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Occasionally I get an email out of the blue from some kind, hardworking publicist who asks me if I’d like to review a book. This is a two-fold perk. For one, this person has supplied me with a blog topic (because you have to admit, it gets a little exhausting finding new ways to talk about alpha heroes) and for two, this person has supplied me with the best of all toys (Jack Sparrow aside): a romance novel. In previous reviews, I’ve been offered books of debut authors, or authors I just don’t normally read, but this last email, I hit the motherload. An author who’s already on my auto-read pile.
I began reading Linda Lael Miller when I was 15. It was 1990; and I had bought my sister a romance novel for Christmas. Only to my delight, as soon as she read it, she gave it back to me. She wasn’t really a book collector, if you will. Clearly this was the plan all along, and I immediately devoured Lily and the Major with all the precocious-ness of my teenage self. Lily was a mere three years older than me in the novel, so it was easy to identify with this orphan West-bound heroine who falls in love with an Army major, who is dangerous, arrogant, and not overly honorable. Well, I suppose I wasn’t an orphan, and I hadn’t actually lived in the 1870s, but I could very much understand why Lily fell in love with this obstinate mule of a man.
It was because of the dresser scene. He was very alpha. And I’ve never thought of vanity dressers the same. I’d expound, but I’ve already said too much about a book I’m not even reviewing today. Maybe another day. That scene is worth a few expoundings.
Anyway, with a skill that could rival the Jesuits, Linda Lael Miller won me over at a very young age. And it wasn’t only for the alpha heroes or the hot sex. She had a good story; and her history within her historicals didn’t feel like wallpaper. More importantly, her historical characters didn’t act like they came out of 90210. Although she wrote stories set in various locals, my favorites were her cowboy books. The woman had a talent for an American West novel.
Lately I’ve gone off reading historicals—I’ve been very persnickety of late, I admit, see: pissiness about characters who act like they come out of 90210—and it was only because I was at the library that I found one of Linda’s new novels called The Rustler. I hadn’t read one of Linda’s books in a long time I’m sad to say, and suddenly I was cast back to my nostalgic 15 year old self, hankering after a good dresser scene. I took it home with hopeful, careful optimism. And I’m glad to say The Rustler delivered. It was sexy; it was character-driven; there were real problems I wasn’t sure they could overcome. And in the end, I believed they had a HEA. Best of all, I saw that The Bridegroom, which featured another of the characters, was due out later this year.
Guess what that kind, hardworking publicist emailed me and asked me to interview? The Bridegroom. Some pirates have all the luck, right? I got it right away, but put off reading because I wanted to do the review closer to release date. Lately I’d been staring at it guiltily on my bookshelf, knowing I needed to get on it, but not quite in the mood for a cowboy novel. Silly Hellion.
Saturday I picked it up. I figured it’d take me a few days to read it. I’d start it now, take it on my trip to Chicago, and by the time I came back, it’d be all done. We have that long bus ride after all.
That book wouldn’t have lasted the length of one of the bus rides. I started reading it Saturday night and finished it Sunday morning. I couldn’t put the darned book down. Everything I loved about Linda Lael Miller was in this book! The historical characters that fit the history; a cowboy novel that didn’t feel like every single cowboy novel I’d already read (it takes place in Arizona, 1915—hell, a different century! What a change of pace!); and sexual tension that could light up Vegas.
Though the hero and heroine marry early into the book, they don’t have sex until far into the game—he’s a little reluctant for the actual act—but he does some other activities that had me fanning myself. And Linda doesn’t take pages for writing it, nor does she use any technical purple prose phrases that really draw you back out of the story. Okay, maybe one purple phrase, but it fit the scene and character in question. All in all, the sexual tension and sex itself are well done but not over done. They were just hot. I read one scene twice. Okay, three times. In fact, I was tempted to dogear a few pages and…never mind, I’ve said too much.
Now the hero and heroine have very different problems—and they are problems you wonder how they can be solved and still have them end up together. Especially for him. Gideon, our hero, has been hired by a mining company to be a spy. Once he tattles, he knows he’s not going to be welcome in that town anymore—that’s if he gets out with his skin. Lydia, our heroine, is trying to protect her family: two spinster great-aunts and a housekeeper. Her option is to marry the banker in Phoenix, but he’s old, and mean, and just not attractive. She sends off a “help” letter to Gideon (whom she knew as a child) and he rides to her rescue. He can’t let her marry the jerk; and he knows she’s going to do it to save her aunts. He steps in—but in doing so, he now finds himself with a wife he had no intention of ever having. And what’s going to happen to her when he has to hightail it out of town? He can’t run with two old ladies, a housekeeper, and a fragile wife. I felt the problem as keenly as he did and kept turning the page, even when I could barely keep my eyes open.
And when the men rode off to take care of some trouble, leaving the women behind--and Lydia asked, "What do we do?" and Lark responded, "We wait, as women have to", I whooped! I swear if I ever get the golden opportunity to meet Linda Lael Miller--and I can actually form a coherent sentence--I'm going to thank her for writing historicals where the characters act like they're supposed to.
I’ve said too much. You really need to read it yourself. If you love historicals and miss the well-written cowboy historical, you can’t go wrong by picking this one up. Really. It’s good. And once you’ll read it, you’ll realize you need to read the other three books associated with it—which won’t be a bad thing because they’re just as good.
So, belly up to the bar and share with us your favorite cowboy novel AND/OR favorite sex scene in a novel that you remember even years later. I’ll even make it easy on you guys and make a direct link to Amazon so you can order those books. The Bridegroom is out today.