|Remember the “good old days” when 95% (OK, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement) of historical romances were not set in 18th and 19th century Britain? Remember when Lorraine Heath and Catherine Anderson and Elizabeth Lowell and Laura Lee Gurkhe and heaven knows how many other authors wrote western and/or Americana novels? (And don’t forget all those great medieval romances of yesteryear.) Well, I’ve been at this romance-reading business for a long time, and I remember it well. Which is why I’m glad that at least one of my old favorites, Jodi Thomas, is still writing western-themed novels.
The Lone Texan of the title is Drummond Roak, a young man who has risen above his dreadful childhood on the basis of his skill as a gunman. He has chosen to work with the law in the wild and dangerous Texas of 1859. While not a member of the famed Texas Rangers, he accepts missions that no one else can perform. The guiding force in his life, the lodestar that made him the good man he has become is his love for Sage McMurray.
The two met five years earlier when Drum, a wild fifteen year old, was caught trying to steal horses from the McMurray ranch. Rather than turning him over to the law, the McMurrays – and especially eighteen year old Sage – treated Drum with a kindness he had never known. Drum decided on the spot that Sage was “his woman.” Needless to say, his regard was not returned by this “older” woman. Frankly, Sage viewed her admirer as a pain in the neck. She had other plans.
These plans included becoming a medical doctor and, as this novel begins, Sage is returning to Texas from three years in Boston, where she fulfilled her dream. She is also returning as a widow, having married her much older mentor who died all too soon after the wedding. Accompanying Sage is her nurse, Bonnie Pierce, a tall, plain woman who has agreed to travel to far off Texas since her life in Boston offered few chances of happiness.
Drum discovers that Sage is returning and heads off to Galveston to meet her. Their first encounter finds Drum rescuing Sage from a fracas and the two quickly fall into their old, bickering ways. But when Sage is kidnapped and really needs rescuing from a really creepy villain, she knows Drum will save her.
The Lone Texan is a real page-turner. The Texas of 1859 was a rough and dangerous place and Thomas does not hesitate to depict it in warts and all. She uses the point of view of proper Bostonian Bonnie to show the reader exactly how uncivilized the state was. But such a setting also provides an author with the opportunity to fill her pages with rip-roaring adventure and that Thomas does in spades. There is never a dull moment.
The relationship between Drum and Sage is intriguing and entertaining. Drum may be convinced that Sage is “his woman,” but she by no means shares his opinion. Her brief, unsatisfying marriage and her previous ill-fated romance with young Ranger have left her believing that marriage is not for her. She certainly never thought of Drum as a potential husband, even if they were once close friends. But the three-year gap that felt so wide when she left for Boston seems to have grown smaller over the years. And Drum, who was always old beyond his years, has clearly become a man in every sense of the word. All he has to do is convince Sage that he is “her man,” and it is certainly fun watching him do so.
Thomas offers the reader a sweet secondary romance between tall, awkward Bonnie and the cowboy who rescues her when Sage is kidnapped. The love scene depicting Bonnie’s sexual awakening is one of the best in the book.
I am not sure why western romances have fallen out of favor. Certainly the setting provides an author with lots of opportunities for character development and thrilling action. Thomas makes the most of these opportunities. I haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in this current series, but I enjoyed The Lone Texan so much that I intend to remedy this oversight as soon as possible.