We share a number of books in common. You're one of my western homegirls yo. However, when it comes to books that you love and adore, we tend to run into some differences. Case in point, I slapped both Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas and Broken Wing by Judith James with C grades. Amazingly enough, you're still talking to me. You're also quite fond of shaking your head in disgust and nagging me ("Wendy, Wendy, Wendy") when you find out I've got some incredible book languishing in my TBR. So in an effort to disappoint you a little less when we see each other in July at RWA (squeee!), I promised you I would read Ride The Fire by Pamela Clare before then. I literally plowed through the last 100 pages on my lunch break today.
There was only one rule on the frontier—survival. So when wounded, buckskin-clad stranger appeared at the door of her isolated cabin, Elspeth Stewart felt no qualms about disarming him and then tying him to her bed. Newly widowed and expecting her first child, she had to protect herself at all costs. And Nicholas Kenleigh threatened not only her safety, but her peace of mind. The terrible scars on his body spoke of a tortured past, but his gentle touch and burning gaze awoke longings she had never expected to feel.It's always interesting to read a book based on a blogger's recommendation, especially when it's a blogger you know personally. Reading this book, I immediately understood why you love the story so much. You've got a scarred, wounded hero, a wounded heroine, a wonderful sense of history, and long, languid kissing scenes. This book has KristieJ stamped all over it.
Bethie had every reason in the world to distrust men; the cruelty she suffered at their hands had marked her soul, though her blonde beauty showed no sign of it. But little by little she found herself believing in Nicholas, in his honor, his strength. As he brought her baby into the world, then took both mother and daughter into his care, she realized this scarred survivor could heal her wounded spirit, and together they would… Ride the Fire.
I think it's pretty well documented how much I abhor helpless heroines, and certainly Bethie is helpless. The difference here is that her helplessness is believable. She's a damaged, widowed, pregnant woman, living alone on the frontier in 1763. What I appreciated was that while she was alone and scared, she wasn't cowering in a corner waiting for someone to attack her. Oh no! Girlfriend knows how to use a rifle, and matches wits quite well with Nicholas when he shows up wounded on her doorstep.
I appreciate authors who can write a romance novel that bucks the conventions of what naysayers think of as a "bodice ripper." The next time some jackass tells me I read fluffy brain candy garbage, I'm ripping the prologue out of this book and telling them, "Hey, Jackass - this is a romance novel." Man, it's brutal. I liked the amount of factual history Clare weaved into this story, and I really liked the fact that she didn't pull her punches. This is not a sunshine happy puppy dog rainbow kind of book - but then the American frontier during the 1760s was not a happy sunshiney kind of place.
What I thought Clare did especially well in this story was writing the sheer scope of it without leaving the reader with abrupt transitions, and jarring head-hopping. There's a real saga-like quality to this story. I also am a sucker for damaged wounded characters learning to forgive themselves and love again - and both Nicholas and Bethie fit that mold.
I'll be honest, I did feel the prose bordered on turgid at times. It's not quite as purple as say some of those "bodice rippers" from the 1980s, but it's definitely more purple than what some other historical writers are putting out these days. The only time it really felt jarring to me was when Nicholas was having lusty thoughts about Bethie. I found myself thinking that no man, regardless of the time period, would think in such turgid terms - but since I'm not likely to be transported back to the 1760s, what do I really know?
All this being said, I'll be honest....this isn't a keeper for me. As you are no doubt aware, the magic of a "keeper" is often an elusive and mysterious thing. A lot depends on the time and place the reader is in when they pick up the book. I'm not sure what makes a book a keeper for me, what magic elements a book has to have, I just know it when I read it. And after finishing Ride The Fire, I don't have that burning, itching desire (is there an ointment for that?) to read it again. That's usually the benchmark for me. That the moment I finish the last page, I close the book and just "know" that I'll want to reread the story again someday. I didn't get that feeling here.
Doesn't mean I didn't like the book though, and it doesn't mean I won't recommend it to people. I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the ending which really cooked for me. So I guess this is all a long-winded way of saying Final Grade = B+. Now dear KristieJ, we've got one less book for you to nag me about. Don't fret though. My TBR is so obscene I'm sure there are plenty of other nagging candidates languishing on my shelves. Which means I should probably get better at lying before July....