Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Review: Claiming Her Legacy

Oklahoma, 1890 

Frontier women don’t ride off alone to track an outlaw—not even women as capable as tomboy spinster Willa Malone. But Willa desperately needs the bounty money offered for her father’s killer if she’s to keep their homestead and take care of her sisters. That means she needs an expert tracker's help. 

Gideon Hartley has the skill, but the handsome trail guide also has a troubling secret… Gideon has spent years trying to numb his pain with whiskey. Little by little, their quest—and Willa’s belief in him—is restoring the sense of purpose he thought he’d lost. Journeying into the heart of danger, they’ll have to face down the past together if they hope to protect their future…

I typically do not post back cover blurbs, chapter and verse, in my blog reviews but I'm doing so with Claiming Her Legacy by Linda Goodnight because it makes it patently obvious why I downloaded this ARC so fast I nearly broke my one-click finger. Longtime blogger readers know that I love gritty historical westerns and at least twice a year I lament that Maggie Osborne retired from writing. I've been on a, largely, fruitless search since then for writers who consistently write "gritty historical westerns" and deliver the kinds of heroines that were Osborne's stock in trade.  So yes, I nearly broke a finger downloading this ARC even though I knew going into it that it was an inspirational and therefore not entirely "in the mold" of Osborne. 

Willa Malone is my favorite sort of heroine - the no-nonsense, "plain" tomboy who takes care of two younger, prettier, and "fragile" sisters (or are they?).  All the sisters had different mothers and all of them are gone now. Daddy, being a dreamer, takes out a loan and heads off to chase gold. What he finds are some claim-jumpers who rob him blind and kill him.  Now the vile banker is calling in the loan and Willa has to find a way to keep the homestead or they're left with nothing but undesirable options.  I mean, the best of them is her youngest sister with the deformed foot marrying a much older man who rarely bathes and wants a broodmare.  Willa's plan? To track down the outlaw who murdered their pa.  Yeah, yeah - Daddy deserves justice but Willa is much more interested in collecting the bounty on his head.  But for that she needs a tracker and the best one around is a drunk who keeps falling into whiskey bottles.

Gideon Hartley left his Texas home because of a tragedy, and Daddy Issues.  Gideon took exception to many things, but Daddy swindling the sharecroppers was near the top of the list.  So he takes his tracking skills and starts bounty hunting.  Except, of course, there's that pesky past tragedy - which leads to a whole lotta drinking, meaning Gideon is well and truly an alcoholic.  Even if he didn't think Willa was nuts, he's in no condition to hit the trail.

Of course we know what eventually happens.  Gideon agrees to help Willa and off they go.  The problem is that this doesn't happen until the 60% mark.  What happens before then?  Well, a lot of set-up, plus the author decides it's better for Gideon to dry out before they hit the trail.  I mean, I get it - I just wish she had sped up the proceedings a bit.

While this is a gritty historical western, it's still set in a small town (of course it is - sigh) but at least Goodnight makes it interesting. Sweet Clover is full of interesting secondary characters and there's a dark underbelly (the vile banker, the saloon, the prostitutes who work upstairs...) so it's not all sunshine and roses and the 19th century equivalent of cupcake shops. Bonus points for the moment in the story when Willa realizes that maybe the saloon girls aren't universally "bad" and perhaps aren't there because they "want" to be.  

The inspirational aspect of this story is well done. For one thing I really appreciated that Willa doesn't fall for "magical thinking" (God will provide...) - she's very much of the God helps those who help themselves school.  Gideon's return to his faith centers around forgiveness - mainly forgiving himself and working to put his baggage with Dear Old Dad behind him.

The last 40% doesn't let me down, and while readers should not expect any sex scenes (duh, inspirational) it's been a dog's age since I've read a book where I've anticipated the first kiss so much.

Was it exactly what I wanted it to be?  Well, no. I'm pretty sure Osborne isn't masquerading as Goodnight. But this was a solid read and should (hopefully) be the start of a series. I need more historical westerns y'all.  Here's hoping this sells well.

Final Grade = B-


azteclady said...

oh, Miz Wendy, how you tempt me!

Gritty Western, heroines who do, and are capable too!

(this is how much you tempt me: even though anything having to do with religious faith puts me off, I would buy it if it weren't for the price--currently at $9.99 for the kindle edition)

Whiskeyinthejar said...

^^^^This is me! And that cover, I can smell the rain coming and feel that wind picking up.
That price is definitely going to have to come down for me to give this a try since it's inspirational but I'm putting it on the tbr.

willaful said...

I was so ahead of my time. Willas are everywhere now. ;-)

Wendy said...

AL and Whiskey: So, true story - when I downloaded the ARC I didn't realize this was going to be a trade paperback release - which would be why the high eBook pricing. But yeah, it's in trade paperback, so maybe you can get lucky at your library? Or just wait a little bit. I'm sure at some point the price will come down or HQ/Love Inspired will run a sale.

Willaful: A venerable garden of Willas!