Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TBR Challenge 2010: Because I'm Scared Of KristieJ

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

22 comments:

Victoria Janssen said...

I loved this one. It was the best romance I'd read in a while.

Kati said...

Hm, I'm kind of like you, liked but didn't love. Goodman tends to be very hit or miss for me.

This one was good enough that I'll definitely read the next one, but I read it about six months ago and I remember very little about it. It wasn't memorable for me.

Phyl said...

"Goodman can flat out write." Amen to that! I liked this more than you did, but basically, even an "off" book by Goodman is better than so much else that's out there.

Leslie said...

This could be the motivation I need to finish this book - I stalled around midway.

You should try her Dennehy sisters series. They're very good westerns first printed in early/mid 90's.

Wendy said...

Victoria: I know a couple of writers who really loved this book - and I honestly believe it's because of how well the characterizations are done. Also, how well Goodman writes about her fictional western town. Just some flat-out good writing here....

Kati: Honestly the most memorable moments for me were all about the secondary romance - although I did think the hero was very yummy. Now if I could have just gotten more of the secondary romance....

Phyl: I hate not giving books like this an A+++ because I can appreciate how well written this was, and how many elements it contained that I generally really like. But ah, that mysterious whatever that makes a book a keeper. If authors could bottle that they'd make a fortune :)

Leslie: I'm surprised I haven't seen more DNF reviews for this one. I found it "pleasant" for the first half, but it's not really until the second half where things really get moving along....

SonomaLass said...

I didn't have the problem you did with Rachel, so I guess I was invested in the couple a lot earlier. This book FLEW for me, even though I wanted to read ir slowly to savor Goodman's writing. I have promised myself a re-read in the fall, to ease the waiting for the next one (crappy title, bland cover and all).

I don't think any romance story is going to be a hit with every reader, but it's nice to see people agreeing on the quality of Goodman's writing.

SarahT said...

We both read a Jo Goodman book for this month's TBR Challenge!

I'm glad you enjoyed 'Never Love a Lawman'. I'm also looking forward to the second book set in Reidsville.

Wendy said...

SonomaLass: OMG - I know! What is up with the bland-ass cover and title for the next book? It's like the publisher is dodging the fact that it's a western for fear historical readers won't pick it up because of "western cooties."

To be fair, that's probably my paranoia talking.....but still. Bland! Ugh!

Wendy said...

Sarah: I saw that! LOL I think I have one other Goodman in my TBR? One of her more recent English historicals. And I'll definitely be picking up Marry Me this winter :)

Ann Bruce said...

I glommed Goodman over a year ago (two years?), burned out because of the abuse she heaps on her heroines, and bought this one with some reservations. Thankfully, I enjoyed it. It's been a while since I read a Western and I forgot how much I enjoy the sub-genre. And for Goodman, it's an abuse-lite. Hopefully, the next title will be too.

Eleri said...

This was the first book I read by Jo Goodman and I really liked it. I was disappointed because it made me want another western by her but all I saw at the time were Regencies. I see now I can download "More Than You Wished/You Know" from B&N. Has anyone read either of those? Having trouble finding good westerns because they either seem dated to me or are Inspirationals : (

Kristie (J) said...

This was your first Goodman book!?!?!?!?! Wendy - well you know the rest - heh, heh, heh.
Actually, I was a bit disappointed in this one. Goodman is an autobuy author so I will get her next one, but I never really did feel that connected to the either the two main characters or their romance. Don't know why as it was very well written - but it just seemed to have something missing.

Wendy said...

Ann: I tend to avoid reviews for books I KNOW I'm going to be reading regardless, so it's been fun to go back and read reviews for this one. It's either "WooHoo! She has laid off the angst!" or "BooHoo, where is the angst?" LOL

Eleri: Have you tried Kaki Warner yet? The first two in her western trilogy are out right now - Pieces Of Sky and Open Country. The bad news....they're in trade pb :( And in a WTF twist - it's cheaper to buy a print copy of the first book via B&N than a digital one. *Sigh* But those are worth looking for if you're in need of a western fix, and they're recent releases.

Kristie: In my defense, Goodman was strictly writing Regencies during my Dear God Not Another Regency Burn-Out phase. Hence, me never having read her before now.

Lindsay said...

I hope you don't mind a first time commenter jumping in.

I did love this one, but then I didn't have the problem you did with Rachel. In fact, she really resonated for me, probably because I'm probe to using the same defense mechanisms.

While I did like the secondary romance, I have to admit, I was a little thrown by the easy acceptance of the prostitutes by the townsfolk. I don't know much about the American West though, so maybe this was normal.

Otherwise, I thought this was an excellent book. It was my first full-length Western, and now I'm hooked.

Wendy said...

Lindsay: We love us some first-time commenters here at the Bat Cave! Welcome, welcome!

Even though it was the West, yeah, the easy acceptance of the prostitutes by the other women in town was a little...off-putting. I "got" while Rachel was cool with them (hey, hos need dresses too and Rachel is a seamstress who needs to make a living!) - but the other women in town? That was a little...odd. But I rolled with it - mostly because I liked that secondary romance so much :)

Eleri said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll try Kaki out. The digital price on that is too steep on a new-to-me author but they've got her at our library so i'll try her there first and see if she can make a believer out of me. I just got a Nook for my birthday and I really just want to press the buy button. If it was under $10 I'd do it but...

catie james said...

I'm with you Wendy - Rachel just didn't click with me until (roughly) 200 pages in and this was a near DNF. Can't even remember what brought me back, but I'm glad I stuck with it. Taken whole, NLAL ended up being worth the effort. Yay(!) & thanks for a heads-up on the sequel too.

Hilcia said...

I enjoyed this book, Wendy. A B grade from you is actually quite good, lol! Goodman's writing, yeah! I'll definitely be reading the next one. :)

sybil said...

You don't have any others? hmmmm I have extras of a couple faves I think...

Wendy said...

Eleri: Yeah for the library! And yeah, resist the temptation of the buy button. Library first, and buy the second one if you get hooked :) I'm so glad my e-reading device doesn't have wifi. I would get into SO much trouble if it did....

Catie: For me it wasn't really until she FINALLY came clean to Wyatt that I started to come around on their romance. Some hints, a bit more foreshadowing...I just could have used a bit more of that I think....

Hilcia: LOL - yes "B"s are good. Those are my "enjoyed reading them, but didn't LOVE them" books.

Sybil: I had to go look - the only other Goodman I have in my TBR is If His Kiss Is Wicked. That's it. That's the only one.

Gail Dayton said...

It takes me a while to get through my reader feed... which gave me time to read this book myself. It's been on my TBR list of "to get" books for a while, and I finally got it and read it, and enjoyed it a lot. If a book grips me and keeps me reading straight through to the end, it's a good book for me, and this one did. I didn't really have a problem with the heroine, because the prologue told me where she was coming from, and I enjoyed the Western setting. Goodman is one of those authors, for me, where I see the book and go "Oh yeah, I really liked her last one. I bet I'll like this one too." I don't know if I get her mixed up with someone else, or just forget her name--but I've really enjoyed the earlier books of hers I've read, and I enjoyed this one.

Wendy said...

Gail: My RWA roomie and I had a discussion while in Orlando on "what makes a keeper" and "reading as an emotional experience." It's something for me to ruminate on for the next time I want to do a "serious" blog post. Hmmmm, maybe something for my next Access Romance Readers Gab post.....

Glad you enjoyed the book. It was my first by Goodman, and while I didn't LOVE it, I'm looking forward to the next book in this series. Plus - yippeee for westerns!