Dear Ms. Whiteside:
I wanted to like this book. It had a nice cover (albeit very modern in feel) and it was a Western. I know that Jayne gave River Devil a poor grade but Jayne and I don’t always see eye to eye on books. A perfect example of this is the fact that I love Dream Man by Linda Howard and Jayne couldn’t finish it. I should have listened to Jayne.
You know how they say authors should start with the action? I believe that wholeheartedly. The book should start with the action. It shouldn’t pretend to start with the action with a two page teaser which then plunges into several hundred pages of backstory. It was Chapter 5 before we were back where we started in the opening two pages. And those first four chapters were such snoozers that I can barely remember why I continued reading the book.
What did I learn in the backstory? That Morgan and Jessamyn were promised to each other. That Morgan betrayed Jessamyn’s trust early on. That Jessamyn married someone else and had good sex with him but not great sex because really good sex ONLY comes with the hero. That Morgan got a taste for bondage on night with Jessamyn when she held him hostage. Ha ha ha ha. I am sorry, but that just seems ridiculous. I mean, maybe it is completely true but I felt it was used solely for the purpose of creating a plausible reason for Morgan to have perverse sex tastes. As an aside, I keep wondering why romantica/erotica authors keep writing as if S&M/Bondage is perverse if they don’t really want people to think its perverse because after reading about 5 of these books, I get the feeling that it is weird ass shit.
It’s perfectly fine for characters to have different sexual tastes. There doesn’t need to be a reason for it. Saying that its because of x, y or z reason seems ridiculous to me. There’s never any explanation for why characters like oral sex (i.e., their mother made them suck on their thumb for 3 days straight). Or why characters like to have sex in the shower (i.e., first time they jacked off was in water). But whatever, that was the least of the problems in the book.
The plot was part search for gold and part dairy farming. Why do I say that? Because your heroine creamed so many times she should have been a cow. Was there no other word you could have used? Were you paid by the Wisconsin Dairy Farmers for every usage of the word “cream”? According to word search on my ebook reader, you used “cream” 18 times.
The villian was a cartoon. Let’s not spend time creating a multi dimensional villian. Let’s just think of all the evil, disgusting characteristics that a person could have and give that to the villian. (Spittle, impotence, cruelty, deviance, bad table manners). There’s a ton, A TON, of telling in this book. Just because a character tells us something in dialogue, doesn’t make it showing. That’s still telling. Showing is having your character act in accordance with the traits you are trying to imbue. I.e., if you are telling me your characters are being clever, show me that they are clever. Don’t have them have this exchange which is completely devoid of cleverness:
Her husband pursed his lips (I think men should never purse their lips unless they are Carson Kressley), considering his general manager. “You can repay me at cost.” He put his hand over his wife’s.
“Cost” william said flatly.
Morgan laughed. “Deal. I should have known better than to try to outwit you.”
The hell? Not negotiating is “outwitting”?
There is so much sex in this book that there isn’t much time for plot advancement or character development. In between the search for gold, we are treated to some stunningly awful sex scenes in which Morgan asserts his dominance over Jessamyn to pay her back for a) tying him to the bed so many years ago and b) for marrying his cousin and c) for actually having eyes that might accidently land on a man other than himself. The trouble with these books with all their sex scenes is that romance seems to be lost. Do Morgan and Jessamyn really love each other or do they just like a roll in the hay/dirt? I am guessing the latter. Suffice to say that this book, your writing, is not for me. And apparently not for Jayne either. D for the western historical with the modern cowboy on the cover.