Thursday, September 19, 2019

#TBRChallenge 2019: Day Late and a Couple of Dollars Short

The Book: Morgan's Woman by Judith E. French

The Particulars: Historical western romance, Ballantine, 1999, Out of print, available in self-published digital edition

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Who knows at this point - seriously, this has been buried in the TBR for a ridiculously long period of time. My best guess?  It's a historical western and I enjoyed another novel by French when I reviewed it for TRR.  While in good shape, I can tell my print copy was bought used.

The Review: In my experience, historical romances hold up better over time than contemporaries because you're a lot less likely to run up against pop culture references that haven't aged well (there was a time when Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise were major heart throbs).  But that doesn't mean there aren't potential land mines lurking, which is exactly what happened with this book.  I was met with a cold bucket of ice water at the 30% mark and while I might have let such insult slide had I been reading a bodice ripper from 1978, in 1999 the genre really, really should have moved on.  Which is a shame, because the heroine is a legit widow in this book and 1999 we were still Buried In Virgin Heroines for the most part. Alas...

It's 1865, the War is finally over, and Tamsin MacGreggor's husband is blessedly dead. She isn't exactly mourning his loss.  However, when she finds out that her not-dearly departed hubby managed to squander everything her grandfather built, only leaving her with two prized thoroughbreds (one stallion, one mare) - she's even less sorry he's dead.  The lawyer thinks she's nuts, but she decides to take the two horses and head to California.  She can start a new life out west.

Original Cover
She lands in Sweetwater, Colorado for the night and when she goes to collect her horses from the livery in the morning she discovers they've been stolen.  She finds out who has them, but he's the brother of the town judge and...yeah.  She heads out to his place anyway only to interrupt an argument between the man and brother judge.  She sneaks back in the middle of the night to steal back her horses only to discover the man dead, shot in the back in his own barn.  It doesn't look good for her, so she takes her horses and hits the road.

Ash Morgan is a bounty hunter who has been tracking Tamsin because he thinks she's an outlaw's paramour.  Then he's hauled before the judge who tells him that she murdered his brother and asks Ash to track her down.  Which...he does.  She's innocent, he doesn't believe her, and we're off to the races.

Honestly, this was fine for a while.  The plot is kind of all over the place and there are instances where I felt like the author left out bread crumbs in the trail (the whole Tamsin being an outlaw's lady thing takes a while to circle around), but it was fine.  Then it slides south rather quickly starting in Chapter 9 and I never made it to Chapter 10.

Ash doesn't trust Tamsin to begin with, and when she beans him over the head with a log that doesn't endear her any further.  So needless to say, he's going to restrain her going forward.  She resists, they tussle, she throws a punch, he pins her to the ground and then we get these touching moments (imagine all the sarcasm in the world - like Wendy firing the sarcasm cannon):
Having her helpless beneath him shattered the barrier he prided himself on possessing.  He shuddered, caught in a sudden rush of primitive lust that any decent man should keep in check. In vain he tried to smother a devilish urge to lift Tamsin's skirts and drive himself between her warm, soft thighs. 
The woman scent of her filled his head. He knew he was stronger than she was. He could have her here and now. Maybe she even wanted him to do it. Ash groaned and swallowed the sour gorge that rose in his throat. 
Maybe he was no better than the scum he'd vowed to destroy - the outlaws who'd raped and murdered his wife.

A few paragraphs later our "hero" heads to the nearby stream to cool off:
The frigid water couldn't wash away his desire, but it did keep him from making a total bastard of himself. He glanced back at her to make certain she wasn't stalking him with a rock. "You pack a mean right," he said. 
Tamsin's freckles stood out starkly against milky white skin. "I'm sorry," she stammered. Fear was still evident in her expression. She looked at him as if she expected him to tear off her skirts. 
The hell of it was, he wanted to.

Nope. Nope, nope, nopity nope nope.  I hit that last line, closed the book and am moving on.  Life's too short, my TBR is too big, and short of Tamsin ramming a fork through his eye socket and lighting his pants on fire using a blow torch there is literally no redeeming this "hero" for me.

Final Grade = DNF 


Jill said...

Yikes! Sorry that was so disappointing. Thanks for hosting this Wendy. I really enjoy your thoughtful reviews.

So my read wasn't quite officially a DNF, but it was definitely a "skim to the end" type read. I have tons and tons of books that meet the requirement on my digital TBR b/c Open Road had a "free book" sale a couple of years ago and I swooped through there like a seagull at the dump.

For my read, I picked Elizabeth Mansfield's "My Lord Murderer." I was hoping for good things. Mansfield wrote traditional regencies until she passed away in 2003. I always feel she had a nice light touch that works well with that style. Alas, this one was disappointing.

It starts out with our hero and heroine meeting at a ball and a fall in love at first sight moment (hmmm, okay, already not my favorite thing). Then they are introduced and the heroine (Gwen) realizes that the hero (Drew) is the man that murdered her husband in a duel. Horrors! Now there are some extenuating circumstances that of course Drew is too noble to reveal. The hero's sister decides she must bet these two together and begins a set of downright bizarre schemes. I can deal with a big Misunderstanding of Big Secret in traditional regency if the story feels like it's moving along at a tight clip. The stories are usually short enough that they don't annoy me.

But with this book, it seemed like the story had to almost completely wrapped up, I'm mentally thinking, "okay, he still hasn't told the big secret, but so much has been revealed, he's going to soon, right?" I had had enough of their nonsense. Then I really looked at my Kindle progress and saw I was only at 30%. Boo.

Sure enough at that point, another villain is introduced with a whole unrelated plot. I skimmed to see if it got better, but it didn't. I think I have to give it a D+. Maybe? It was bad, but not rage inducing. Although, heads up, there was also an out of left field "punishing kiss" early on in their courtship. This was written in 1978, so I just rolled my eyes and kept reading, but I can see how it might be a deal killer for some people.


Wendy said...

Jill: Ooof! We both had less than graceful landings this month. But hey, that's another book out of the TBR and here's hoping for better next month :)

azteclady said...

Yikes, yikes, all the yikes.