Tag: Westerns

Guest Review: Creed’s Legacy by Linda Lael Miller

Posted July 8, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of Creed’s Legacy by Linda Lael Miller

Rough-and-tumble rodeo cowboy Brody Creed likes life on the move. Until a chance encounter with his long-estranged twin brother brings him “home,” for the first time in years. Suddenly Brody is in Creed territory—a rootless bad boy among family with deep ties to the land and each other. He’s half-ready to bolt when he meets a copper-haired beauty more restless than he is. 

Carolyn Simmons is living a temporary life in Lonesome Bend, waiting to light out for the glamour of a metropolis. Then she falls for gorgeous Brody Creed, the opposite of everything she wants. But taming his wild heart might just become everything they both need.

Oh my, oh my, oh my . . . those Creed men just keep our mouths watering and our hearts palpitating, and good ole boy Brody is no exception.  Playing the bad boy of the family, estranged from his twin brother Connor for a decade, showing up in Lonesome Bend only now and then and leaving the responsibility of their jointly owned ranch to Connor, Brody was a man who seemed to live in the emotional shadows and even those closest to him most of his life felt excluded and shunned.  

But Brody has now come home and is in the process of building his own house and barn on property purchased from his brother’s wife, Trisha McCall Creed–whose story was the subject of the second book in this trilogy, Creed’s Honor.  Now he appears to have accepted the need to carry his share of the ranching load even though he will be living in his own home, seemingly ready to once again shoulder his family responsibilities and the relationships that go with them.  Something is different about the man now.  He has made peace, for the most part, with his brother and yet, there are shadows in Brody’s past, a deep hurt that he doesn’t seem to want to share, or perhaps, he finds it too painful to revisit.  In any case, his family is thankful he is back and seems prepared to stay.  His rodeo days are over.  Add to that the fact that Trisha and Connor were expecting their first child, and Brody deeply desired the sense of happiness and contentment he perceived in his twin brother.

This novel is about lots of things–finding a way out of an emotional maze that is painful, summoning the best in one’s self, the healing power of love, overcoming fears that are so deeply rooted that they have become accepted as part and parcel of one’s life, and finding hope for the future.  It is also about the need to forgive one’s self, especially when the guilt and hurt are really not legitimate nor are they about anything that can be changed.  

I have to say that I liked all the Creed men in these three novels but I really came to resonate most with Brody, possibly because he was so vulnerable and tried so hard to be the hard-bitten cowboy rodeo champ that everyone else saw.  Inside he was lonely, needy, and wanting to be settled and happy.  He knew he had to own up to some really foolish and wounding behavior in the past, especially toward Carolyn who he had secretly desired for years, but his fumbling efforts to overcome the difficulties and barriers his behavior had caused were endearing in a way.  That he would make the efforts he did were proof that down deep he was a man of deep emotion and passions, wanting a mate who would return those feelings and who would help him to feel complete.  

Carolyn, too, was a tender, lost, hurting soul.  She and Trisha Creed had started a business together.  She was artistic, sensitive, and had major trust issues from being abandoned by the people she trusted and forced to be on her own from early age.  She was a wanderer–a professional house-sitter, going from place to place, never really feeling like any spot on the planet was hers exclusively.  Starting the business with Trisha made a difference–she felt that perhaps there was a place for her that no one could take away and that was not temporary.  Her pain over Brody’s abandonment eight years earlier had never been relieved as she really didn’t know why he had left, especially as they has been talking marriage just hours before.  It was a wound that just wouldn’t heal.  His leaving just reinforced her belief that any person she loved would eventually abandon her.

Linda Lael Miller is one of those writers that just knows how to craft these characters so that they reach out and grab the reader’s imagination and they just don’t let go.  In fact, this was so true in this instance, that I was truly sorry when the novel ended.  There are also some surprises here and a facet of Brody’s personality that emerged in such a way that some of his friends and family were truly surprised.  All the characters in these novels were unique and interesting in their own way.  Carolyn was a character that I felt deeply about, and I almost felt a hurting sensation when she experienced another disappointment or when she and Brody just couldn’t seem to get on the same wave length.  All is a testimony to Miller’s writing expertise and, I think, her ability to translate the images of her own imagination onto the pages of her books.

Lovers of those manly cowboy type men will love this trilogy and I think especially this book.  It has capped off the three-book series so beautifully and yes, it is fiction but no, it isn’t a waste of time.  It is worth every minute and you may be just like me–already thinking about re-reading it.  

I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5

The Series 
Montana Creeds: DylanMontana Creeds: TylerA Creed Country Christmas (Hqn)Montana Creeds: LoganMontana Creeds: LoganA Creed in Stone Creek (Hqn)Creed's Honor (The Creed Cowboys)The Creed Legacy (Creed Cowboys)

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from HQN. You can buy it here  in e-format.

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Guest Review: Gideon by Beth Williamson

Posted June 22, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith’s review of Gideon (Devils on Horseback #5) by Beth Williamson.

Handing over the reins is hard. Handing over his heart…damn near impossible.
Gideon Blackwood is on the run—from Tanger’s meddling matchmakers. With no intention of following the rest of the Devils down the aisle, he heads for the hills to reassess a life spent leading and caring for others…and runs smack into the business end of a shotgun. At the trigger: a curmudgeonly woman with a broken axle and a load of responsibility.
In Chloe Ruskin’s experience, men take what they want and leave a mess of trouble behind. The safety of two orphans and her granny is at stake, and the last thing she needs is Gideon’s “help”. This time, though, she has no choice but to allow the big cowboy to fix her wagon.
As they work into the night, grudging admiration grows into attraction—and desire. Gideon finds he can’t dig his boot heels in hard enough to avoid falling for the opinionated little female.  When Chloe’s family disappears, her suspicion threatens to destroy any spark of love before it catches fire. Gideon finds himself making promises his pride won’t let him break—even if it costs him the love of the woman who owns the missing half of his soul. 

Throughout my reading “career” and my love affair with books, I have to admit that the American historical romance didn’t rank very high.  Back in the 70’s I encountered a wonderful series of novels that spanned the entire history of America’s beginnings by John Jakes, and that got me started.  Then about 18 months ago I first read work by Beth Williamson and decided that American historical romances had far more going for them than I first realized.  I actually “inhaled” the first four books in this series and was delighted when this fifth book appeared recently.

Perhaps the winning factor in these five books is that Ms Williamson has concentrated her stories during the years immediately following the Civil War, a time that many contemporary readers have little knowledge of and which has really been sort of passed over even in history studies.  It was a hard and dark time in our nation’s history;  it was a time when families were destroyed because of divided loyalties, homes and farms and factories were destroyed and there really was no work;  a time when the nation paid dearly for the damage done to the soldiers who did survive, not an easy task during that particular war where over half a million Americans died on our own soil.  Out of this millieu has come these five men, soldiers of the Confederacy who, when they finally got home, found that their homes and families had been destroyed by Sherman’s March and there was nothing left for them.  Banding together as they had done throughout the War, they styled themselves “Devils on Horseback” with the goal of becoming mercenaries to local law enforcement in the Western territories, most specifically Texas.

Four of the Devils have now found their spouses, some have children, but all have gone down the road of domestic bliss.  Not Gideon.  Somehow he has held himself aloof from the rituals of courtship and marriage, finding female companionship briefly as needed, but concentrating on his business and helping his friends.  He is a man of honor and caring, but he isn’t really in the market for a bride.  And so he runs, hard and fast, as quickly as his horse can carry him, out of the town and down the road to spend some time with one of the other Devils, Nate.  Little did he realize that the Fates had stationed Chloe Ruskin right smack dab in his path and he was about to go on an adventure the like of which he had not encountered for some years.

Gideon is a really nice guy!  But he stands out like a sore thumb in many old Western settings because of his rather elite upbringing and education, and his aristocratic bearing and manner, and his way of dealing with people that is left over from the five years in command as a Confederate Army captain.  All these qualities don’t help him at all in the estimation of Chloe, the daughter of a Virginia dirt farmer, a woman with little formal education, but one whose love for her family supercedes all else.  Her suspicion about the true nature of men in general certainly doesn’t help Gideon at all, as his qualities as a person, his way of addressing her and dealing with her confirm that she is a “low life” in his opinion.  Yet they are thrown together through a set of circumstances that force each to become aware of the deeper qualities and true humanism in the other.  Their situation plays out like a series of “MacGiver” episodes or, if you prefer, a Greek Tragedy.  Yet through it all is Chloe’s determination to do right by her family even if it costs her own life, and no matter how frustrated and irritated Gideon may be, he remains true to his upbringing as a Southern gentleman.

This is really a story about the meeting of two cultures, of how two individuals who seemingly have nothing in common are bound to one another by a common goal to survive and to insure the survival of Chloe’s family.  In that process both Gideon and Chloe are forced to change, and the surprises that pop up throughout the story keep the reader’s interest engaged and the ending was, at least for me, a shock.  Yet all goes to demonstrate the sterling quality and inner strength that Chloe possesses, and how even though Gideon is well and truly sidetracked from his original destination, his sense of honor and need to be who he was pointed him in a different direction when it was all done.

Lovers of Beth Williamson’s stories will like this book and those who enjoy American historical romances will find this a first-rate addition to their libraries.  Williamson brings a wealth of writing experience to this task, and she always encapsulates her stories in superior research and knowledge of the historical time-frame.  I appreciate the fact that even the editing of the narrative is superior to many books I have encountered recently.  Most of all, I like books that not only entertain and, in the case of romance fiction, massage the libido, there is also an educational quality to historical novels that make them a favorite form of reading.  You can’t find one any better than this.  If the reader is willing to encounter characters that don’t necessarily fit “the mold” then you will like Gideon and Chloe and the cast of characters that surround them.

I give this novel a 5 out of 5 rating.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Samhain Publishing. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Guest Review: Beneath The Texas Sky by Jodi Thomas

Posted June 8, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 2 Comments

Judith’s review of Beneath the Texas Sky by Jodi Thomas

Texas Ranger Josh Weston is a complete stranger to Bethanie Lane, and her only chance to escape from her uncle’s grasp. Without hesitating, she strikes a deal with the rugged lawman to take her with him when he leaves San Antonio. And on the journey to his family’s ranch near Fort Worth, they forge a bond as powerful as it is unexpected.

When Bethanie’s dream of a future with Josh falls apart, she’s forced to make a harrowing choice. Yet through every danger and revelation, one thing remains—a love worth living and dying for. . .

This is one of those wonderful family sagas that begins with two isolated individuals who meet and together they write a history that i s fascinating and a testimony to the survival of love in some very difficult times.   Bethanie is alone, and to be alone in 19th century Texas just after the Civil War is nearly to be helpless and hopeless.   For Bethanie it also meant that she was at the beck and call of an aunt and uncle who were heartless and cruel, who used and abused her while insulting her mother as a whore and Bethanie  as just like her.   Josh Weston, an undercover Texas Ranger was her only hope and, as it turned out, Bethanie was to be critical in saving Josh’s life as well as a young boy who was traveling with them named Dusty Barfield.    Josh and Bethanie traveled to the Weston family ranch and only a week after arriving, Bethanie’s life takes an unexpected turn that rips her and Josh apart for the foreseeable future.  
This is no doubt a love story, but there is mystery and adventure mixed in as well.  These were tough times after the Civil War and rustling and get-rich-schemes abounded.  There are bad guys galore and sometimes it is difficult to tell the baddies from the good ones.  But this story is also about survival–managing to live through unexpected Indian raids, surviving the rigors of drought and harsh winters, trying to endure when unscrupulous ranchers are plotting to kill or run off their neighbors, and the especially difficult life most women had to endure.  Women who were alone like Bethanie were especially vulnerable, and her major worry was staying away from her uncle who sought to rape her on several occasions.
This is also one of those wonderful novels that spans several decades and keeps the reader engaged as the lives of these stalwart and plucky individuals unfolds.  It is a story of the enduring quality of love that seems to be curtailed at every turn, that must weather the unexpected circumstances caused by greed and calamity.  It is a novel that embraces the reality of the 19th century Old West, making no excuses for it, and weaving the reality of history throughout these fictional lives.  Ms Thomas has written a book that is full of authentic characters who never seem improbably, who always keep the reader’s interest, and whose lives wax and wane according to the times and the stress of history.  
While I really can’t call this novel an epic in the truest sense, nevertheless there is that feel about it.  One gets the impression that the Westons are putting down roots that will endure, no matter the hardship or the attacks of nature or unprincipled people.  Bethanie is a woman who manages in spite of the worst life can throw at her, and her plucky spirit seems to have infected all whose lives intersects with hers.  The men in her life are strong and steady, men of honor and ethics, both of whom are willing to lay down their lives for her and their children.  And as in all good novels, those ethics and the honor that guides their existence is challenged in ways that, if they fail, will mean the end of this wonderful family.
So I hope that historical romance fans will read this story.  It is a re-issue of an older work that was first published in 1988, and it is my hope that those who missed it the first time around will make an effort to read this time.   Jodi Thomas is well-known and her books are favorites among Western romance fiction readers.  The story flows beautifully and I had the feeling that I had met these people somewhere.  And while they are fictional and lived in a time far distant, one can easily believe that they are alive and waiting to converse across the back fence.  It is a fine effort and I, for one, am delighted that the publishers are bringing this book “out of mothballs.”

I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place

This book is available from Zebra. You can buy it here in e-format.

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Guest Review: Cowboy Take Me Away by Kathleen Eagle

Posted May 5, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

When photographer Skyler Quinn first fixed her lens on gorgeous cowboy Trace Wolf Track, she liked what she saw but didn’t give it much thought. Until everywhere she went—the rodeo, the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary—there he was, and the heat between them built to the boiling point.

As a widow struggling with debts and loyalties from a former life, Skyler needed to stay focused, especially if she wanted to achieve her dream of becoming a mother. Was Trace a fatal distraction, a mere summer fling? Or did this younger man—so deep, so passionate—hold the key to a future that would make all her dreams come true?
Skylar Quinn was a 37 year old widow who had been married 15 years to a man 18 years older than she. He had controlled her life and her future, she had raisesd his son, but she slowly discovered that she had compromised her dreams and her need for a deeply satisfying love relationship for companionship and financial security. Her deepest hope was to become a mother–single motherhood was just fine–but while raising her husband’s son was a good experience, she wanted a baby of her own. Hooking up with a gorgeous cowboy seemed like a good idea, even if he didn’t know her plan.

Trace Wolf Track was a deep and complicated man who was well on his way to a rodeo championship and was also a master horse trainer–something Skylar was also involved in and something she was hoping would eventually produce some income for her. They met as she was also exercising her other love–photography–and as they kept “bumping” into one another, decided to spend Trace’s birthday together–his 30th birthday. He was virile and manly, but he was committed to “moving on down the road.” Even though they were thrown together longer than either of them planned due to a rodeo injury, it just didn’t seem like their lives were headed in the same direction. When Skylar finally confessed that she had pushed their first sexual encounter to be without a condom because she was hoping to get pregnant, somehow–even though it made Trace pull away from her for a while–they still stayed together, even to the point where Skylar continued to travel with him to several rodeo events. Skylar’s need for stability eventually put an end to that kind of experience for them–they still wanted to “see” each other.

This novel was not a simple one to read. It is filled with clues and nuances that keep the reader guessing about what is really going on inside these two people. That they were attracted to one another was never in doubt. But a future together? That question was not easily answered. Could they resolve their differing hopes for the future? That was another issue that appeared not to have an easy solution, either. Their conversations were a delight–it was really sparring at its best. Both were intelligent and thinking people, and both used words brilliantly to keep one another on edge. The author demonstrated a wonderful capacity to write sparkling and fascinating repartee.

I have to admit that there were times I wondered if I would ever figure out these two. Skylar’s stepson was also a part of the “mix” that caused some confusion and difficulty between Skylar and Trace. That he had been adoped by his stepfather: a council member of the Lakota Sioux–made a tremendous effect on Trace’s way of thinking and his philosophy of living and relating to people. It gave this story an added dimension. So getting all the pieces of the story to come together took time and, frankly, took to nearly the end of the story. It takes a very good author to tease out the tale to that extent and Ms Eagle did it well. It is a very romantic tale about very real people with insecurities and dreams and worries and disappointments–people who had felt the harsh realities of living but who were insisting on finding something better for themselves. That they were also willing to open their hearts to something new may not have been true initially, but their attraction and growing connection to one another put them squarely in the middle of having to make that decision. That kind of tension makes for a good story.

So I recommend this novel to those who want a story that stretches the mind and engages the heart, who like to experience the kind of tension that resonates throughout this story and who are willing to “stay the course” to the very end. That’s what it will take to get the sense of what this story entails.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here or here or here in e-format.

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Review: Montana Legacy by R.C. Ryan.

Posted October 12, 2010 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Rowena’s review of Montana Legacy by R.C. Ryan.

Hero: Jesse McCord
Heroine: Amy Parrish

They’re the McCords…three rugged, sexy cowboy cousins who’ll inherit the family range–if they seek the treasure hidden on it. But even more precious are the women who can tame their wild hearts…
She was the one person who shook Jesse McCord’s quiet determination. She was the only one he ever let in, body and soul. Then suddenly Amy Parrish was gone and the oldest McCord cousin devoted his life to the family ranch. Now Amy is back, offering help to Jesse find the McCord gold. Yet Jesse’s not about to give her a second chance, and he hopes his pride will protect him from her irresistible charms. But under the wide prairie skies a dangerous, unseen enemy is fast closing in, threatening Amy and Jesse’s very lives and the promise of their …

This is the first cowboy novel that I’ve picked up in a very long time and it started out pretty darn good. It was the first time in a long that I’ve gotten excited over cowboys. This series follows three cousins, Jess, Wyatt and Zane McCord as they pick up the treasure hunt for the family’s long lost gold. Their grandfather, Coot McCord always believed that the gold was somewhere close and he spent his entire life dedicated to finding the lost gold and returning it to where it belonged…with their family.

Everyone thought Coot was crazy for continuing to search for gold that is probably long gone but Coot didn’t give a shit, he was going to find that damn gold or die trying…and he sure did die trying. After his death, people thought that the search for the lost gold would go away but they thought wrong because before anyone knows what’s what, the three boys that grew up on the ranch together were brought back together by Coot’s dying wish.

Jesse, Wyatt and Zane were once young boys that used to run around the ranch getting things dirty, being loud as all get out and just being boys until both Wyatt and Zane’s parents moved away, taking Wyatt and Zane with them. All of the good times came to an end and only Jesse was left behind. In all the years that passed since the boys moved away, they never came back to visit Grandpa Coot and it left Jesse a little (a lot) bitter. Both Wyatt and Zane come back for the funeral and the reading of the will.

Along with the return of Wyatt and Zane, circumstances brings Amy Parrish, the woman that Jesse was madly in love with and who disappeared without a word, back to Montana. Her father is sick and she’s the only person left that can care for him so she comes home to help care for her ailing father. So just when Jesse is trying to get a grip on his cousins being back, he finds out that Amy’s back too.

The story had a lot of promise in the book but somewhere along the way, I lost interest in the book. I can honestly say that I finished this book so that I can hurry up and move on to the next book. It’s not that the book wasn’t my cup of tea, it was more that I wasn’t too invested in the story. I liked Jesse but I didn’t love him. I thought Amy was okay but she wasn’t extraordinary. The story started off well but it lost me somewhere around page 150.

By the time the end came, I knew what was going to happen, who the bad guy was and how it all tied together. Usually, I suck at that stuff but in this book, the author made it very easy to spot those things right from the jump.

Jesse was one of those hot headed heroes that is always spoiling for a fight. Every time he got pissed off, he wanted to bust someone’s head open and while there are quite a few heroes that come to mind when I think of hot headed heroes, with Jesse it was annoying. It was understandable why he was mad at Wyatt and Zane but the way that he pouted made it more annoying than anything else.

Then there was Amy. Amy was one of those good girl heroines. She’s great at this, has a heart of gold but she didn’t really stand out. At least not to me. I read and read about how much Jesse wants her and how big his feelings are for her but not once, did I get why he felt that way. Sure, she came back home to take care of her father but who wouldn’t? I would in a hot minute and I know a lot of women who would do the same. I just didn’t get what was so special with her.

Their whole romance was pretty tame as well. They’re brought back together because someone is attacking Amy’s ranch and Amy’s life was in danger more than once. Jesse wants to take care of his woman but because her father hates his family, he can’t move them into his house to keep an eye out on her so instead, he has to sleep in her barn because Otis Parrish wasn’t having no McCord’s in his house. So they had sex in the barn and slept together in the barn and then walked over to the house and had breakfast with her father. What a weird kind of romance. Jesse and Amy were first loves and usually I eat these stories up but I just couldn’t get into this one. It was like a boot leg The Notebook and I ended up just not caring for it.

I didn’t hate this book, I just didn’t like it very much. I mean, it started out great and I had such high hopes for it but then it lost me and I was much more interested in the secondary characters than the main ones. I want to read Wyatt and Zane’s books, mostly so I can see who they end up with and if the series gets any better.

Grade: 2.75 out of 5

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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