Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Retro Review: Family Man by Carol Carson

This review of Family Man by Carol Carson was first published by The Romance Reader in 2000.  Back then I gave it a rating of 3 Hearts (C Grade) with an MPAA content rating of PG.


Jane Warner moved to Drover, Kansas in 1888 to take care of her older brother’s farm and two young sons. David Warner, grieving for his dead wife, neglected his farm and sons and eventually took off, leaving Jane in charge. Jane’s existence on the farm has been less than idyllic, and now she’s taken sick. The town doctor is a quack and claims that she’s dying and her illness, which he can’t even diagnose, is most likely the result of a curse.

Jane doesn’t believe in curses, but since the doctor can’t seem to help her, she begins to question her mortality. What would happen to the farm? Her two young nephews? She certainly can’t rely on David to reappear since she has no idea where he even is. So, she takes out an ad for a man. The boys need a father, and to be cared for if she should actually die.

Rider Magrane returns to Drover after a five year stint in prison. His crime involved David Warner, so Rider decides to repay his debt to the man personally. Imagine his surprise to find Jane, and not David in residence. Jane doesn’t seem to know Rider or his connection to her brother, so of course he doesn’t tell her the truth. Rider decides the best way to repay his debt to David is to answer Jane’s ad and take care of her, the boys and the farm.

Family Man had some clever moments, but there were instances where I found the main characters actions unbelievable. Jane immediately accepts this stranger, who she knows nothing about, into her home with an 18-month-old and 6-year-old in residence. This isn’t believable in 2000, let alone 1888. Also, she doesn’t seem to think her ad through very well. Rider is the one who brings up marriage, since it isn’t proper by 1888 standards for a woman and man to live under the same roof with no chaperone and unmarried. This thought never even crossed Jane’s mind.

Rider is generally a likeable romance hero, but his motives concerning Jane are less than stellar in the beginning. His feelings for her are all over the map: he’s attracted to her, even likes her, but doesn’t love her. Then he figures marrying Jane and taking care of the farm is a good way to repay David. Gee, don’t do the girl any favors.

Original Cover
But I’m a sucker for a western romance and Family Man endeared itself to me in several ways. First, Jane and Rider are pretty much equals when it comes to experience with the opposite sex. For those of you who are tired of worldly men “educating” virginal women, this aspect of the story should appeal. Also, Carson writes some amusing secondary characters including a sister straight from The Taming of the Shrew and Evie Smith, a cantankerous old woman who pulls freight for a living.

Even though I was scratching my head in the beginning, by the end Jane and Rider really do come out as a likeable romance couple. They never lit a fire in me, but I wasn’t cheering on the bad guys either and even anticipated the consummation of their relationship.

Family Man is the sequel to the author’s first Leisure publication Bad Company. She does a nice job filling in details, while leaving enough mystery for those who want to seek out the earlier title. Family Man offers readers lighthearted moments and amusing characters. A book and an author worth a look for western romance fans.


Wendy Remembers:  One of those books that I read during my TRR tenure that I now have little recall for (look, 2000 was 17 years ago...).  Reading my review, I think this may have been one of the first few handful of books I read that featured a virgin hero (but remember, my memory is hazy - reading in between the lines of my old review, pretty sure the dude's a virgin).  Anyway, if my Old School review has gotten you curious, Carson has since self-published this and it's a very affordable $1.99 (at least via Amazon).

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