I’ve been known to whine about the fact that the historical western sub genre is flourishing in the Christian/Inspirational market, while in secular corners it’s still an endangered species. What was it that struck me most about Lauri Robinson’s short story, the first western to be published by Harlequin Historical Undone? How “un-inspirational” it was. I mean, hello? A man of the cloth is the villain!
Former Texas Ranger, now rancher, Colt Severson, has just gotten himself married to Annalee Sapp, a young lady he’s been half in love with for the past three years. He never came calling because of the belief that he’s not “good enough” for the likes of her. Her entire life seems to be wrapped up in helping the local townspeople, along with the pious reverend. Then, thanks to her scheming Daddy, Colt gets his fondest wish granted. He and Annalee marry, and wanting to give her some time to adjust to the idea, he heads off to the local saloon for a drink. He was prepared for her not being all that happy with this turn of events, but he sure as heck didn’t think she’d barge into the saloon brandishing a shotgun!
Annalee has been desperately in love with Colt for the past three years. However, she is trapped. Trapped under the thumb of the pious reverend, and trapped in the knowledge that she doesn’t have a chance in Hell of catching the eye of Dodge City’s most eligible bachelor. Now her Daddy has interfered and Colt is forced to marry her! Yes, it’s what she’s always wanted, but she is sick with the knowledge that Colt only married her because he “had to.”
What follows is a classic Big Misunderstanding. Both Annalee and Colt are crazy for each other, but both of them think they forced the other one into marriage. This part of the conflict is actually wrapped up fairly quickly, and it’s nice that this was a short story, because this aspect isn’t dragged out ad nauseam.
On the other hand, the short story format gives the rest of this tale a half-finished feel. Annalee’s father actually plays a healthy role in this story – entirely off-page. We never meet the man! Then there is the local reverend, who serves as the villain. He has an obligatory appearance, but he’s all bark, with no bite. It gives credence to this reader’s theory that this may have started out as a longer novella, and was chopped down to fit the word count of the Undone line.
I was most surprised by the tone of the story, which gives us a reverend villain, and a heroine who is desperate to escape the dull existence of endless charity work. A heroine who hates charity work! Granted, this makes her seem a tinch selfish, but dang, it was kind of refreshing to read about a romance heroine who wants her own life, and not be at the constant beck-and-call of others.
This is a quick, decent read, that kept me entertained on my lunch break. The prose definitely tends to run purple during the love scenes, and while the short format hindered the role of the heroine’s father and villain, there was enough here to keep me turning the pages. It didn’t light my world on fire, but there was enough memorable here for me to consider reading more Lauri Robinson in the future.
Dodge City, Kansas. 1880.
Texas Ranger-turned-rancher Colt Severson received plenty of advice on how to handle his wife on their wedding night—but not on what to do if she pointed a shotgun at him!
For Annalee Sapp, becoming Colt’s bride was both a nightmare and a dream come true. The handsome rancher was the perfect husband, if only he hadn’t been tricked into marrying her! He’d be stunned to learn of all the scandalous thoughts she had about him….. But once their wedding night arrives, it’s only a matter of time before their passion explodes…and the truth about their impulsive marriage is revealed!
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