My Mission: Song Of The West by Nora Roberts, part of the 2-in-1 reprint With Open Arms (confused yet?)
Harlequin Connection: Originally published under the Silhouette Romance banner, it is Nora's third published book. She has since gone on to publish something like a gajillion. I don't think she sleeps.
Publication Date: First appeared in 1982, my reprint edition has a 2004 publication date.
How Long It's Been In My TBR: A couple of years? I do remember that it was an impulse buy.
Plot: Former Olympic gymnast, Samantha Evans, has left Philadelphia for Wyoming to care for her ailing twin sister. Sabrina is having a rough pregnancy and the doctor has ordered her off her feet. Sam thinks nothing of quitting her job, packing up her life, and temporarily moving to help her sister out. She quickly falls under the spell of Jake Tanner, a neighboring rancher and ladies' man whose determined to charm her out of her panties and good sense.
My Verdict: The problem with genre fiction (and I'm not just talking romance) is that most of it has a short shelf life. Time is not always kind. Cliches get tired and worn out, writers get better, references get dated, etc. etc. etc. Such is the case with Song Of The West. It reads like a 25 year old category romance. The hero has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and is the type who likes to steamroll over the heroine. The heroine is likable enough, except she's determined to assume the worst about the hero - not that I entirely blame her since he basically comes out and says, "I will have you, so you might as well stop running chickie" (OK so I'm paraphrasing a bit). There's The Other Woman who is tall, chic, cool and makes cracks about the heroine being athletic (a definite sign of datedness, as "athletic" is largely seen as attractive nowadays). And to top it off we have a Big Misunderstanding in the final chapter.
As far as the writing goes, it's very apparent that this is one of Nora's earliest works. It's readable, but the characterization is kinda thin, there's some purple prose (it's not hideous, but it's there) and the conflict is weak. So weak there isn't any for the longest time. It's not until about the halfway point that we get The Other Woman, and even then there's a little smoke, but no real fire.
Final Grade = C-. I'll be honest, there's a grading curve here. It's a 25 year old book written very early on in a writer's career. Nora is a good writer, and like all good writers she's learned a few tricks over the years. This wasn't god-awful, but I wouldn't recommend it to casual readers and certainly not to those who have never read her before. Strictly for the die-hard fans who want to follow her evolution.
Coming Soon: Part II of this 2-in-1 reprint edition, Her Mother's Keeper.