Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Texas Legacy

I started "seriously" reading romance in 1999.  That's 20 years, a lot of books, and Lord knows I can't tell you what I ate for breakfast this morning but I can tell you EXACTLY when and where I was when I read the Texas trilogy by Lorraine Heath.  It was 2001, I was a wee baby Super Librarian working in Michigan, and my employer sent me to San Francisco to attend the 2001 ALA conference to check out new ILS systems (for you non-librarian types - basically a new catalog system).  This was before ebooks and I took all three books in the trilogy, in print, with me and read them back-to-back-to-back.  I was punch drunk by the time I returned home and deeply in love.

Fans of the trilogy have been, quite literally, waiting for Texas Legacy for 20 years.  It's Rawley Cooper's romance.  Rawley, the abused boy that Dallas Leigh adopted in Texas Glory.  Rawley, who had the world's worst childhood and ultimately was destined to hook up with Dallas' biological daughter, Faith.  I had mixed feelings when Avon made the announcement that this romance, this book, was finally happening.  1) OMG LORRAINE HEATH IS WRITING A WESTERN AND IT'S RAWLEY'S STORY AND OMG SQUEEEEE!  2) Wait a minute, Avon Impulse. Shit, it's a novella and 3) It's been 20 years since I've read the trilogy, will I have time to do a reread?

Ultimately I ditched the idea of a reread.  Look, fans have been waiting for 20 years and a lot people haven't read the original trilogy - frankly this novella needs to sink or swim on it's own merits.  I didn't do a reread even though my recollections of Rawley as a character had largely faded from my memory (seriously, do you know how many books I've read in the last 20 years?).

Did this sink or swim? mostly floats.  It's definitely a novella for fans and I think readers who recently read the original trilogy will get more out of it but...

Meh.  I rewrote this story in my head the entire time I was reading it.  Which...not the greatest sign.

It's been six years since Rawley took off for parts unknown to "find himself" - but a letter from the woman he considers his mother has him coming home.  Dallas Leigh has a had a bit of a medical scare.  Meeting him at the train station is Faith Leigh, Dallas and Cordelia's biological daughter, the woman that Rawley has always loved but has felt is way too good for the likes of him.  And who should happen to meet him at the train station?  Yeah, you guessed it.  And her welcome home present is to sock him right in the jaw.

Rawley left six years ago without so much as a by-your-leave, so yeah - Faith is a tinch hurt and upset.  They grew up together.  She idolized him.  For him to just take off, without a word?  But Rawley's about to find out a lot has changed since he left the Leigh ranch.  Namely, Faith is not the innocent, young girl she once was...

So where did this go wrong?  Namely, in the fact that this is a novella.  And I say this as someone who LIKES novellas.  Heath writes a handful of chapters in flashback to detail why Rawley left six years ago, with the rest of the story taking place when he comes home.  You know what would have been great?  A full-length novel opening up with several chapters before Rawley left, a few chapters covering the period right after Rawley left, and then the final half of the book detailing Rawley coming home, reuniting with Faith, dealing with their respective baggage and living happily ever after.  Instead, as a novella, we get a climactic finish that strains credulity (really, the bad guy has been gone for SIX YEARS and suddenly just decides to show up right at the moment when Rawley decides to come home?) and a rushed romance that relies heavily on the fan's nostalgic feelings for the original trilogy.

Is this "bad?" No, it's not bad. It just could have been so much better. A historical western set in the early 20th century as civilization began altering the landscape even more (motion pictures, motor cars, oil men carving up Texas etc.).  It could have been so much bigger, more sweeping, and instead it's like a nice little novella love note instead.  Hey, nothing wrong with that necessarily, but it feels like Heath has wrapped up her saga with a postcard, as opposed to a letter. 

It's fine.  It's nice.  But....meh.

Final Grade = C


azteclady said...

When you mentioned this one in the upcoming unusual historical post earlier, my emotions did basically the same rollercoaster ride as yours: elation (Rawley, finally!), pause (shit, a novella? after a two decades long wait?), hesitation (twenty years is a LONG ASS time between stories, this is not likely to be a good thing after all).

(TBH, this reminded me of Nora Roberts going back to the Chesapeake trilogy and writing Seth's story years later, and how much it annoyed me, up to and including the bad guy miraculously showing up however many years later)

Sadly, for the sake of nostalgia, I'll pass this one up.

Wendy said...

AL: I think for us old farts who read the trilogy years ago - there's just too much baggage. We've had 20 years (!!!) to build up Rawley's romance in our heads.

I've been thinking about this: Would I have felt the same way about this novella had I just read the trilogy? Or had read it in recent memory? Yes and no. I think my issues would still have been the same, but I might have been a bit more lenient and gone with a B- grade instead.

S. said...

I loved Dallas and Cordelia's story... It was my favorite of the trilogy.
But although I certainly haven't read the trilogy as long ago as you, I didn't remember Rawley until your post. I think I'll stick to my good memories.

Wendy said...

S: I'm a little scared to possibly reread the trilogy because I don't think I'd like Book #1 as much now as I did back then. I think Dallas' and Cordelia's story would hold up the best (most likely) - but my favorite was always the last book, Austin's - which, I know, is totally contrary since I think I'm the ONLY reader alive who feels that way. But I wonder how much of it was me reading the series back-to-back-to-back and by book 3 I was so sucked in that I was extra predisposed to loving it?

I'm glad I read this, but it just didn't capture the same magic as the original trilogy (for me) and after 20 years I'm wondering if Heath should have just left well enough alone....