August 2012, Frontier/Western Hist Romance (19th C. Wyoming)
Pocket, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 1451673868
The Wild West is the land of opportunity in Luck’s story. Englishmen are investing in cattle ranches, and cowboys have been elevated to mythical proportions. If nothing else, Luck uses her canvas as an historical information dump with nearly every page brimming with information about the antics of the white people on the prairie.
Lady Tallie, who grew up as a neighbor to Charles Darwin and his wife, marries an English nobleman who has no interest in bedding his wife. She’s left to amuse herself as best she can with the house parties and soirees of the upper class. She is shallow enough not to feel deprived until she meets her first American cowboy.
Jeb Tuhill, jilted by the love of his life, flees the family ranch in Texas to invest in and become a managing partner in the Wyoming ranch of a British speculator. He and Moreton Frewen plan to turn the 76 into one of the most prosperous spreads in the West. Moreton, recognizing Jeb as an original, decides to take him to England to drum up more money for the ranch.
There Jeb meets and falls for Tallie, but recognizing that she’s married, doesn’t dally with her. Their chaste love affair ramps up when Tallie comes to Wyoming when one of her friends marries Moreton. Jeb is still adamant that he won’t compromise a married woman, especially not the virginal Tallie.
Written in stilted prose that rivals the awkward snippets from Tallie’s novel in progress, Luck’s book relies on colorful descriptions and amusing stories from the frontier to move the storyline along. When Tallie becomes a trail drive cook even though she’s led a privileged life and has never heard of a trail drive before she embarks on one, the story edges over the line to ludicrous.
Jeb, for his part, is a fairy tale cowboy. He manages a large operation while being adept at all the nitty gritty ranching chores, like riding, roping, shooting, and branding. In his spare time he plays baseball with the ranch hands and entertains with his guitar at local dances. Oh, yes, he’s also easy on the eyes.
Tallie is equally as cardboard as Jeb. She doesn’t question that her homosexual husband doesn’t bed her, doesn’t take a lover since she honors her wedding vows, and is a darling in society until she pens a scathing novel revealing the upper class’s clay feet. Then she’s ostracized and is left with only the Churchills and others as friends.
When she embarks on the journey to Wyoming, readers are treated to her purple prose descriptions and her angst about her potential relationship with Jeb. Like Jeb, she waffles first about kissing him, and later in the book about going further.
Luck’s good intentions and research shine through the tale, but aren’t enough to add spark and make the characters dance from the page or the descriptions transcend the blasé.
What should be a spirited romp melding two different cultures, therefore, comes across as a pallid history lesson.
-- Pat Henshaw
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