Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29843-3
Historical Romance, 2015
Ruby Dearing once hated her life in Crosby, Nebraska. A young girl then, she hated the rules and expectation she had to conform to. Her father abandoned the family, and as a result, life wasn’t easy back in those days. Eventually, she left the place when she was 16, hoping to find a better life out there. Over the years. she did all kinds of jobs and eventually ended up a singer. She sent money home, but she never did return to see her mother and her sister… until when the story opens.
Tired of the life on stage and yearning for some kind of stability, Ruby has finally come home. A part of her dreads meeting her mother again, but things turn out to be worse than anything Ruby could imagine: her mother and her sister, Pearl, had all died and Ruby has come home too late. The only ones left in the ranch are Pearl’s husband,
Nash Sommerton, and his daughter. Nash, on his part, initially resents Ruby’s presence. In his mind, she ran off to do her thing, leaving Pearl behind to take care of her increasingly ill mother, which makes Ruby a selfish dung ball in Nash’s estimation. Nash is also projecting some of his guilt onto Ruby – deep inside, he feels that his focus on managing the ranch prevented him from being the husband he believes that Pearl deserves. Pearl, in his estimation, is a selfless and kind woman who put aside all her wants and dreams to care for others, and he would always wonder whether he could have done more to make her happy.
Therefore, Sequin and Spurs is the story of two emotionally damaged characters who manage to find love as well as the ability to heal and look forward to the future. For a long time, the story works beautifully. Nash turns out to be a reasonable fellow who is willing to accept that Ruby is not whom he assumes to be, Ruby is earnest and willing to make things right (and is capable in the process), and these two have a realistic slow-burn of a relationship that feels natural, even magical. The fact that there is no dragging of the dead wife’s reputation through the mud to make the heroine seem better is only a nice bonus on the side.
Also, this story has plenty of cute strays and tykes – things that normally make me cringe and want to stab some kittens, but the author once again works her magic on me. These sentimental plot devices bring out the best from our heroine, and they even make me sigh and go, “Oh, how adorable.” It’s almost frightening, how easy it is to enjoy this story, especially when it has all the elements that normally make me want to run for the hills.
What keeps this book from getting an extra oogie, however, is the fact that the heroine has a pretty easy time adjusting to life in Crosby. Probably a bit too easy, actually, to the point that the story takes on a Pollyanna vibe that makes me feel slightly queasy. Everyone adores Ruby. she manages to acquit herself in everything she tries to do, and Nash’s family welcome her as if she’s the best thing ever. Various secondary characters, including the obligatory wise healer woman stereotype. tell Ruby that nobody is blaming her for anything, she should try to get over the past, and marrying Nash is the best idea ever.
It’s, therefore, a good thing that the characters are beautifully complex creatures with realistic vulnerabilities, and their romance is both poignant and cathartic. After all, the rest of the story is saccharine Hallmark stuff!