Riding West
by Emma Wildes, historical (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-846-1

Emma Wildes' Riding West is pretty, er, strange, for the want of a better word, in that for the first 20 pages I have no idea whether this is a historical romance or a contemporary one. There are cowboys, there are ranches, there are banks, and there are gamblers, but that's about it as far as details go in this story.

My confusion stems from the fact that this book is categorized as a "Western romance" on the publisher's website. That doesn't tell me whether this is a historical or contemporary romance. I am expecting a historical romance but the contemporary language peppering the conversations in this story has me at first thinking that this is a contemporary romance. I begin to lean towards this book being a historical because our hero Parker West, a cowboy, grabs heroine Celia Evans in what is pretty much a kidnapping for a shag marathon session in order to convince her to marry him. I hope this story is a historical romance because I don't think such a development can convincingly take place in a contemporary setting. By page 37, references to rustlers and Eastern schools have me thinking that this is indeed a historical romance. The traveling judge mentioned in page 44 and the saloon in page 48 have me really convinced that this is the case.

But then again, I don't know how things work down in those cowboy places in America today. Do they still have rustlers there? Do women still bathe naked in streams over there? For the sake of my sanity, though, I'll assume that this is a historical romance. Sigh. The author could have easily put down the year where this story is supposed to take place in the first chapter and made life easier for me.

At any rate, Celia eventually agrees to marry Parker, but that's not the end of the story as Parker isn't the only man around who wants a piece of Celia. But then I come across another problem. Celia and Parker make a few allusions to events in their relationship that have taken place prior to this story. Likewise, secondary characters show up to have sex and then talk about things that take place prior to this story. These characters' sex scene and issues are introduced in an abrupt manner. I can only wonder whether this book is part of a series with the previous book being required reading before I tackle this one.

All in all, there is a "sequel" feel to this book. The setting is so vague that it's not even funny while there are too many characters here running around with ill-explained backstories. This is a novella-length story, one that I feel is too short to allow the author to introduce her characters and their stories in a smoother transition. I like how the author attempts to address the issues standing between Parker and Celia in their relationship in a mature manner, but the overall execution of the story is rather muddled.

Rating: 66

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