I have enjoyed my previous excursions to "the West according to
Greenwood." The author has a way of combining a realistic recreation of
the era with a compelling romance. I can't say that I didn't enjoy the
latest episode in his "The Cowboys" series. But I must admit that it
didn't draw me in the way Jake and Ward did. I liked the
premises, both the older woman/younger man and the falling in love with
the "wrong kind of woman" plotlines. But some niggling problems with
the story keep me from recommending Sean wholeheartedly.
First, the story. Sean O'Ryan is one of the eleven orphans adopted by
Jake and Isabelle in the first novel in the series. In the prologue, we
see him in an orphanage as his aunt, his only surviving relative,
refuses to take him because a child would interfere with her "career" as
a dancer and actress. (I must admit that I found the use of the word
career in this and other places just a bit jarring.) We also meet the
heroine in the prologue as her father warns her not to be taken in by
the smooth-talking riverman and warns her that if she leaves, she can
never come back.
Fifteen years later, the two meet in the gold fields of Colorado. Sean
is a miner, determined to wrest enough gold out of the hills to buy
himself a fine ranch in Texas. The heroine, now known as Pearl
Belladonna, owns the best saloon in the boom town of Twisted Gulch. The
beauteous Pearl is the belle of the town, both because her place serves
decent food and good liquor and because she is a most talented singer
and dancer. Sean has not joined in the chorus of praise for the
saloon-keeper. In fact, he has stayed away from town.
But after hearing his partner and foster brother babble on about her
beauty, Sean decides to visit The Silken Lady. And he walks into a
Pearl has a problem. The man who seduced and abandoned her all those
years ago – Rock Gregson – has shown up in Twisted Gulch. He wants her
to let him gamble at her place, gambling she knows will be crooked.
When she refuses, he sends in bully boys to break the place up. Sean, a
red-haired giant of six foot, six inches, wades into the fight and soon
has the culprits on the run.
Pearl is every bit as lovely as Pete said and she is charming to the
young man who has just saved her saloon. But in Sean's eyes, she is one
of "those women" and he makes his feelings all too clear.
This might have ended their relationship, except that Rock wants Sean's
gold and he wants Pearl to help him get it. Since he knows about
Pearl's daughter and threatens to reveal to the protected girl what her
mother really is, Pearl is forced to go along.
This is the problem I had with the plot. Rock is new in town; Pearl is
a much loved figure. I simply didn't buy the idea that Pearl had no
recourse but to go along with Rock's nefarious schemes. But of course,
without this there wouldn't have been a romance.
And the romance is very well done. Pearl is a "fallen woman" but not a
"loose woman." She sings and dances, but she doesn't sell herself. But
social convention determines that she is not respectable and she is
certainly not the kind of woman that Sean intended to fall in love
with. But fall in love he does.
For her part, Pearl has accepted the fact that she can never marry and
must take care of herself, depending on no one. She never expected to
fall in love with anyone, least of all a younger man who doesn't approve
of women like her. But fall in love she does. Yet she can imagine no
happy ending for their love, especially since she has been forced to
cooperate with Rock's schemes.
I imagine that readers who have been following "The Cowboys" series will
enjoy Sean very much as will fans of the kind of gritty and
realistic western romances that Greenwood does so well. So while
Sean doesn't quite meet my criteria as a "recommended" read, it
is nevertheless a most acceptable western romance.