The Book: Never Love A Lawman by Jo Goodman
The Particulars: Historical western romance, Zebra, 2009, In Print
Why Was It In The Bat Cave TBR?: Hello? Are you new here? Wendy love, love, loves historical western romances!
The Review: I normally like to dip a lot further back in the TBR when picking a TBR Challenge read. I broke that "rule" this month for one reason, and one reason only. I'm rooming with KristieJ at RWA next week and if she had found out that I still hadn't read this book? OMG, there would have been no living with her. Seriously.
Rachel Bailey is an attractive newcomer to Reidsville, Colorado and has set up shop as a seamstress. Half the men in town are crazy about her, including the sheriff, Wyatt Cooper, who takes to watching her walk down the street when she's running errands. However, Rachel pays none of these men any mind. To say she's standoffish and aloof is a bit of an understatement. She keeps to herself, minds her own business, and expects everyone else to mind theirs. However it all comes crashing down around her ears when Wyatt delivers her a telegram stating that her former benefactor has died.
That telegram sets off a chain of events, including Rachel's inheritance of the railroad that runs through town, and the stipulation in her benefactor's will that she has to marry Wyatt. Yep, before you can say "marriage of convenience" these two are hitched. Which is a good thing, since it appears that Rachel is going to need Wyatt's protection. Yep, an old enemy is lurking in the shadows....
I've never read Goodman, but from various comments about her past work I've read online, Never Love A Lawman seems typical in the sense that she takes her time setting the stage. For readers who have been complaining of late that historical romances feature watered-down characters and thin plots (and I know you're out there - I've seen you on Twitter!), this book is a must read. Goodman takes a huge chunk of this story setting her stage, introducing her characters and essentially painting an entire fictional Colorado town with her pen (or computer keyboard - whatever). Yes, I know it's not set in Regency England and it's a western. But honest, there are no such thing as western romance cooties. That I'm aware of at any rate...
Wyatt sells this book to me. He's just....amazing. Amazing in a charming, intelligent sort of way. He's the kind of guy, if he existed in real life, that I would adore flirting with. Back when I was still single and knew how to flirt (sort of). These days I'm so out of practice I'd likely just embarrass myself. Rachel is a much harder sell for me. I understand why she's standoffish and aloof to the townsfolk - but she also comes off that way to the reader. I never really felt like I was "let in" to her character until much later in the story, and by that point, it seemed a bit late to me. She's smart, a nice girl - but I just never really warmed up to her much. For that reason, for a good chunk of this story, the romance lacked "anticipation" for me. I liked Wyatt. I liked Rachel well enough. But it took a long time for me to get invested in them being a couple. Not until the halfway point or so (and we're talking 200+ pages here!).
I did have that anticipation (and in spades!) with the secondary romance featuring Wyatt's deputy and the town madam. I'll be honest, I wanted that romance. A ton of it. And instead the author gave me paltry crumbs that I was ravenously flipping forward in the book to get to, and at the end? Let's just say the lack of closure on that score didn't please me. I'm currently deluding myself into thinking this means a full-length book down the line, although it's more likely they'll continue to be "secondary characters."
I appreciate this novel for it's scope, the writing, and the richly detailed characters. But I didn't love it. Which probably isn't going to help my reputation for being a completely unreasonable hard-ass. Oh well. I totally "get" why so many people out there loved this book. The characters and writing really are extremely well done. It just didn't sink it's claws into me as much as I wanted it to. Bad timing? Me being a hard-ass? Or feeling that disconnect with Rachel's character for too long in the story? I'm going with the latter two. Still, I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Goodman can flat-out write, and that's never something to scoff at.
Final Grade = B