Monday, August 8, 2011

Marrying Miss Marshal

Contrary to my reputation in some circles, I'm a fairly easy-to-please reader.  No, really - I am.  Give me a good story, interesting characters, with competent writing, and I'm all in.  Which is where Marrying Miss Marshal, Lacy Williams' debut novel comes in.  I'll be honest, I was a little hesitant as I started this book.  It's an inspirational western romance about a heroine who is a town marshal.  Yeah, we're talking major potential land mines all the way.  But you know what?  Sometimes it's not about what I think I know, but all about what the author can make me believe. 

Danna Carpenter's was one of her husband's deputies.  When Fred is killed, the town council appoints Danna marshal.  However, even with their endorsement, it's been an uphill battle.  Nobody will work for her, which means no deputies.  Plus, she's had no success tracking down the culprit who shot her husband.  The last thing this gal needs is some citified private detective rolling into town.  Especially when she finds herself rescuing the idiot from a stampede.

Chas O'Grady has been hired to look into some suspected cattle rustling in the area.  When he's almost mowed down by a stampede, he's shocked to discover that his rescuer is a....woman!  And when he discovers she's the town marshal?  Yeah, his brain almost self-destructs.  Since he's a stranger in town, doesn't really know the lay of the land, it's imperative for him to be on the right side of the local law.  Which means working with Danna.  A woman he finds exceedingly interesting, and attractive, despite her unconventional ways.

OK, let's get this out of the way upfront.  Yes, a heroine who is a lawman in 1889 Wyoming.  Yes, yes, I know.  I've never been one to drone on about "historical accuracy" in historical romance novels - but even this gave me pause.  I'm not saying it couldn't have happened.  Maybe it did happen?  But it's certainly eye-brow raising.  Now, that being said, the author does eventually close this plot hole.  How did a woman end up being the town marshal?  It's explained, and in a way I could buy-into.  She just takes a while to do it (in other words, you can't read 50 pages and expect to have the answer).

What made this story work for me is that I could believe Danna as a town marshal.  I really could.  She's competent, intelligent, hard-working and observant.  In many ways, she reminds me quite a bit of a Maggie Osborne heroine.  Unconventional, an outsider, not a frippery-frou-frou sort of female.  She's a straight-shooter, which is what I really liked about her.  Danna is the kind of heroine that you would not only be friends with, but who would also give you an honest opinion if you asked for one.

Chas is a decent guy, but also a fairly typical man.  I don't want to say he immediately dismisses Danna (I mean, she did save his life), but the idea of a woman being the marshal?  Ha!  However, what I really enjoyed here is that while Danna and Chas do get off on the wrong foot, while there is some animosity there early on - they eventually get past it.  Once Chas realizes that he needs her help, and also that she's pretty good at her job.  She proves herself to him, and dang if he isn't drawn to her in a way that complicates matters.

There's a fair amount of internal angst floating around.  Danna was married before, so there are her feelings for her first husband (she cared for him, but it wasn't a grand passion).  Chas feels guilt over his role in a woman's death, and is determined to bring the murderer to justice.  Add in the cattle rustling, and Danna's struggles to gain the town's acceptance, and it adds up to plenty of conflict to keep the pages turning.

Since this is an inspirational, I feel it's important to mention The God Stuff.  I tend to treat religion a lot like sex in my romance novels.  If it doesn't feel organic to the story, it annoys the stuffing out of me.  Here, the religious elements are painted with an extremely light brush.  So light, that it's easy to forget this wasn't published by Harlequin Historical.  When it enters into the story, it's pretty believable fare.  Danna believes that God watches over her.  At one point, during a crisis, she prays.  That's honestly about it.  Readers looking for a "heavier" religious tone in this story will likely be disappointed.  But if you're like me, and just looking for a good western romance?  You won't feel like the author is trying to convert you.

I really enjoyed this debut novel.  It was a good story, well told, and featured interesting characters.  I liked Danna, a lot.  And Chas is also a pretty darn decent guy (red-headed hero alert!).  I believed they were falling in love, I liked that they worked together, and I also liked that they rescued each more ways than one.  If that's not a good romance, I'm not sure what is.

Grade = B

(Sidenote: Squeeeeee! New historical western author!)


FD said...

I mostly am not at all interested in religion in romances, except where it's simply part of the characterization (preachyness and those romances where one character converts the other to God, salvation and happily-ever-after being absolutely not my cup of tea) but I have more tolerance for it in historical romances - same as I will accept more assish male character behaviour and female passivity. Goes with the territory. I find lack of acknowledgement of the socio-political mores prevalent in the setting to be more off-putting actually. Sounds like an inspie I might actually pick up. Ta!

Nicole said...

If I remember my history correctly, Wyoming has always been for women's rights, so I wouldn't raise my eyebrows too high at this.

Glad to hear the religion is treated so lightly. I might have to pick it up.

RachelT said...

I was interested in the aspect of a woman being the town marshall. I have just read a book designated as a western but with a good romance thread through it. Letter of the Law by CJ Crigger gets around historical correctness by having a wife act on behalf of her sheriff husband.

I thought it was a pretty good read (from Smashwords).

Wendy said...

FD: After reading your comment - it occurred to me that this is the rare inspy where there isn't a "church scene." LOL! But yeah, like you - there are a number of things that work better for me in historicals than in contemporaries. Especially when you have a small town type of setting. The church wasn't just for worship, it was generally the town's social center as well.

Nicole: The Wyoming setting did help. And while I raised my eyebrow, I thought the author sold her plot well. It also helped that I could buy-in to Danna having this kind of job. In other words, she's not a flighty bubblehead ;)

Rachel: One of the things I like about westerns so much is that women had a teeny bit more freedom. They could bend the rules a little bit more before their hand got smacked.

nath said...

I didn't pay attention when this came up in my google reader, but now I am! Love the cover - I was, is that a rifle on her lap? LOL.

This sounds like a good book and I'm glad to hear that the god stuff is small... I wonder if the authors really want to incorporate that part sometimes. anyway, the fact that you liked Dana a lot is just good :)

Wendy said...

Nath: Yep, a rifle. This is not a heroine you want to mess with - LOL!

It was so easy to "forget" that this was an inspirational while I was reading it. Probably because I have read secular books that DID have at least some religious elements in them. It's actually fairly common with some westerns - especially those set in small towns. Frankly, it's odd when the author doesn't mention or include some type of church scene - because the church really was a social center, as well as a religious one.....

A Library Girl said...

I remembered your review while going shopping after a particularly bad day, so I ended up buying this. I'm not usually an inspirational romance reader and tend to be leery of having the "God stuff" thrown in my face, but you were right, this book is really light in that area. I absolutely loved Danna, and I loved how Chas didn't try to turn her into something she wasn't just so that he could avoid having to worry about her all the time (although I admit I'm curious about how the townspeople will react to the idea of a man working for the woman he's married to).

Wendy said...

Library Girl: Yippeee! Glad you enjoyed it! And that is an excellent point you make re: Chas accepting Danna and Danna not morphing into a pod person for the HEA. I really think that probably added quite a bit to my enjoyment of the story.