Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Shorts: Four Umbrellas for Tessa's Pride by Olivia Brynn

In the mood for a quick cowboy read with a self-rescuing cowgirl heroine? Saddle up for a short, steamy, and sweet read!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely have to hand it to Carina--they are turning out some top notch novellas. Novellas are such tricky things to get right, and I've been disappointed by many a big-name novella anthology in the past. I like Carina's strategy of marketing novellas by themselves so that readers can pick and choose and not end up paying for an anthology with only one good story. However, if I found Olivia Brynn's novella here in a full-priced anthology, I would still feel like I got a good deal, as it's an excellent example of what a great novella can be: short, sweet, sexy, with a bit of intrigue to keep the pace fast and to balance out the sexy, and believable conflict between the characters that lends itself to a fairly quick resolution in 100 pages.

If you like Harlequin American romances, but wish they were a wee bit steamier, or enjoy Linda Lael Miller's contemporary westerns, you will enjoy this story very much. Tessa currently owns the ranch that has been in Josh's family for generations, but a mysterious illness has ravaged her stock of horses, leaving her bankrupt and facing sale. She previously shared a single steamy afternoon with Josh, but he left town shortly thereafter, and she's not too happy to see him back, even if he seems to be the only hope of saving the ranch.

This backdrop of the conflict of the fate of the ranch, redeeming Tessa's reputation (and her lost pride), and finding out what happened to the horses was very well done and elevated what could have been a ho-hum reunion story to a real page turner. However, Tessa and Josh's past ensured that their quick progression from animosity to lovers was believable and added emotion. The loves scenes were very well done, steamy but sweet. I particularly liked how the usually-alpha Josh let Tessa be in charge because he understood that that was what she needed then.

My only small quibble was with the ending--I felt like Josh should have stepped up to the plate more, and the epilogue didn't quite fit with Tessa's personality throughout the story. However, Tessa's empowered choices fit with the theme of the story, and the epilogue was unusually steamy, which is always nice to see. Brynn does a wonderful job of keeping Tessa strong and allowing her to solve her own problems--even though Josh has come to help, it's really Tessa who saves the day. She needs her White Knight for moral support and good advice, but she's the heroine of her own tale, which is the best kind of fairytale. I look forward to reading more from Brynn!

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