Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-7149-3
Historical Romance, 2001 (Reissue)
This is a 1988 reissue, although I didn’t know that until I read the author’s note in that hidden little corner in the book. The story felt familiar, and I just have to find a 1988 copy that I bought ages ago at an UBS clearance sale for a fraction of the cover price. People, we are having barbecued zebra for dinner today.
Beneath the Texas Sky is a very uneven book. The author wrote that she did eight chapters in one week while writing this book. And I’m sorry to say this, but yes, I can guess. It shows.
Bethany Lane is an Americana Cinderella. When her mother died, she lives with her aunt only to have them treat her like a servant. Her cousin is a nice girl, though, but that doesn’t make up for her aunt’s nasty tongue and slave-mistress treatment, and especially not her uncle’s advances on her. She has to get out. Opportunity comes in the form of the visitor to her uncle’s inn, one Josh Weston.
Josh has his own reasons to play shady with Bethany’s uncle who, if you can’t guess by now, is a bad guy at the wrong side of the law. But when the poor innocent, hapless, virtuous Bethany comes knocking at her door, asking him to take her with him, he can’t turn her down, right?
What follows next are lots of adventures, a wedding, putting the guns to some good use, Indian attacks, oh the usual. But this book is uneven in that the writing can either be sickly sweet kiddie-style or effectively moving. Sometimes Josh and Beth are having wonderful and emotional quiet moments, and I’m about to pull out a Kleenex when Beth has to then say something stupid. Or act like a five-year little match girl begging to Josh to light her fire or something. Then she’s a strong woman. No, she isn’t – look at her. I’m confused.
It’s the same with Josh. Sometimes he’s Mr Perfect. Sometimes he’s the dull, typical bore. Sometimes he’s an insensitive jerk. The plot too veers from Disney-on-insulin to pure magic to pure rubbish without much warning. The author did say she wrote this book through a snowstorm, and I guess the writing and characterization level must go up or down with the author’s mood. The editor, though, I wonder what’s his or her excuse for not asking this book to be polished or at least have some consistency in characters and quality. Tornado attack?
It is not easy for me to settle on a final rating for Beneath the Texas Sky. I swing from liking it to cringing at parts of it. Hmm… maybe I’ll give this book an “okay” rating. It’s okay, can be better, can be worse, but just okay.