Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris

The summer was off to such a good start for Buck Crenshaw. Unfortunately, all of that falls apart with the arrival of Milford Streeter to the West Point Military Academy.

What’s it About? 

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When West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black candidate Milford Streeter in 1884, Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s moral ambivalence is tested. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away on a stand for Streeter? After Cadet Streeter sacrifices Buck’s reputation to safeguard his own, Buck escapes to his sister Thankful at Fort Grant, Arizona and meets an old rival, William Weldon. Buck must make a decision about the sort of man he wants to become while witnessing the downward spiral of his favorite sister’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant. Weary of Running is about the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.

First Impressions

This book held so much promise in the beginning, but unfortunately things quickly got out of control to the point where it was no longer my cup of tea. I was excited to read about what I thought would be an ensuing friendship between Buck and West Point’s first ever black candidate, perhaps standing up against prejudice in a military establishment so soon after the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, while Buck is initially open to the idea of a black cadet at West Point, it doesn’t take long before the influence of his brother, fellow cadets, and Streeter’s own actions to turn Buck into, well, a racist. And this sort of brings me to my main issue with this novel; I really could not find any one main character that I liked. Every single character presented in this novel is extremely flawed, and that makes it almost impossible to root for any of them to succeed.

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The Disappearance of Buck

According to Goodreads, this novel is referred to as “A Buck Crenshaw Novel”. Therefore, I assumed that the majority of the novel would be about…Buck Crenshaw. Shockingly enough though, after about 10% of the novel he completely disappears from the story, and doesn’t return until the book is almost finished. Umm, what? I thought this was mainly going to be all about him and Streeter. And while Buck comes back into the tale much later on, we never hear about Streeter again, or even really get a resolution to that part of the story. Definitely a let down.

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The Arrival of Thankful and William

So I would say Buck disappears for a good 60-65% of the book. Not gonna lie though, I wasn’t really sad to see him go. We see how others mistakenly assume he’s being soft on Streeter, and everything just spirals down from there to the point where Buck himself comes to despise Streeter. Buck and his brother, Fred, even go so far as to beat up Streeter and leave him for dead. Yikes! The novel then switches gears to follow Thankful out West, as she’s pursuing a childhood crush, William, who recently moved out there.

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Alright, maybe this is where some romance will come into the story? Unfortunately…not so much. William is a raging alcoholic, which was spurred on by an accident from his childhood that left him with memory problems, headaches, and a crooked leg. But that doesn’t stop people from showing him zero sympathy, and constantly making fun of him for being a cripple. Thankful also turns away from him in the pursuit of another army officer who is good looking and showers her with compliments and trinkets. Man, this is just getting depressing!

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Although these two characters barely spend any time together in the pages of this novel, their situations are quite similar. Basically, we see how they are ostracized from their comrades, supposed friends, and even their family due to a long string of misunderstandings, and a ridiculous amount of over-reacting from others. They become social pariahs, and while you’d think this would garner some sympathy from us as the reader, it’s also pretty hard to do.

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I’ll admit, there were times that I felt somewhat bad for both Buck and William as their lives totally spiraled out of control into dark depression. This was probably more true in my opinion of William rather than Buck though, who at least had some legitimate medical reasons behind his behavior oftentimes getting out of control. The problem though is that as soon as I’d kind of feel bad for them, it wasn’t long before they’d proceed to say something racist, sexist, or just downright rude. Heck, at one point William even hits a woman! While these may have been common actions and opinions in the 1880s, it’s just not something I want my main characters to indulge in.

Supplemental Characters

If I had to pinpoint the main characters of this novel, it would be Buck, William and Thankful. The majority of the supplemental characters are the familial relations of all of these characters, and my God are they a handful. It was almost comical, yet also annoying, how quickly and constantly they would rush to the most outlandish of conclusions, and over-react to every possible scenario without hearing out what would actually be a very simple explanation. It’s like nobody wanted to listen to reason. At one point Buck’s family even wants to put him in an asylum because he keeps getting into trouble. Buck and Thankful’s brother, Fred, is particularly deceitful by always blaming his own crimes on others, and the whole lot is pretty shockingly rude.

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Whether it be children berating their parents, or parents being openly hurtful to their children, we are dealing with some characters that I had a really tough time liking. There were definitely some complicated family dynamics at play. To give you just a glimpse of some of the hurtful things these characters would say, one mother yells at her daughter, “I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat and you have long since crossed that line.” When speaking of Indians a character states, “The savages should be sent from this earth-every last one of them.” Eventually I realized that practically every female in this novel reminded me of the mother in Pride and Prejudice. We’re talking Colin Firth movie version here; very over-the-top emotional, eccentric, etc.

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*A copy of this book was presented for an honest review*

Series: The Tenafly Road Series, book…? This is listed as book 1 and book 2 in a few different places.

Should you read it? I hate to say it, but I had a tough time finishing this one. It was just one unfortunate event after another, with no real light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I get it. We are dealing with a novel set in the 1880s. It was a different time. But the historical novels that I like are the ones that rise above social prejudice, and highlight characters that go against the social norm to come out on top. Is that perhaps an unrealistic and fairy-tale like hope? Sure! But when I’m reading something in my spare time I’d like at least one happy thing to happen to a character I somewhat like, and unfortunately I found that lacking in this read.

Smut Level: There’s one quick jaunt behind a pile of wood, and another scene or two involving a…lady of the night.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 327 Pages.

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Watermark by Marti Ziegler

A journey down the Mississippi River is fraught with perils: alligators, pirates, and a debonair flatboat captain with his sight set on revenge. Sign me up!

What’s it About?

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Whom could you trust if you were stranded fifteen hundred miles from home? Misfortune has plagued Juno Brock for months. Recently widowed, a chance encounter with a dangerous criminal in St. Louis exposes her to information that can see her branded. Or worse, hanged. When a pirate attack on the Mississippi River maroons her in the wilds of Michigan Territory, she has but one choice: use her wits to secure passage on a boat traveling downriver and reunite with her family fifteen hundred miles away.

An arrogant mistake in his youth has set flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau on a forked path of redemption and revenge. His successful livelihood transporting goods to New Orleans revolves around cargo, not passengers, but Juno’s recent encounter with his longtime enemy makes her the exception. A bargain is struck: safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she unwittingly discovered.

What follows is a month-long journey where mistrust and resentment unfolds into an unexpected friendship filled with secret confidences and before long, attraction. Sometimes dangerous, often humorous, their voyage down America’s most infamous river and the outlandish characters they meet along the way will ultimately inspire a destination neither expected: love.

First Impressions

This is only the second Marti Ziegler book I’ve ever read, but I think it’s fair to say that one of my favorite things about her work is seeing the characters evolve. I’m now convinced she is an absolute master at creating a rough male lead who you can’t help but love. At first introduction, Malcolm is kind of a jerk. He is hell bent on revenge, and is more than willing to just leave Juno on the side of the Mississippi River to fend for herself. But then we slowly start to unravel his story, and see what can almost be described as a charmingly boyish side to this rough man. I found myself smitten within a matter of pages even though you also kind of get the urge to slap him a few times throughout the book.

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There’s a similar unraveling to Juno’s character as well. When the novel beings she sort of seems like a momma’s girl, always clinging to her family’s side. Someone who is afraid to be out on their own. Very quickly though we discover that this strong woman knows how to survive. She’s clever, stubborn in only the best of ways, and just a downright fun heroine to read. All in all, I’m always mesmerized by the lead characters Ziegler introduces me to in her work.

A Motley Crew

It’s not just the main characters who are an absolute delight in this river tale. We literally have a whole crew of Malcolm’s boat mates to provide us with thorough entertainment. From his hard-lined cook, to a few flirtatious scallywags, you never want this trip down the Mississippi to end. That brings us to the setting, which is basically another character in and of itself. ‘Tis a journey filled with a plethora of perils, some of which were mentioned above. Alligators, exploding riverboats, pirates and religious zealots.

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This motley crew is constantly facing challenges as they make their way to return Juno to her family, and for Malcolm to finally achieve revenge against his sworn enemy who was the most devious of villains. I do sort of wish we had seen more of this enemy rather than just a few scenes at the very beginning and end of the book. He is described at length throughout from Malcolm’s point of view, so we do learn about their complicated history. That being said, I think it would have been more interesting and suspenseful to have more scenes between the two in person.

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From Nuisance to Lover

What I particularly enjoyed about this novel, aside from learning the historical aspect of 19th century riverboat life, was seeing the evolution of Juno and Malcolm’s relationship. At the start they are both severely annoyed by each other, and see the other as a deterrent and nuisance to reaching their final goal. However, they quickly realize they must rely on each other in their journey.

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Slowly, Juno and Malcolm start to open up and trust each other. This is perfectly reflected in their nightly pastime where Malcolm reads to Juno, who doesn’t know how to read for herself. She’s still fascinated by the written word, and though she initially kind of harasses Malcolm into reading for her, it soon becomes their nightly thing. Malcolm begrudgingly puts up with it every night, but then when he eventually buys her a small pocket reader to teach her to read? Girl, I damn near had tears in my eyes it was so beautiful.

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Let’s Rock the Boat

For a historical romance these two have some sizzling hot sex scenes! And in some pretty unique locations on top of everything. They tussle about in a small bed on a flatboat, against a tree trunk, and even on the floor of a cave. For those last two, they definitely aren’t the most comfortable of locales, but that’s what I positively loved about it all. Juno acknowledges right away that a bed probably would have been more convenient.

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She has twigs in her hair, a few scrapes and bruises, but when you’re overcome by passion? You do it wherever you can apparently. When the two realize their time together is soon coming to an end their lovemaking becomes even more desperate and passionate. However, they still manage to keep things grounded. For example, at one point they also have a drunkenly frank conversation about how they can’t have sex because she’s on her courses. It provides a comforting sense of realism and domesticity to their relationship that I just loved.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this author!

Should you read it? Well, I’m a fan! I love that with each Ziegler novel I get to learn about a different period of history, and in a new unique setting. All the characters also have such great chemistry together. I could see how some might not particularly warm to the somewhat schoolyard antics of Malcolm and Juno’s relationship at the start, but just stick with it to see it develop! I do wish we had seen more of the villain, who was so creepily written you just want to see a bit more from him. Overall though, a fun historical read.

Smut Level: These two get busy in some unique locations, and I loved how they both commented soon after that it might not have been the most comfortable experience. There was one sex scene that seemed somewhat ill-timed following a near death experience, but I guess that simply increases the passion level!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 351 Pages.

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Outlander Returns!

If you’re an Outlander fan like me, then you undoubtedly jumped for joy, and maybe even cried a little bit when the fantabulous Season 3 premiered on Starz last week.

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And what a premier it was! Honestly, I think it might have been Sam Heughan’s best performance to date, and the dude pretty much just laid on his back throughout the entirety of the show. But my God did he do it well.

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I’m also so unbelievably grateful that they’ve found a way to incorporate more of Frank’s character into the TV show. Let’s face it, prominent scenes featuring Frank in the later books within the series are almost non-existent, so I really do enjoy seeing how they’re able to creatively incorporate his character into the show. I mean, the onscreen chemistry between Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe is absolute perfection. I completely understand why they’d want to keep him around for as long as possible!

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An amazing start to the series for sure. And yes, I was ugly crying for a large portion of the show. When I told my sister and mom they were like, “Oh, you cried? Which part?” Ummm, the barn scene? Are you kidding me??? Gosh, even thinking about it now….give me a moment.

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Unfortunately I also found out another Outlander detail last Sunday that almost brought tears to my eyes, and not in a good way. About a year ago, I finally finished what I thought was the last main book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. Not gonna lie you guys, I was not a fan of the last few books of this series. Starting with about book 5, each novel was a massive tome of about 1000 pages or more, and there was so much needless historical detail that had little to do with the plot I couldn’t help but be bored. But I trudged through it and finally finished them all…OR SO I THOUGHT!

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Lo and behold, last Sunday I discover that Diana Gabaldon is writing a ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. Whyyyyyy?????

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Look, book 8 ended on a fine note, can’t we just leave the damn bees where they are and call it a day? I’m sure this is a dream come true for a lot of Outlander fans who can’t wait to read more about Jamie and Claire. And most of them probably already knew this ninth book was a thing, and I’m just laughingly late to the party. I just keep thinking about how this signals another 5 months or so of my life reading about daily life and hygiene in the 18th century. And why do I think this book will be a continuation of the boredom I experienced in books 5-8? Well, let’s see what Diana Gabaldon herself has to say about the upcoming release, shall we?

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“My books are huge”. “2-3 years…to write and research and publish”. I love the dedication to the craft, but what if the books were…less huge? Please?

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m gonna read this book when it releases. I’ve come this far, I’m not gonna back down now. I’ll try and go in with an open mind, but it’s going to be hard considering how much of the last few books I just skimmed through because I wanted to get to the actual story already. Here’s to hoping that book 9 will be just as good as this Season 3 premier was! Or that the TV show will still be up and running, and just as fantabulous as ever by the time book 9 actually releases!!

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A Train Through Time by Bess McBride

One of my favorite features of time travel romances is the moment when our hero or heroine discovers they’re not in Kansas anymore. Most simply go with the flow and adapt. Others have that brief moment of denial before eventual acceptance. In this novel, Ellie has a minor freak out, and continually insists she’s dreaming rather than acknowledging the harsh truth. Probably the most realistic scenario of the three!

What’s it About? 

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College teacher Ellie Standish thinks she’s on a sleek modern train heading to a conference on women’s studies in Seattle, but she awakens from a night’s doze to find herself on a bizarre historical train full of late Victorian era reenactors who refuse to come out of character. When the leader of the group—handsome, green-eyed Robert Chamberlain—finally convinces her the date is indeed 1901, a skeptical Ellie rejects any eccentric theories of time travel and presumes she is smack dab in the middle of a very interesting historical dream. She turns the directorial reins of her dream over to the smitten and willing Robert, only to realize that dreams cannot last forever. Someday, she must wake up to reality, though Ellie no longer has any idea what reality is. She only knows that Robert must play an important part in her future. But how can he…if he’s only a figment of her imagination or worse yet…a man who belongs to an era long past?

First Impressions

I really loved the start of this novel. Ellie is adamant she hasn’t traveled through time, instead thinking she’s woken up surrounded by a strange troupe of Victorian era reenacters. When she eventually realizes that theory holds no weight she moves on to the idea that she must be dreaming, and sticks with it for pretty much the rest of the novel. Rather than our heroine admitting the truth that she’s traveled through time, Robert is actually the one who puts it together first, and tries to convince her of it. It felt like such a unique departure from most time travel romances, where our traveler is usually the one who must come up with the most compelling argument to convince others that they are from a different time. Normally those in the past are the skeptical ones, and I just really loved how this novel chooses to take that trope and flip it on its head.

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A Dreamy Man

Robert could have easily had this strange woman committed for acting so bizarrely, but instead he chooses to play along with Ellie’s delusion that she’s simply dreaming. It was actually a humorous way to show how smitten Robert was with her from the very beginning. He becomes convinced that Ellie was meant to travel through time to find him, and for them to be together. Now he just has to convince her that it’s true. At first Ellie is determined to “wake up” from this crazy dream. However, as she spends more time with the dashing Robert her fondness for him also grows, and she starts to hope that this wonderful dream will continue.

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Shockingly, at one point in the novel when Ellie falls asleep she does actually wake up from this dream in her own time for the briefest of moments before waking up again back in the Victorian era. She then becomes determined to stay away from Robert before they fall too hard for each other, or else risk crushing his heart once she does leave this time for good. This is definitely a unique time travel twist in that although the train sort of acted as the device of her travel, it was more the act of falling asleep that was the impetus for it. This makes her presence in the past all the more suspenseful, as you never know when she might wake up again in her own time. Is she truly destined to remain with Robert forever in the past? Or is she just visiting for a brief moment in time?

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The Standout

The characters in this novel are everything. From Robert’s snarky grandmother, who I couldn’t help but compare to Trix from Gilmore Girls, to his delightfully chipper sister. Even the supplemental characters who don’t have that much impact on the overall story are so much fun, and you can’t help but become enthralled in this world. The development of some characters was also fascinating. We are introduced to one woman at the beginning of the novel who is set up to be someone who will become a thorn in Ellie’s side, potentially ruining her happily ever after with Robert. Instead, we surprisingly see how this woman comes to becomes one of Ellie’s best friends, who is so unbelievably kind and sincere. So delightful, and it definitely keeps you on your toes!

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Corsets and Hairdos

I can’t think of a better juxtaposition than having a Women’s Studies professor being thrust back in time to the turn of the century. The land of corsets, elaborate hairdos, and always having to lean on a man’s arm. At the start of this novel I was thoroughly entertained with how Ellie expressed her horror at having to squeeze herself into a corset, and jumped for joy at how she wasn’t afraid to talk with Robert about how different her life is in the future as a modern woman.

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Some of my favorite scenes though were when Ellie would have a heart-to-heart with a woman from the past, and discover how they see such fashions of the time as freeing compared to what they were years before. We can see how one can criticize the past when compared with their current life, but at the time also see how illuminating it can be to compare those circumstance with those that came before. It really helps to put everything in perspective, and give the professor a lesson as well.

From Outspoken Woman to a Lady of the Times

My one main criticism of this novel is how Ellie’s character evolves, or devolves, throughout the book. She eventually comes to fit in almost too much with the times. What I loved so much at the outset was how Ellie stood out compared to those around her, and that she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself as a woman. As she spends more time in the past however, we see how she starts to internalize more of her opinions, and almost becomes complacent in her interactions with Robert. I still love Robert as a lead character, but when she avoids making eye contact with him, becomes tongue-tied in his presence, or runs away from her feelings for him she almost seems like a turn of the century woman who needs a fainting couch. Or maybe some smelling salts to help her with the vapors! I wanted her to remain a headstrong female from start to finish, but instead at one point she’s almost like a blushing wall flower.

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Series: Train Through Time, book 1. I got this one for free on Bookbub, and I immediately went and bought the 2nd book in the series.

Should you read it? A fun, quick, simple read that is entertaining throughout. I will say it does drag at one minor point when Ellie tries to distance herself from Robert, but it all comes together for one exciting finish! I do wish Ellie’s character had remained outspoken and spunky throughout, but overall I really enjoyed this one. It does take some unique approaches to the traditional time travel romance genre that made it fun and interesting.

Smut Level: Ellie and Robert have one rather passionate kissing scene, and he is really quite the flirtatious debonair leading lad. Nothing scandalous takes place, even though Ellie does admit she’s no virgin.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 200 Pages.

 

A Call for Historical Romances!

Hear ye, hear ye! This is a desperate plea to all my historical romance readers and writers out there. I am in serious need of your assistance!

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I have approximately 788 unread books on my TBR list. Excessive. Disgusting. I know. And yet, believe it or not I am asking all of you out there to send me more. Why, you ask? Because of those 788 tomes silently waiting in my Kindle for selection, only a meager 18 of them are categorized as historical romance. The fact that I have over twice as many sports romances as historical romances fills me with a particular kind of dread and sadness.

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I have always been a fan of historical reads, whether it be romance, fiction, non-fiction, or essays on archaeological digs in Egypt. History is my jam. As a matter of fact, the first novel to ever get me fascinated with the romance genre was a historical read set in Russia during the start of WWII. Sadly, as the years wore on, Goodreads lists multiplied, and review requests came in, the contemporary world took hold. Now I see a definite hole in my blog posts of historical reads, and I mean to change it!

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So send me your suggestions! What are some of your favorite historical romances? Some of my ultimate favs include The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simmons, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and the entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I’d be happy with Highlanders, swashbucklers, Regency era lords and ladies, soldiers preparing or returning from war, time travelers and explorers. I will say of the minimal number of historical reads I do have on my Kindle, and those which I’ve posted recently, there’s a decent number of westerns featuring cowboys or frontiersmen. I’m pretty much set with those!

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And to any romance writers out there with a historical work on your hands, I’d be happy to read a copy for review. Be sure to check out my “Review Policy” tab above for some notes to keep in mind, and how to submit your work for consideration. Looking forward to seeing what some of your favorites are, and what you recommend I check out for myself!

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West of Forgotten by Lynda J. Cox

A secluded Wyoming ranch set in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like the ideal place for romance to bloom. I seriously need to take a trip to Wyoming.

What’s it About? 

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Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly. For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter. Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.

First Impressions

The first half of this novel is all about Rachel and Harrison developing trust in their relationship. She’s been hurt before, and anyone who comes into both her and her son’s lives needs to earn her trust. Harrison is just the man to exhibit the necessary patience to win her over. Upon meeting the tantalizingly beautiful single mother, Harrison is determined that rather than take over the ranch completely, he wants to help her see it thrive again. To do so he determines their best option is to marry. Not only will it silence the gossips in town to see a man living with Rachel, but it also ensures she’ll get the entire ranch should something ever happen to him.

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Beyond just trusting him from a business partner standpoint, Rachel must also learn to trust him physically. She shies away from his every touch with fear in her eyes over what happened at the hands of his brother years before. Although their trust comes slowly, I must say it was built unbelievably well, with a hint of reality to it. It’s not like one day Rachel is wary of the stranger on her front porch, and the next she simply decides her fate is sealed and she’ll throw caution to the wind by trusting him completely. By developing it slowly over time their relationship is stronger for it, as it is built on something more stable and important than physical desire.

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A Troubled Past

I definitely appreciated this story emphasizing the importance of trust in a relationship, but in my opinion there was something which stood out even more. This is also a tale of survival. Rachel survived a horrific rape and abuse at the hands of a man who had the ability to charm an entire city into believing his version of events over hers. It was truly frightening to see how people treated her in the aftermath, as though she were the one to blame. That she led him on. How nobody believed her save a select few.

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What sickened me even more was to consider that this still happens today. This story might be set in the bygone era of the Wild West, yet it’s underlying horrors are still present. Rachel was ostracized from the community, but the one shining light throughout it all were those select few who believed in her. Although not related by blood, they were her family, and were willing to do anything to protect her and her son from the dangers of the world. Rachel is a strong, admirable lead character who drew on the love of her friends to help raise her son, and she could stand up to anyone who dared cross their path. Including a sexy U.S. Marshal.

*A copy of this novel was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? Yes! This novel isn’t just a tale of blossoming love. As Rachel receives threatening notes, and her ranch is plagued by arson, we discover that her abuser has returned. She must face her fears all over again, but this time she has Harrison by her side. An intense finish that will have you holding your breath and clenching your toes in anticipation. At least…that’s what I do when I get anxious reading a book!

Smut Level: Harrison is the ideal. He helps Rachel live her life again. He pushes her, but not too much. Harrison lets her make her own decisions, but helps to nudge her in the right direction. He also helps her explore her sexuality, and learn that there’s no shame in pleasure. They take things slow, but Harrison manages to seduce her with words, and holy hell is that man a smooth talker and sexy grinner extraordinaire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 318 Pages.

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A Road Paved in Copper by Angela Christina Archer

A historical western romance that sets the glimmering city of San Francisco against the harsh desert of Nevada.

What’s it About?

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Armed with her six-shooter, Ava De La Vega dips the pen into the inkwell and etches her name on the Esmeralda County tax record book. A formidable force, that’s what her peers have called her. The woman in a man’s world, what did she know of mining ore, silver, and copper? Plenty. And it’s this knowledge that makes her of the richest miners in Nevada in 1903. Of course, it also makes her a target.

Traveling back and forth from Tonopah, Nevada and San Francisco, Ava blazes the trail from the dirt and grime of her mines to the fanciest hotel rooms, enjoying the finest wines, the most decadent meals, and the company of attractive young men. Unfortunately, for Ava, she doesn’t see Craig Harrison coming.

A miner from the snowy Klondike, Craig has traveled from the harsh Canadian mountains down to city streets of San Francisco. Not looking for work, he’s happy with the comfortable life away from the deep mines, the dirt, and the ever sought-after gold. Unfortunately, for Craig, he doesn’t see Ava coming.

First Impressions

This female lead is a bad ass! LOVE her!! Ava has distinguished herself in the male dominated world of mining. She’s more successful than her male counterparts, and not afraid to stand up for herself. Unlike most historical romances, Ava admits very early on in our tale that she’s no virgin. Although she works in the dirt and grime of Nevada’s desert mines, Ava also delights in her trips to San Francisco, where she can indulge in the company of a new man every time. No attachments, no expectations. However, upon first meeting Craig she immediately recognizes that there’s something different about him. He’s no one night stand. Rather than treat him as such, they actually refrain from intercourse for quite some time, even though they are both brimming with sexual need. Talk about willpower!

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From Harsh Desert to Glimmering City

A particular feature of this novel which was rather clever was that it managed to twist your initial assumptions and expectations of both the main character, and even the setting of the book itself. Ava embodies this perfectly, as she herself appears to be a contradiction in terms. She is one of the only women in this small mining Nevada town who can hold her own, and is in no way a damsel in distress. She can shoot a gun and kick a man where it counts, so you sort of have this initial impression that she’ll be kind of a tomboy.

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However, that all changes when she leaves the harsh desert of Nevada behind for the bright lights and busy streets of San Francisco. While she loves getting her hands dirty in Nevada, she loves to indulge herself in luxuries and feminine clothing when in the city. It almost seems like we are dealing with two different personalities in one woman, but we find that she manages to maintain her moxie whether surrounded by the elegance of the city or the ruffians of the mining town. The ability of the author to provide us a glimpse into two such distinct worlds is truly commendable.

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The Allure of the Land

Certain passages within this book were utterly poetic. One section which particularly resonated was when Craig describes both the allure and dangers of mining. How the earth holds such wondrous secrets and wealth, but it’s just out of reach from those who are searching for it. The bounty of the land can dry up at any time. At one point, the mines are even compared to a woman who makes you work for her pleasures; playing a teasing game with her suitor before giving up her secrets. Phenomenal metaphor!! It really made me wish part of the story could have been told from Craig’s point of view, so that we could better understand the intricacies of his own character.

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Another eloquent passage presents us with Ava as she contemplates whether or not to reveal the secret details of her troubled past to Craig. On the one hand, she wishes to keep some of her foolish girlhood decisions a secret from this man she has come to love. Senseless choices which she realizes she would never commit now as an informed adult. On the other hand, the grown woman in her wants to tell him, to admit the mistakes of her past and move on. Unfortunately Ava’s built up so many walls around herself in the attempt to keep herself safe, and ensure that only she will know the errors of her ways. This is probably a debate which many of us have faced at some point in our lives, and makes her character even more relatable.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: I would actually love to read some kind of short story or sequel to this one, but it looks like a stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book definitely starts with a bang! Ava’s enemies are trying to steal her land claims through force, and she finds herself in the cross hairs of a wild west shootout. After that initial drama the middle section was pretty mellow. If the suspense had carried more throughout the entirety of the book it could have made a positive difference. It all comes together though for an unbelievably intense ending that left me a mess of tears.

Smut Level: Craig has an appetite for this headstrong woman, so he enjoys her on the kitchen table. Hint hint, wink wink. Nothing too explicit or detailed as far as smut.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 238 Pages.