Jodi Thomas, DeWanna Pace, Linda Broday, Phyllis Miranda
Zebra Books (410 pgs) - 2009
It’s anthology time around the old coral: The four one-hundred page novellas in this Zebra Historical are set at the same time and in the same town, Kasota Springs in the Texas Panhandle. It is rodeo week and the rough-and-tumble festivities drive all four stories, except that with one exception, the characters in the different stories are unrelated.
In Silent Partner, Jodi Thomas builds her story around Rowdy Darnell and Laurel Hayes. Rowdy’s name fits the character. He was a hell-raiser since childhood, but except for the imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit, he could count on his ready charm to ease the consequences of his patented scrapes. He didn’t know there was going to be a rodeo until he got back in town. But decided he’d give it a go. He had only enough money to enter one event.
Laurel Hayes is the other side of the coin. She’s a solid citizen and a successful rancher’s daughter. She has known Rowdy since they were kids. She knows he’s poison, but she finds it a compelling poison, a spider and fly thing, and Jodi Thomas turns their dichotomy into a fast-moving, rewarding read. Rowdy had always been nice to Laurel and she has never forgotten it. She has a plan. She told him she would pay his entry fees and if he won “All-around-winner” Rowdy could keep the money prize and half the cattle and give her the other 100 head of cattle. One other stipulation – Rowdy had to keep quiet about their deal. It had to be a silent partnership.
Rowdy thought she was crazy to make such a deal, but, he was up for it. Her main objective was for her father not to find out about this silent partnership.
In Luck of the Draw, DeWanna Pace takes us to the rodeo. The legendary bull, Bone Buster, had killed Dally Angelo’s dad. When Dally Angelo’s dad was killed by Bone Buster, Augusta swore that she’d make sure that Dally would never get the chance to ride Bone Buster. Augusta Garrison who broke her engagement to Dally Angelo back in Pecos, with no explanation, was in charge of the drawing for the bull rides. Augusta also didn’t tell Dally that she was pregnant at the time of the break-up. That together with rodeo intrigue builds a story of love laced with action (or action laced with love, depending). Either way DeWanna Pace takes you off to the races. Whoops. Sorry. Off to the bull ride and Bone Buster’s questionable future.
In Texas Tempest, Linda Broday travels outside the box for her western historical. Not that her story doesn’t end well, but it begins in an unlikely setting, the Kasota Springs Community Cemetery. Tempest LeDoux (again the first name fits the character) carefully tends to a group of adjacent graves. Her obvious loving care catches the attention of gunslinger McKenna Smith. After she leaves, he looks closer.
All five graves belong to Tempest’s previous husbands, suggesting serious overuse of the death-do-us-part department. Checking further, McKenna finds they were all natural deaths. As beautiful as this woman was, husband number six would clearly be tempting fate. Husband number six? I wonder who that will be?
In Roping the Wind, Phyliss Miranda has an imaginative title for her page-turning contribution to this Give Me A Cowboy set. Boy meets girl in an unusual way. It involves a bow and arrow. Not Cupid’s bow but Alaine LeDoux’s bow. (Yes, Tempest’s daughter.) While practicing for a rodeo bow-and-arrow competition, she shoots Morgan Payne in the upper thigh, proving Alaine still needs practice. But her bow-driven ballistics does get the boy-meets-girl thing done with some charm.
While Morgan Payne (who should change the spelling to “Pain”) has come from the distant city, beneath his dude-like facade lurks a Pinkerton undercover man and one hell of a cowboy. Not unexpectedly, Morgan Payne will become Alaine’s husband number one. Hopefully the curse of the mother will not be visited upon her fetching daughter.
Personally, I like anthologies. Each story is shorter than a novel and therefore moves faster. I especially like that part. This anthology leads off with a story by Jodi Thomas, one of my favorites. The other three writers were new to me. The writing was all acceptable, however, some of the stories seemed to have a lot of western jargon in them. I understand that is an issue that has had a lot of discussion. Evidently, each section of the country had its own jargon. Therefore, it’s too confusing to use all of the jargons, so we usually see a generally accepted mix that won’t throw anyone.