Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five Umbrella Friday: The Outlaw Bride by Kelly Boyce

This week's pick is a debut from an immensely promising writer who will have fans of Western Historical Romance rejoicing. Welcome, Kelly Boyce, we've been waiting for you a LONG time. She's perfect reading for those of you traveling over Easter as well as those looking for an escape from the land of peeps and fake grass. Spend a little quality time with the good folks of Fatal Bluff.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the 4/22/2011 Five Umbrella Friday Pick-of-the-Week at http://www.chanceofbooks.com

Outlaw Bride is an impressive debut from an author who brings new life to the Western Historical Romance subgenre. Western Romance was my first love as a romance reader, and it remains a favorite of mine even as publishers and the market have followed other trends. For several years, it was almost impossible to find great new Western Romance authors. In recent years, offerings have improved somewhat, especially with smaller presses giving new opportunities for those who write and read Westerns. But, true Western Romance stills feels like a tiny prairie flower peeking out of a forest of Paranormal, Shape-shifting, Sexy, Contemporary Cowboy, Regency, Erotica, Serial Killer trees. And Boyce brings us Western Romance at its purest—Fans of Linda Lael Miller, Jodi Thomas, Susan Kay Law, Paty Jager, et al will love Boyce.

Outlaw Bride contains all of my favorite Western romance tropes—mistaken identity, mail-order bride gone awry, woman running from her abusive past, Gruff Sheriff Tortured Hero Deluxe and Sexy edition, orphaned child in need of mothering, and great secondary characters providing comic relief, emotional support, and a sense of community. Kate is on the run from her outlaw husband who tried to kill her. A western law man died saving her life, and she’s trying to repay him by seeking out his family. Connor Langston is that family BUT he’s also the Sherriff of Fatal Bluff.

Kate must tread carefully, especially since Connor believes her to be Hannah Stockdale, a wayward mail-order bride he hires to be his housekeeper and caretaker for his niece. It’s a convoluted set-up, but it totally works and contains a number of hilarious moments along the way. Kate finds herself first using the case of mistaken identity for Hannah Stockdale as means to escape her husband and make it to Fatal Bluff and then as a means of staying and getting close to the Langston family as she tries to figure out the best way to fulfill the legacy of the man who died saving her. Connor, however, is no idiot, and he gradually grows to suspect that she’s not who she says she is, and their delicate dance as they try to find a way to trust each other is beautiful.

I love, love, love books that gradually ratchet up the sexual tension by creating a palpable sense of longing that neither character believes they can act on. There’s only one full love-scene, but it’s a dozy with the emotional impact of a dozen more casual encounters. The sensuality through longing and sexual tension gives the book broad appeal and will win over readers who miss highly sensual, yet not explicit Western romances. Readers who need a little heat won’t be disappointed either as the wait for the characters to finally act on their attraction is more than worth it.

I loved how Boyce created very authentic feeling characters--Hannah reacted like a 1800s woman, not like a 2011 woman wearing petticoats. She takes a very long time to trust Connor because she knows what the consequences of her full disclosure will be and how few options she really has. Connor lives in a world of black and white and needs a serious wake-up call to accept the shades of grey around him. The secondary characters are wonderful and fully-fleshed. I love how bonded the community is to Connor and how much they all want him to be happy again. Fatal Bluff felt real, and I cared about its inhabitants almost as much as Connor and Kate.

I can’t wait to see what else Boyce has in store for us. I desperately hope she gives us the story of the REAL Hannah Stockdale and a HEA for a woman who seems every bit as complex as Kate. I hope Boyce continues writing Westerns for a long time to come—she’s a welcome addition to an under-represented subgenre. If this is her debut, she’s poised to become a powerhouse and deserves to be on the radar for readers and critics alike. I hope she writes fast because I want MORE!



1 comment:

  1. 'I loved how Boyce created very authentic feeling characters - Hannah reacted like a 1800s woman, not like a 2011 woman wearing petticoats.'

    Yes - please, publishers - more of this!!

    I loved this book, too - glad it got your pick of the week.

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