Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O'Connell
The Particulars: Historical western romance, Self-published, 2010, Available in print and digitally.
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: At RWA 2013 in Atlanta, KristieJ threw down the gauntlet. Said I had to read this book. Then Rosie said that if I read this book? Yeah, she'd totally blog again. And since her blog has been a dead zone, and frankly all my Old Guard Blogging Buddies have been abandoning me (Why aren't you all thinking about me?!?!?!) - if I could get Rosie to blog by reading this book and get KristieJ to stop saying "Wendy, Wendy, Wendy" over the same book? That is what we call killing two birds with one stone. I downloaded it on to my Kindle right there in that Atlanta hotel room.
The Review: Anne Wells is 28 years old, still unmarried, and so head-strong that her father has decided it's high time he bring her to heel. Since Anne seems unwilling to budge and refuses to marry the man her father has selected for her, he keeps her a prisoner in their own home - but resourceful Anne manages to escape. The problem? Daddy Dearest has also been withholding food - so when a storm hits, a weakened Anne takes shelter in a barn - not realizing said barn belongs to Cord Bennett.
Cord is half-Indian, and despite his white father and Indian mother being married, there are events in Cord's past that make everyone in town think he's the devil incarnate. When Daddy Dearest finds Anne in Cord's house? Um, yeah. Anne is assaulted (spoiler: not raped, for those of you with that particular trigger) and after the two are hastily married in some sort of bizarre, sicko ceremony? Cord is beaten nearly to death.
But, of course, he doesn't die - because then our story would be over before we get 30 pages into this affair.
Anyway, the rest of the story pretty much follows Cord and Anne being thrown together, trying to make the best of it, despite the fact that both of their families should be shot, dismembered and sent through a hay thresher.
But I'm blood-thirsty like that.
This is a book that generated waves of squee'ing fangirls some time ago, and I sort of, kind of, understand why. It's a compelling story. The author employs Old Skool Romance Writing Rule #3 that the more external "bad stuff" that happens to the romantic couple, the better. Also, the female characters in this story (OK, mostly Anne - but also sister-in-law Martha) have some spunk. I like spunky heroines, so the moments when Anne starts mouthing off to various asshole secondary characters (and she's got plenty of targets to choose from), were really great.
But the writing? Oh, the writing! I gotta hand it to the author, she came up with a good story. Too bad she decided to TELL it to me instead of painting me a picture. Seriously all that was missing was a campfire, a log to sit on and some marshmallows for me to roast. Damn near everything was told to me, nothing was really shown. Which is unfortunate since I wouldn't have minded crawling around inside the characters' skin, getting to know them, seeing things through their eyes. Instead I get "this happened, then that happened, and oh by the way, this happened 10 years ago to Cord and that's why everybody thinks he's the spawn of Satan." The worst was during the climactic finish when a secondary character TELLS Cord (and naturally the reader) events that went down to spur the story towards the finish line. You know what would have been better? Actually SEEING those events first hand. You know, AS THEY OCCURED! Not reading some secondary character relating them to Cord AFTER THE FACT and therefore, TELLING me what happened.
SHOW ME! SHOW ME WHAT HAPPENED!!!!!!!
Ahem. OK. Where was I?
But I kept reading. Why? Because, like I said, it's a compelling story. Despite the fact that the villain is one-dimensionally eviiiiiillllllllll and all the secondary characters are painfully, moronically, unobservant (I think I'm supposed to think they're stubborn - but seriously a dumber bunch of people you'll never meet. I kept hoping Cord would shoot his dumb-ass brothers, or baring that, Anne would - but alas. Opportunity wasted).
Venting my spleen all over this blog post probably makes you think I'm going to slap this with a low grade - but I'm not. I read it in 2 days and like I said, it's a compelling story. And while the writing did bug the hell out of me, it does get marginally better as the story wears on. In the end I'm glad I read it, and I did like it (my venting aside), but it also depresses me a little to think about what might have been. What if this story saw a critique group? What if an editor really sunk their claws into it? What if the writing had been SHOWING instead of TELLING? What if, what if, what if. Yes, I'm happy that so many readers have squee'ed over this book, a historical western (people squee'ing over westerns = happy, happy Wendy) - but it makes me weep for the better written westerns that have died on the vine the past 10+ years in Romancelandia. In the end, I'm slapping it with the grade I am because I did like the story - but will I ever recommend this tale? Maybe? Possibly? But with serious reservations and a whole lot of "but, but, but...." thrown in as I'm "hand-selling" it.
Final Grade = B-