The Book: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys by Lorraine Heath, Georgina Gentry & Teresa Bodwell
The Particulars: Historical western anthology, Kensington, trade paperback, 2006, In Print. 2010 mass market paperback reprint is also in print.
Why Was It In The Bat Cave TBR?: Anthology or no (and I happen to like anthologies), this is a western. Which means Wendy bought it brand new, in trade paperback even. Also, hello? Lorraine Heath back to writing a western. Even if it is "just a short story," wild horses couldn't have kept me away.
The Review: I'm going to review these stories in the order which they appear in the book.
First up is "The Great Cowboy Race" by Georgina Gentry. Henrietta runs away to her Daddy's home in Nebraska to avoid an arranged marriage back in Boston. She arrives only to learn Daddy is away on a business trip. But instead of going to Daddy's massive ranch and throwing herself at the mercy of a housekeeper or ranch foreman, she decides to enter a horse race that will end in Chicago. Couple this improbability with a tell-y writing style, improbable character names like Comanche Jones and Throckmoroton P. Gutterstaff III, and the fact that the heroine is a brain-dead ninny? Yeah, I deserve a medal for getting through the first chapter. Needless to say, that was when I stopped.
Grade = DNF
"Moonlight Whispers" by Teresa Bodwell does a good job of cleansing my palate after the previous hot mess. Isabelle Milton arrives in Hell Gate, Washington hoping to reunite with her father. Unfortunately footloose Daddy is nowhere to be found. Isabelle is helping out the family that owns the local watering hole, but they're about to put her out on her ear. Riding to her rescue? Rancher Lucas Warring who only came to town to find his wastrel baby brother.
This is pretty standard western fare. Lucas doesn't want a housekeeper, especially Isabelle who was raised to be a "lady" and is therefore pretty much useless. It's fairly engaging and I was enjoying myself, until the first love scene, which hit some ick buttons. It's not forced seduction, but I'll be honest - it's rather unpleasant. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and for that reason the happily-ever-after didn't exactly warm the cockles of my heart. Disappointing.
Grade = C
"The Reluctant Hero" by Lorraine Heath is the final story, and keeps me from regretting that I pulled this one out of the TBR to read this month. Andrea Jackson writes dime novels and unfortunately her muse has left the building. Desperate for a hero, she travels to Gallant, Texas to meet Sheriff Matthew Knight, a man who single-handedly brought in the Ace In The Hole gang - dead, not alive. Andrea figures she's can stretch this guy into a hero for a whole series of books! The problem, of course, is Matt, who doesn't think he's a hero, and doesn't want to be glorified in a series of dime novels. What to do, what to do?
Reading this story just makes me more angry that Heath is no longer writing full-length westerns. Well-written, emotionally engaging, and featuring two characters with plenty of personal baggage. However it's the route the author takes to the happily-ever-after that sells me on this tale. It's not an easy road, and in fact, could have blown up in the face of a less-skilled writer. Heath explores the notion of heroes and hero-worship, and it makes for a compelling read. It also knocked the wind right out of me. Someone asked me on Twitter the other day what makes a good short story? Yeah, this one. That's all you need to know.
Grade = A
I have no flippin' clue how to grade this anthology as a whole. As awesome as the Heath story was, that's how terrible I found the Gentry entry - which I couldn't even bring myself to finish. The Bodwell story was pretty good until I hit that first sex scene wall, but it wasn't without it's charms. So instead of making my brain hurt, I'm not going to assign this one an overall grade. Heck, I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to keep this book. In the long run, I think I will. It's going to be a while before I can "let go" of that Heath entry.