Monday, September 8, 2008

Texas Loving

By Leigh Greenwood
Leisure Books 2008
Historical Romance
Setting: Texas Hill Country 1889

I finally made the decision. Leigh Greenwood is my all time favorite writer. When you realize I’ve also read Thomas Wolfe, John O’Hara, Camus, Steinbeck, Updike, etc. that puts Greenwood in pretty lofty company. As far as I know, he is the only man writing historical romance. And does he ever write it! His stories are great, his characters are well developed and believable. There’s some mystery, problem solving, relationship building, and of course, a happy ending. This is the newest book in the Cowboys series. Jake and Isabelle Maxwell married in Texas. They had one daughter, Eden, and adopted ten boys and one girl. This book focuses on Eden.

Summary: One day an old cowboy in strange dress rode up to the Broken Circle Ranch. From a distance Eden could see that he was old. She met him as he arrived and asked if she could help him find someone. He said that he had found the person he sought and she looked exactly like her grandmother when she was young. It turns out that this man is her grandfather and he is from England. It seems that Isabelle’s aunt was actually her mother who had left England while pregnant and come to America. This visitor is
Alastair Davenport, the Earl of Southampton, and Isabelle’s father. Isabelle’s mother had thought herself not fit to marry an Earl so had left England to avoid a scandal. After asking many questions, the Earl decided that he wanted to take Isabelle, Jake, and Eden to England to get better acquainted and to introduce them to their family.

They arrived in England, and Eden was introduced to Edward Davenport toe heir to the Earldom. Life was very different there and Eden wasn’t comfortable with the lack of candor from these people with the strange accents. Daphne, the daughter of a wealthy banker was visiting ands expected Edward to propose to her. The Davenport family was facing bankruptcy and Edward was expected to marry an heiress who would supply money in exchange for a title. Eden thought that marrying for any reason other than love was ridiculous. And, of course, she said that with passion and volume.

Eden shared information with Edward that she had gotten from Edward’s nurse, who spent her retirement trying to hide the fact that she drank a lot of alcohol. This information put Edward in a tailspin and he disappeared at the same time the Maxwell family returned to America.

Upon her return home, Eden went to the ranch that belonged to two of her adopted brothers to help their wives deliver their babies. When she arrived she was shocked to find that Edward was right there in Texas at the brother’s ranch.

The rest of the story takes place in Texas. It involved cattle rustling, cut fences, burned barns, injured horses and a horse race that Edward needs to win so that he can buy a ranch of his own. This is a good study in close family and how they band together when the need arises. And, of course, anticipate the happy ending.

This book is a delightful read! If you haven’t read the other books in the Cowboy series, contact and they’ll round them up for you.

Hearts in the Highlands

Ruth Axtell Morren
Love Inspired Historical
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books (2008)

London, 1890

Writing this review has put me in quite a dilemma. While I’ve read 1500+ romance novels in the last 7 ½ years, and am a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, psychotherapist, and business woman. I am a novice book reviewer. Also, being a Christian I want to tell the truth in love. That’s tough to do. All in all I found nothing in this book to make me want to hurry and turn the page to see what happens.

I found this book to be a chore. It didn’t seem to move forward fast enough to capture
my anticipation. I tried to analyze the problem. Was this a particularly boring part of history? Was there a reason to allude to things that were never divulged? The characters were not that sympathetic. All action took so long to happen. Actually, a chapter of introduction, and the epilogue might have been enough for this book. Admittedly, I like epilogues. They are good at rounding up all loose ends and drawing things to a final conclusion. I like that process.

Reid Gallagher, our hero, is an archaeologist whose professional life is in Egypt. Are archaeologists boring people? Reid’s lectures at the museum were well received and his audience was interested and had many questions. Maddie Norton, our heroine, is Reid’s aunt’s companion and lives a life of servanthood with many reminders that she is less than her employer and her employer’s family. I’m sure the class consciousness is a sign of the times and shows a society that thrived on unearned superiority.

Reid had devoted himself to grieving for his dead wife. He also felt guilty about her death but we never know why. That information might have helped. However, without it, he was stuck in his grief with no desire to get through it. As a psychotherapist, I’ve seen people in this type of trouble and it’s no fun! It also helped make him a somewhat unsympathetic character.

If this was a dull time in history then why write the book to be in this time period? If archaeologists are boring people, why did his audience at the museum enjoy his presentation and asked many questions?

Maybe, Inspirational Historical Romance is still struggling to come into its own. Inspirational Contemporary Romance has just recently come into its own. It took awhile. Earlier, this genre tended to be preachy and the lives described were stilted. Now there are a larger variety of authors who write in this genre whose characters are real people leading real lives. Inspirational Historical Romance may still have a way to go.

Am I missing something? What do you think?
In all fairness, I’ll read another of Ruth Axtell Morren’s books to see if it will be a page turner.

Finally A Family

By: Carolyne Aarsen
Love Inspired
Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books (2008)

Both Ethan and Hannah had experienced heartbreak. He didn’t trust women. She didn’t trust men. Each was afraid of allowing anyone to get close to them for fear of being hurt again.

As a psychotherapist, the problem this couple is having is not unique. When people lose their trust in others it’s very difficult to let those barriers down. In fact, one is apt to see all interactions through those barriers. But, they so dread the pain of being hurt again, they tend toward being over-protective even though that keeps them from the possibility of what they want.

Ethan has always loved his grandfather’s farm. He spent as much time there as possible. When his grandfather died, the farm was inherited by his Uncle Sam (not the U.S. Government). That was fine. Uncle Sam had always said that the farm would next go to Ethan. Of course, none of this was in writing.

After Sam’s death, the time came to read the will. Everyone was shocked when only half of the farm was left to Ethan. The other half was left to Hannah, the daughter of Sam’s live-in girlfriend. The condition placed on the inheritance for Hannah was that she had to live on the farm for six months. Sam and Hannah’s mom had lived together for nine years. Obviously, Sam had affection for Hannah and wanted her to have more than what her mother had provided. Hannah’s mom had spent her life going from man to man. That’s where Hannah had learned about life. But she longed for a family and roots.

She decided she’d make the best of it and stay at the farm. After the six months, she planned to sell her half of the farm. She worked hard doing whatever Ethan allowed her to do.

One night he went to the barn to help his prized cow give birth. He planned to be there all night. He was surprised to see Hannah show up in the barn to help. The birth of the calf was a warm and loving experience. It changed how Hannah felt about Ethan. Apparently he wasn’t an arrogant ladies man, but a gentle, loving man. Here was a man showing a mothering concern – warm and loving. She rethought her plan to sell her half of the farm.

In 1500+ books it’s rare to find a scene in a book that will live in my memory. This book has that scene. The loving help Ethan gives the cow while calfing will live in my heart. I’ve never had this experience, but being a mother and a grandmother I understand childbirth and the importance of loving encouragement during that process.

This is a good read. It moves right along and has characters that are easy to cheer for. The faith shown is realistic which many times is not the case in the Inspirational genre. And I found the good feeling at the end that I expect from a romance.