Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29875-4
Historical Romance, 2016
Spring time is here… or so I guess, since my part of the world is currently plagued by heatwaves, haze, and the occasional torrential downpours that cause flash floods and even worse traffic than usual – I hope things are better at the other side of the world. Wild Western Weddings is all about cowboys and their ladies finding reasons to get wed around springtime, and it reunites three familiar authors who are still writing Western romances these days.
Lynna Banning presents The City Girl and the Rancher, and it’s everything written on the label – city lady Clarissa Seaforth, resigned to be a spinster, seizes a chance to marry some dude in Smoke City, Oregon and brings her late brother’s daughter (whom she is now caring for) all the way there to start a new life. Oops, it turns out that the man is the villain who is conveniently enough the nemesis of our hero Graydon Harris, Gray takes her in after her not-so-pleasant stint as a bar singer, and everyone treats her wonderfully. Gray marries her, the bad guy gets out of the picture, the end.
This one is a sweet and pleasant love story in its core, but it feels underbaked as a whole. I still don’t understand why Clarissa will jump all the way here to marry some guy she has never met – from this story, it seems like she didn’t bother to ask for more evidence or confirmation that the guy is what he said he is. She just jumped onto a train after spending all of her savings, and this move seems very out of character for an otherwise intelligent lady that she seems to be for the rest of the story. Secondary characters seem to switch opinions on Clarissa from one end to the other without believable reason, and the hero also goes from being reluctant to care to being very caring in what seems like a blink of an eye.
Perhaps more pages would have allowed the story to develop more gracefully? Being what it is, this one feels like just the embryo of a story. But it’s still the best story of the three – everything goes downhill from there!
His Springtime Bride by Kathryn Albright has the most pathos and angst, but I get bored by the story barely halfway into it. Our Romeo, Gabe Coulter, is finally out of jail (he killed someone), only to find that his father’s ranch has been bought up by the man’s enemy, Frank Rawlins. He’s half-Indian, so in that time he’s basically third-class citizen, and an ex-con to boot, and he has no money or social clout. But his best plan is to march up to Frank and demand his land back. Frank reasonably explains that he purchased the land legally, but he’d be open to hear if Gabe is going to buy back the land. Gabe is like, uh, he has no money but he wants his land back now. I have to give Frank some cookies for not laughing at Gabe’s face. Instead, he offers Gabe a job. Gabe accepts, wondering whether he’s being played. But he’ll get the land back! Just you wait!
And then comes our Juliet – Riley, the girl he was sweet on a while back, who is also Frank’s daughter. Gabe still has the hots for her, so he naturally treats her like dirt and says hurtful things to her. And then, he discovers that it was his baby batter that made that daughter, so he begins whipping himself up in guilt. Oh, and he’s half-Indian and an ex-con, so he’s never good enough for Riley! Blah blah blah – Gabe is such a broken record, a predictable one as while, and I quickly tire of his constant whining and bleating. Not to mention, he comes off as pretty dim so often.
Lauri Robinson’s When a Cowboy Says I Do has Dal Roberts receiving and accompanying Ellie Alexander, who is going to sew his sister’s wedding dress. Ellie blames him for her father’s death, apparently, and he… uh, says mean things now and then to get her all huffy and hissy. This is the shortest story of the three, but it is also one where the entire thing is about two people bickering and going back and forth like two bratty kids. I don’t care whether they have decent reason to act this way or not, I just get exhausted trying to follow them – there are times when I feel like I’m a schoolteacher trying to herd a bunch of unruly kindergarten kids.
So, Western Spring Weddings. I only like one story, and I don’t even like it that much, so I guess this one’s not all blooming and sunshine.