by Sadie Callahan, contemporary (2009)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22577-1
While Lone Star Woman is Sadie Callahan's debut romance, she isn't a new author as she had previously written under the names Anna Jeffrey and Dixie Cash. Where the tone of the story is concerned, this one is pretty much in the middle - not as angst-ridden as Anna Jeffrey's books and not as comedic as Dixie Cash's.
This is also a story that is best read by readers who are more open to the set of values typically described as "old-fashioned", "Southern", and such. In this one, Judith Ann ("Jude") Strayhorn tries very hard to break out of the shadows of her father and grandfather, but in the end she has to concede a lot in the name of love. The men in this story are not always reasonable, but she loves them nonetheless and works very hard to remain in their good graces.
Jude, the daughter of two of the richest landowners in Willard County, Texas, has been planning all along to buy the neighboring 6-0 ranch. She plans to start her own venture to experiment with new variety of cattle and such in order to help keep the family business competitive and relevant. Her father and her grandfather, however, insist that she is better off married and pregnant, and they keep pushing her to marry men that she doesn't like, sometimes men that are clearly wrong for her. Fortunately for Jude, therefore, she eventually falls for Brady Fallon, the guy who shows up to claim the 6-0 as his inheritance, because that is one way she can have the ranch and a husband while keeping her father and grandfather happy.
Apart from two aspects of her personality, Jude is an otherwise decent heroine - smart, has a good idea and plan of what she intends to do with the 6-0. One problematic aspect of her character is that she is one of those heroines that can only exist in romance novels. Having studied biology intensely, Jude apparently comes to the conclusion that sex is too much trouble to be worth it, and as a result, she's comfortably without a social life when Brady shows up in her life. I guess those photos in her biology textbooks must be especially traumatizing. Another annoying aspect of her character is her determination to please her father and her grandfather. The two men pretty much drive a steamroller over her every time she tries to do something that isn't part of the plans they have for her, and in the end, Jude has to make plenty of concessions to remain in their good graces while having a semblance of her own life.
Brady is one of those manly men that, depending on how you look at them, are either bloody stupid or forcefully masculine. Despite being bankrupted by his ex-wife, he is too proud to sell the rundown ranch he has inherited and is also too proud to take a loan. He'd work for Jude's father to get the money! He is just one of the many elements of this story that are best described as "old-fashioned traditions of the South". Jude looks at her ex-boyfriends with disdain because they were what she calls "Daddy's boys", for example, because in this story, a man falling back on his family fortune is a despicable thing while Jude, who is doing the same thing as she intends to purchase the 6-0 with money from her trust fund, is considered a doting daughter. Jude's father occasionally having ladies for sleepover is considered a sweet thing but Jude is made to live a life of celibacy, barring the few men she met in the past as part of her father's script for her. The ex-wives in this story (her father's and Brady's) are demonized to the point of caricature, while the big strong Daddies in this story can't, of course, do wrong in Jude's eyes.
Apart from the fact that I have a hard time getting into the story due to the value dissonance between me and that story, I also find a few more aspects of the story problematic. The author spends a lot of time dwelling on the lives of various secondary characters, but since these characters play minimal impact on the story, I can only imagine that the author is blatantly trying to set up sequels. The ending is pretty abrupt, giving the happy ending a most contrived feel. Let's just say that if it takes a disaster to give the main characters a happy ending, I can only imagine how well this relationship will fare a few months down the road.
Lone Star Woman is a book that you will either enjoy or have a hard time getting into, depending on how well you take to the whole "Daddy Knows Best" vibe of the story.
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