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Elizabeth Lane

REVIEW: The Widowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane

REVIEW: The Widowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane

Dear Ms. Lane,

Harlequin Historicals will still occasionally branch out beyond Regencies and I’ve come to look for your books to be among those branchees. I’d started reading in this series two years ago with “The Borrowed Bride,” but will be honest and say that I’d lost touch with it since then. Now, a few books later, the setting of the 1920s and bootlegging grabbed me and got me back on board with it.

The Widowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane

“Ruby Denby Rumford endured her monstrous husband’s abuse until death-’by self-defense-’did them part. Now she and her daughters seek a new beginning in Dutchman’s Creek, Colorado, but will her dark past stay buried?

With an obligation to uphold the laws of prohibition and an undercover persona in place, U.S. Deputy Marshal Ethan Beaudry comes to town ready to end a shady bootlegging ring. He doesn’t expect to find beautiful, mysterious Ruby involved-’or be forced to choose between duty to the law and this forbidden passion.”

Wow! A historical heroine who’s offed her husband isn’t something I see every day either. Ruby has faced down the worst in marriage – an abusive husband who threatened her, beat her and would probably have killed her if she hadn’t fought back and killed him first. Not knowing much about the law at this time, I will say I find it slightly amazing that she got off as easily as she did in this era. Ruby has desires and is willing for Ethan to awaken them and satisfy her – still she isn’t sure about marriage again. But she’s also not going to let any man boss her around or treat her badly. She’s got enough nerve to stand up for herself now and not take shit from any man.

They start a sexual relationship early but it felt right. Ruby is trying to overcome her past experiences and Ethan jump starts that process. However, this makes her discovery of the truth behind his presence in town all the more wounding. Was he enjoying what they did or just using her? You give Ruby a real reason to dislike Ethan instead of suddenly turning her missish or having her bewail whether or not he loves her and I liked that.

Both have good reasons for hiding their backgrounds from each other – she faces social stigma for what she did and he can’t let the bootleggers of the area know why he’s there. I found these to be much better reasons then some I’ve read in the past. Each feels guilt over the lies but Ruby is no fool and quickly realizes that Ethan hasn’t told her everything. He is sure she’s hiding something and while he doesn’t immediately think she’s in league with the villains, he’s not going to let her pretty face dissuade him from checking out her background. They discover the truth earlier in the book than I’d expected but I like that even while Ethan is gently coercing Ruby into helping him, he phrases it in a way that saves face for her – helping him will get him out of her hair all the sooner.

Ruby has enough common sense to eventually come around to Ethan’s viewpoint and appreciate that he’s trying to do his job and also protect her from vicious bootleggers. She also neatly turns the tables on the villainous mayor’s attempts to blackmail her. Go Ruby! Thaddeus Wilton truly is an evil character – you make him quite slimy and shudder inducing. Ruby also has enough presence of mind to save herself from Harper. She’s no shrinking violet and can use her head to think her way out of problems. I love to see this in a heroine. Or hero for that matter.

You included many period details that give a great sense of time and place. I especially liked the description of the General Store filled to the rafters will all kinds of neat things. Ethan’s cooking lessons – well needed for Ruby who was used to a house full of servants – were cool too. And thank you for working the details of Ethan’s job into the story, specifically his evidence kit – it ain’t rocket science or modern CSI but it’s moving towards modern forensics as known at the time.

The main problem I had with the story is Ethan’s reasoning for breaking off his growing relationship with Ruby. I can kind of understand it but since I’ve seen this “I’ll never love again or allow my heart to be broken again” kind of stuff in so many books, it mainly makes me roll my eyes now. But even though Ethan’s reason for breaking things off with Ruby sucks, he is honest with her and tells her quickly. Thankfully he soon discovers he’s an idiot and corrects himself. His idiotness is balanced by a nice realization of his feelings once the crisis is over.

Though this is part of a series, I think that readers could just jump in here with no problems. And I hope that they will because I think it’s a good book and I’m always trying to promote the different and unusual. Now I just need to go back and look into the two books I skipped. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW: The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane

REVIEW: The Borrowed Bride by Elizabeth Lane

Dear Ms. Lane,

037329520001lzzzzzzzWhenever I see a non-Regency Harlequin Historical, I make sure to check it out. Since I enjoyed your last book, “On the Wings of Love,” I also had high hopes for “The Borrowed Bride.” Though it doesn’t break any ground as far as the setting or the plot, it hit the spot, providing me with a well told story of two unlikely people falling in love.

Hannah Gustavson and Quint Seavers have been an item in tiny Dutchman’s Creek, Colorado for years. Everyone’s just been waiting for them to get married. And so Hannah can’t believe that Quint is actually going to leave even as she stands on the train platform with Quint and his sour old mother. Edna Seavers has never made any effort to hide the fact that she doesn’t think Hannah, a daughter of the poor but hardworking Gustavson clan, is good enough for her second, and favorite, son. As soon as Judd, the eldest son, disembarks from the incoming train, Quint will be off to make his fortune in the Klondike gold fields.

But Hannah’s not the only person he’s leaving. In an effort to keep him from going, she gave in and allowed him liberties she’d sworn to her mother she’d never do. Now she’s pregnant and no one has heard from Quint for three months. It’s up to poor Judd to do the honorable thing and marry his brother’s abandoned woman thereby giving the child the Seavers name. With his nightmares and black depression gained during the infamous charge of the Rough Riders in Cuba, Judd doubts he’ll ever marry anyway and this might be the only grandchild his mother will ever have.

And so begins a marriage not made in heaven but based purely on practical grounds. Will Quint ever be heard from again? And what will be the consequences if Judd and Hannah finally give into the love that’s slowly been growing over the months?

When the book starts, Hannah seems to me a rather immature young woman despite the fact that she’s the eldest of seven children and has been doing hard chores her entire life. But she’s only 19 and is now faced with social ruin, not only for herself but also for her family. Usually I hate martyr heroines. “Oh, I must get married so that my younger brother may attend Eton and my younger sisters have a Season!” For Hannah, it’s much worse. Her family is poor and so the thought of another mouth to feed is a real economic hardship for them. Her younger sisters would be tainted with the brush of Hannah’s disgrace, something that isn’t to be sneered at in such a small town. When she bucks up and makes the decision to accept Judd’s proposal, I could see signs of a strong woman within.

Judd is such a decent, upright guy. He and his best friend basically dared each other to join the Army so they could get out of town and have some adventures. What happened to them was far from the glamorous newspaper reports of charging up San Juan Hill, as Judd tells Hannah on their way back from seeing Quint off. His body still hasn’t totally healed from the bullet wounds added to the fact that he picked up malaria – though this is rarely mentioned again in the book. He’s got the ranch to run and his physically debilitated mother to look after when Mrs. Gustavson arrives and drops the baby bombshell.

I was impressed that he doesn’t hesitate to do the right thing and even makes sure that if and when Quint ever comes home, that the marriage will stay in name only and be able to be annulled. Hannah also grows and matures, taking on more responsibilities when Judd heads off to Alaska to search for his brother. The feelings that develop between them didn’t strike me as either rushed or dragged out. Neither were they based solely on physical attraction. Each sees the other under the best and worst conditions and they manage to still behave honorably until they’re almost sure Quint isn’t coming back.

I do have to mention that there were a lot of “worst conditions” in the book. Judd, bless his heart, gets banged up rather regularly both physically and emotionally. I suppose his favorite horse’s fate was needed to deal with his mental scars but I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh noes, not that on top of everything else!” Judd is made to earn his HEA. I was also impressed that Hannah is strong enough to state what she wants when the fit hits the shan and doesn’t twitter about waiting on someone else to decide the situation.

At first, Edna Seavers and her caretaker seemed forbidding characters. And while I never warmed to Edna, you do give her a history that would explain her coldness and preference for her younger son. Even Quint’s absence and seeming abandonment of his young lover are accounted for. I’ll be honest and state that I skipped the epilogue, though.

In a world filled with Dukes and noblemen spies (now I sound like a movie preview!), it’s a nice change to settle down with a good, old fashioned Western now and then. I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat it again, thanks Harlequin. B

~Jayne

You can order this book in paperback from the Harlequin store (free shipping until the end of December) or in eform from Sony.