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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TBR Challenge 2013: Eyes Of Silver, Eyes Of Gold

The Book: 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.


Ahem.   OK.  Where was I?

Oh yeah.

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-


Lynn Spencer said...

Okay. Even with all the telling and non-showing, that does sound like it could be a fun read. I know I've got at least 1 O'Connell book in my Kindle. I might have to bump it up the TBR pile - especially now that most of my physical TBR is going to be in storage until we move. *whimper*

willaful said...

I read the 50% sample and then just didn't care enough to buy the rest. It's still possible to find good storytelling that's also well-written... isn't it?!

Wendy said...

Lynn: When it comes to discussing this particular book, I really think it hinges on how much (if at all) the writing ticks you off as a reader. I finished the book mostly annoyed because it EASILY would have been an "A" read for me if the writing was better.

Willaful: I struggled grading this one - and I normally do NOT struggle over assigning grades/ratings/stars. It really probably should have "earned" a lower grade, but I had to take into account that I liked the story and did inhale the book in 2 days. Again, it kind of left me angry and frustrated because it has the potential to be a GREAT book, if only the writing was better.

Kristie (J) said...

Squeeing fan girl here. Well, not really, but as you know *chuckle* I really do love this book, so much so that it easily will make my top 100 list, most likely my top 25 and perhaps even my top 10 so I'm glad you gave it a somewhat high grade.
I'll confess to being a tad puzzled though. I read a lot where readers complain about being told instead being shown. I don't notice this a lot to be honest, but I didn't notice it at all in this book. I actually almost felt I was there myself in some scenes, the race or Cords frantic trip to Chicago in the snow storm for example.

And I'm curious, did you enjoy this one enough to give the author another try? Cause if you did, I can think of another one ;-)

S. said...

I have this one in my TBR too. One day.... lol

Wendy said...

Kristie: A prime example of "tell" over "show" is actually what sends Cord rushing off to Denver, then Chicago in the first place. As the reader, we aren't shown the events leading up to Cord's travels. Cord, and the reader, are TOLD by a secondary character while Cord is sitting at a frickin' kitchen table. It really took a lot of emotional punch out of that scene for me. Think how much more powerful that event would have been if, as the reader, we were shown what happens prior to Cord being told. Rewriting it in my own head? I would have shown the event, and then have Cord demand answers from that secondary character and him just saying, "They went to Chicago."

Or, you know, something like that. But I'm no writer.

I might be open to reading more by this author, but I'd probably download a free sample first - just to see if the writing jives for me. Hey, it happened with Judith James (I thought her second book was SO much better written than Broken Wing.....don't shoot me *g*).

Wendy said...

S: I'd love to see more reviews on this one - because I think opinions will differ on the writing style. It bugged me, but obviously it hasn't bugged everyone universally :)

I say that about all the books in my TBR. Oh, one day.....LOL

azteclady said...



Wendy said...

AL: I know, right? I held up my end of the bargain....


nath said...

Well I haven't seen a post by Rosie, but you got Kristie to write a short one on her blog :) Perhaps that's the trick? We read a book they like and in exchange, we get news from them :P

LOL, so funny Wendy. I'm sure that next year, Kristie will have found another book for you to read :)

I remember Kristie's review of this book... and I don't know, just doesn't seem to be my style, once again ^_^; Combined with the writing... but thanks for taking one for blogland!