|One would think that with so few western romances being published these days that the cream would rise to the top. Apparently for hungry fans, this is too much to ask for.
Leigh continues her Fraser Brothers series with the story of Garth Fraser, a dreamer who comes to California in search of his dead uncle’s legendary gold mine. Along the way he stops at a saloon, has a drink, scratches his itch with a prostitute and catches the eye of Rory O’Grady. Rory works in the saloon, and dances with men willing to pay for the privilege. However she will not take any of them upstairs. The girl, while in dire straits, is saving her virginity for a husband, should she ever find a man worth marrying.
Then a whole bunch of stuff happens. Garth is almost shanghaied by two goons, Rory saves him, he tries to get her in bed on about three different occasions, she’s insulted by his innuendos, but dang he sure is a cute fella! Garth soon wears out his welcome in town, as does Rory, then Rory’s drunken idiot father who the reader has to put up with over the course of the entire story steals the map to Garth’s uncle’s gold mine.
Naturally this makes Garth think that Rory stole it and she bamboozled him with her pretty looks and virginal good girl act. Never mind that her father is the more likely culprit, he knew he shouldn’t have let his guard down around a woman!
Rory’s daddy, Paddy, then convinces his daughter they need to get out of town and it just so happens that Garth gave him his map and told him he was welcome to it. Rory chooses to give her father the benefit of the doubt, even though the man is a drunk and has spent his entire life living as a drifter. Instead of dumping the old coot in the nearest gutter, she’s happily traipsed along after him because golly, she is all he has!
Rory honey, in the 21st century we call this enabling.
So Rory and Paddy begin digging for gold, then Garth shows up madder than a wet hen since they stole his map. Naturally Rory makes excuses for Paddy, Garth drops his anger and the three join forces. Well almost, when Paddy isn’t drunk as a skunk, he’s laid up with consumption.
The character development is sketchy at best with the characters conveniently behaving as the weak plot dictates. Garth borders on loutish for the first 100 pages with his constant attempts to get Rory naked. Then he’s mad at her because she stole his map. She won’t tell him the truth for fear he’ll beat the tar out of her worthless father. Paddy behaves like a jackass most of the time, but conveniently discovers a conscience on occasion. One suspects the author wants the reader to like him; instead Rory comes off as too-stupid-to-live for enabling him for her entire adult life.
The writing style is all tell and no show, and makes for a very bumpy first half. As the story wears on it becomes more readable, but given that these characters are straight out of central casting it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm for the story. Garth’s brothers, Clay and Colt, do make appearances later in the story, so fans of the earlier Fraser titles will likely derive some pleasure from this installment. However by this point, with the story continuing to drag on through weak conflict, cardboard characterizations, and Paddy’s annoying habit of staying alive, this reviewer was glad to finally see the epilogue.