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Harlequin Treasury

REVIEW: Lawman by Laurie Grant

REVIEW: Lawman by Laurie Grant

Olivia Didn’t Believe in Second Chances

She and Cal Devlin had been in love a lifetime ago, before she’d lost everything and been branded a “scarlet woman.” And though she longed for nothing more than to be back in Cal’s arms, their passion could only mean his ruin…!

Caleb had learned that some Texans never forgave their native sons who fought for the Union, but as the new lawman in town, he was determined to prove himself worthy of respect, and win back the heart of the woman he’d left behind.

Dear Ms. Grant,

Of all the bizarre things, it is the cover of this book that made me check it out. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a romance cover with a mustachioed hero on it. Yep, it’s been a long time. And his eye patch shows. Even when heroes are allowed to be scarred and less than perfect, often the cover won’t reflect this but here – large as life – there it is. And he’s not one of those otherwise perfect, almost airbrushed people either. Neither is the heroine. She’s cute but not stunning. Covers certainly have changed in the past 14 years.

Writing styles have changed too and this one definitely seems more 90s but in a good way. The pace is slower but after I got used to it – again – it seemed like I really got to know Olivia and Cal plus several other characters. Nothing felt rushed or shortchanged. And it definitely feels like a book from before the shorter word counts of today. It might take getting used to but I enjoyed the leisurely way the story plays out.

It’s a post Civil War story though not so much a Reconstruction one. Issues from the War are still there especially since Cal fought for the Union – something that initially causes him grief in his hometown – though Gillespie Springs folk appear a bit more ready to at least forget if not outright forgive. Perhaps his background and reasons for fighting against the South are explored in the previous book but it seemed odd that there is only a glancing mention of any black characters in this book. It’s as if all the main characters in the book have decided to put the past behind them and not think much about it anymore. Anywho, it appears that enough time has passed for tempers to die down and reflection to have taken place. Cal shows the scars of his Army time – at least on the outside though he doesn’t appear to suffer from any PTSD. If the book were written today I’d bet he would though.

Olivia isn’t the Belle of Brazos County anymore either having married and then lost her husband in circumstances which make for an interesting introduction to her character. The whole town thinks she’s a Scarlet Woman who did the deed with her husband’s – who came back from the war with an interesting injury – hired hand. A husband who then murdered the Mexican hired man than killed himself from the shame of what his wife did. Only we soon learn this is far from the truth, Still it’s an interesting background for Olivia and one that’s more truly gutwrenching than I’ve seen in a while. I did wonder if she would ever face what happened to her in terms of a future sexual relationship and was glad that some thought and care is given to this issue.

One thing that stands out is that both Cal and Olivia have suffered in their years apart and still bear the scars of this but Cal at least doesn’t use this as an angst anchor around his neck. He doesn’t whine about how no woman could ever love him or how he can’t bear to risk love and loss again. He’s quietly hopeful that eventually he and Livy can find their way back to the love they once shared and perhaps the marriage that they’d both wished for. Livy is the main one dragging her feet but only because she is living down the shame of what the town thinks she did and doesn’t want Cal to have this burden added to what he’s already got on his plate. Once they get their feelings worked out, they’re both gung ho for love and marriage which is another delightful change.

Cal used to be a preacher so his references to God and the Bible make sense in context with this and the greater emphasis on religion in that day. At times near the start of the story, I almost wondered if it was an early inspie but this is toned down later on – plus Cal swears a time or two. Or three. One thing that might piss some people off is the secondary character Jovia Mendez. It’s not the fact that she’s Mexican so much as the dialect given to her with Mees Livy, eef, and other misspellings used to convey her accent and speech pattern. Faux brogue drives me nuts and I can see this Tex-Mexican having the same affect on readers.

Few things are kept hidden from the reader and everyone’s motives are spelled out clearly early on so it’s just a matter of watching things happen. The villain is known from the start as well as why he’s doing what he is. I kind of liked the fact that this shifts the oomph of the story back on Livy and Cal instead of sidetracking it to what might be planned by said villain.

This is the second book in a trilogy of the brothers but after some initial exposition things settle down and I didn’t feel that I was missing much by not having read the first book. At some point I would like to go back and read “Devil’s Dare” for the background information as well as the fact that the hero and heroine appear to meet under unusual circumstances. Since Westerns are certainly fewer and harder to come by in the past decade, I’m happy that Harlequin has reissued this one though I wish more time had been spent dealing with the aftermath of the War. B-


REVIEW: 40 Tons of Trouble by Connie Flynn

REVIEW: 40 Tons of Trouble by Connie Flynn

Dear Ms. Flynn,

Harlequin’s Treasury reissues are allowing me the relatively easy opportunity of trying some authors completely new to me without having to laboriously track down their OOP books. While scanning the offerings at their website, your book “40 Tons of Trouble” caught my eye because of the heroine’s occupation. I can’t recall ever reading about a female big rig, long haul driver so with a click of a button the chance to remedy this was mine.

Cat DeAngelo lives for the road which is a good thing since her family business is a trucking company. She’s never more happy than when she’s out driving truck in her shiny, cherry red Peterbilt. But lately family issues are beginning to take their toll. Her younger brother has quit business college and wants to drive instead of eventually handling the company finances. Her younger sister is stressed as the office manager and their mother has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. So after Cat gets into yet another argument with her brother and he quits right at the start of a cross country job, Cat has had about enough.

When Ricky Steele responds to her job notice at a truck stop and seems to be reliable and has a commercial driver’s license, Cat reads him a list of the company policies and off they go. But Rick isn’t quite who Cat thinks he is though his name rings a bell. He’s actually the owner of a local trucking business but has his reasons to sign on for the cross country trip and back. As the miles roll under the truck wheels, the two start to get to know each other though Cat still doesn’t tell Ricky about the dirty tricks she suspects that another trucking company owner has instigated in order to force her to sell DeAngelo Trucking.

When several incidents occur that nearly get Cat and Ricky killed, the truth comes out along with those pesky details Ricky has been meaning to tell Cat all along. Can their blossoming love survive the revelations or will that and DeAngelo Trucking fall prey to a greedy owner, a man out for revenge and a surprise enemy Cat never suspects?

I don’t know anything about driving an 18 wheeler beyond the fact that it seems like a job that takes a lot of skill. This book taught me a lot but it’s done in such a way that it becomes an integral part of the story instead of merely being a boring recitation of facts of life on the road. Cat is good at what she does and her love of the job and the life are evident from start to finish. It would take a tough woman to make it in this world and Cat is one strong lady. She’s also stubborn to the point of idiocy at times and more than once I wanted to smack some common sense into her.

Ricky gets frustrated with her and I did too. Her reasons for her obstinacy about refusing to sell the company or stop driving make sense based on the background you’ve given her but when she pushes on in the face of attempts on her life that, for all she knows, aren’t finished yet, I was taken aback. Preserving your on time record is one thing but not getting yourself killed is another. There were also a few “inappropriately timed” moments of hot sexing that I found slightly ridiculous.

One villain is immediately known but the other one and the inside snitch took a while to be unmasked though I did catch onto their identities before they were officially revealed. It makes sense who they are and one of them serves as a believable source of conflict in Cat and Ricky’s growing relationship as does the Big Mis which could be seen coming a mile away.

The romance is quick but Cat and Ricky basically live together in a box for a week and the fact that they’re both in the same business probably tells them a lot about each other so…okay. And you don’t have them rushing down the aisle after the I-love-yous which also makes a difference. Usually once a romance couple falls in love, they’re portrayed as eternally happy so the rip roaring “differences” that Cat and Ricky are mentioned as having up to and after their marriage are a touch of reality not often seen in the genre and one that I found slightly refreshing.

Cat isn’t always an easy character to like but she does stay consistent. Even though it takes until the very end of the book, she also grows and learns from what happens and does make changes in her life. There was a point when it appeared that Ricky might try and strong arm her into giving up driving but luckily for my liking of the book he backs off somewhat and just presents her with options which allow her to make her own decisions. I didn’t fall in love with this book but it is an interesting peek into a career I knew little about and features a strong – though at times too stubborn for her own good – heroine. C+


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