The Texan's Dream

The Texan's Touch

The Texan's Wager

To Kiss a Texan

To Wed in Texas

Twilight in Texas

When a Texan Gambles

The Texan’s Reward
by Jodi Thomas
(Berkley, $7.99, G) ISBN 0-425-20584-3
A spin-off of her “Wife Lottery” series, Jodi Thomas’ latest touts a highly readable writing style and a large cast of interesting characters. Too bad it isn’t much a romance.

Texas Ranger Jacob Dalton has spent most of his adult life bailing a young orphan girl named Nell Smith out of trouble. A wild child who her lost prostitute mother at a young age, she was raised by the town madam. Nicknamed “Two Bits,” Nell was then sent back east to school by her adoptive mother, who did her best by her. She came back a woman grown, pretty and lovely. Jacob found his insides twisted in knots.

Now little “Two Bits” has taken it into her head to get married! She’s taken out ads and several men have already come calling. Hoping to save her from her own foolishness, Jacob drops everything and rides to her rescue – only this time he proposes she marries him!

Having been wounded in a shootout, Nell is now bound to a wheelchair. She figures marriage is her only option and that a husband will help her run the ranches she inherited. While she loves Jacob, she has no interest in tying him to a crippled wife. Jacob is a man who has spent his whole life riding the trails and chasing bad guys. He needs a woman who can love him, bear his children, and give him the settled life he deserves. Nell figures she is not the woman for that job.

Thomas has a down-home writing style that makes her latest western a treat to read. She also includes a large cast of characters that keep the story moving along. Nell has a habit of taking in strays that no one else has time for, and her house is close to overflowing by the time the story ends.

Unfortunately these secondary characters take up quite a bit of space and the romance suffers. From what this reviewer can gather, fans of the “Wife Lottery” series have been looking forward to Jacob and “Two Bits’” romance and frankly The Texan’s Reward fails to deliver. Jacob and Nell have no courtship. There’s no wooing. They’re either dealing with external conflict or arguing with each other about why they should or should not marry.

In fact, Nell and Jacob don’t spend a whole lot of time together. The external conflict, including missing gold coins and a train robbery, keep Jacob busy with Texas Ranger business. He spends a large chunk of the story on the trail and away from Nell. When he does spend time with her, there are a few tender interludes, but more often then not they’re trapped in their marriage stalemate.

The Texan’s Reward is a pleasant read even if it isn’t wholly satisfying on the romance front. With tender stories few and far between these days, Thomas’ latest may be of interest to readers who don’t want hot sex on every other page. Also, one suspects that fans of the previous “Wife” Lottery novels will find plenty to like here. For newcomers, Thomas does not clutter up her story with returning couples, and includes enough back-story to bring them up to speed. Unfortunately readers looking for a long detailed love story on how little “Two Bits” and Jacob finally fall in love are more than likely bound for disappointment. All in all, a crapshoot for western and romance fans alike.

--Wendy Crutcher

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