This is the first romance I’ve read for review since taking a “sabbatical” from The Romance Reader over a year ago. I’m quite happy that my first book back was so thoroughly entertaining.
Jezebel’s Sister is Miss Cassidy Rose McAllister, a young Midwestern lady who happens to live in brothel owned by her sister Lila. Cass herself is not a prostitute, but she, along with all of Lila’s “girls,” is treated like garbage by the good people of Webster, Kansas. Cass longs for respectability and all that comes with it. She’s tired of being shunned, scorned, and dismissed. She’s grateful that her sister has given so selflessly of herself in order to keep them alive, but now that the War Between the States is over and Cass is grown, she’s determined to find a better life for them both.
That chance comes in the form of an Oregon-bound wagon train. Cass persuades Lila and a few of her soiled doves to give up “the life” and head west in search of a new beginning and honest respectability. Naturally it’s easier said than done. This particular wagon train is populated by a group of “good, Christian folk” who take none to kindly to the brightly clothed “ladies” with the knowing looks and painted faces.
What’s more, the spiritual leader of the party is Homer Pernell - a beautiful, black-haired, silver-tongued preacher whose unexpected tolerance of the ladies turns Cass’s heart upside down. She falls head over heels for the first time in her life…which is why it goes down so hard later on when she learns that Homer is really Nathan Stone, the ex-Confederate lawbreaker she once spied robbing a store.
Yeah, that Nathan. See, he’s not really a bad guy, just a confused, Tennessee gentleman who got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Nathan manages to escape the botched robbery by the skin of his neck. And when he finds the real Reverend Pernell dead on the prairie, he realizes it’s the perfect way to get away safe AND start a new life. Because the truth of the matter is, Nathan’s really a pretty good preacher. And he’s a lot more forgiving than most of the holy rolling brothers and sisters that make up his congregation. He believes his luck has changed for good when Cass doesn’t recognize him. And since he falls as hard for the iron-willed redhead as she does for him, it looks like they’ll have a bright future together. Well, that is until the law rides back into the picture. And that’s when things really heat up between Cass and Nathan.
Fans of lighthearted romances that go easy on the history will enjoy Jezebel’s Sister. True, it’s populated by any number of clichés (not the least of which are the quintessential hookers with the hearts of gold,) but author Emily Carmichael manages to breathe fresh life into all of the proceedings. She fills the story with enough action to keep things rolling and adds a whole host of background characters who all seem to have romances of their own to worry about. And while I could have used a little more detail regarding the physical side of Cass and Nathan’s relationship, there was certainly no danger of having to endure pages of ridiculous purple prose.
My only real complaint about the book is the author’s use of Cass’s diary to augment the action. Though few and far between, the diary passages are written in a voice so completely at odds with the witty, energetic (and sometimes crass) tone of the rest of the book that they stand out like a sore thumb. Yes they do mirror the rather restrained, formal manner of a woman of that era, but they provide very little insight into the heroine or her feelings and therefore, are quite useless.
But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the rest of the action. Because while hardly the stuff of classics, Jezebel’s Sister is still a fun, entertaining read.