father so… why does he insist on lingering in town for a day? Scratching an itch takes precedence over getting back to the hunt for the mangy dog who killed his partner?
Bri sure yelps a lot. And while she knows how to defend herself, and does it quit handily, if she didn’t wander – alone – at night – in a hellhole of a town – maybe she wouldn’t have to use that derringer and stiletto. And if she paid attention when she was gathering wood, the rattlesnake wouldn’t have nearly bitten her. And if she had yelled later in the book, Hud might have cottoned on to what was happening.
Bri also has some silly ideas about being able to travel to meet her father on her own – though she realizes – and admits, to her credit – quickly that this wouldn’t work. Her whole “let’s save every orphan boy in the world” and “aren’t white buffalo hunters cruel and terrible” attitudes get cloying as well.
But I will give it to her in the revenge department. I was cheering her on as she kicked and stomped and tore a stripe off those who had done her wrong. Go Bri. Get him in the gonads, girl!
I was curious that when the Rangers are trailing after Bri, they didn’t once ask the people who saw what was going on why none of them took a shot at the villain. The whole “yeah, we saw a woman in distress followed by a thug who was shooting at her and we hid and did nothing” just amazed me. Sure he was shooting but none of them took a shot from inside the stage houses? Trailed behind him? Went for help? Nothing?
And I agree with Hud’s incredulous thought that he and Bri just did the nasty about 100 yards away from Bri’s “very capable of castrating any man who messes with his daughter” father. However by the end of the book, I was laughing that her father seemed more than a little eager to hand her off to any man he thought could deal with her.
It’s also too bad that there were several typos throughout the book. This is not usually a problem with Harlequin books so perhaps this was a one off.
Those yearning for a Western will be happy to know that Harlequin is still providing them, bless them. And the issues that bothered me might not matter to others. But for me they were enough to drag the grade down to a C.