*sigh* This author remains one of my absolute favorites. She can write the hell out of a book. I read her work and feel like she values my intelligence as a reader. (She doesn’t know me from Adam, but just roll with it) She doesn’t feel the need to shove things in my face to make sure I notice them. She just lays it all out and leaves the reader to catch it on their own. Slowly the layers unravel and you realize that such-and-such event back in an earlier chapter was a huge clue that you didn’t realize was important and then all of a sudden it all clicks for you; the motivation behind it all, the players’ maneuverings that you didn’t notice, everything. I love that. It’s like a big old book full of Clue.
Surprisingly, we know exactly who the bad guys are almost immediately in the story. This is a change of pace as usually it takes a while for that to be revealed in a Goodman. But here it’s all out in the open right away. The whole town knows who’s responsible for their sufferings, there’s just no way to bring them to justice. That makes it almost worse than if it had been a mystery. The heroine, Raine (short for Lorraine), has suffered quite a bit at their hands. She’s lost family members to horrific circumstances and continues to be harassed with no real end in sight. When the bad guys are the most powerful family in town, with lots of people in their pocket, especially the lawmen, then there’s really nowhere to turn. It’s the less romantic side of oft revered Wild West. Power is king and power can do what power wants, whether it’s legal or not.
When the hero, Kellen, first comes to town the reader doesn’t know precisely what is driving him. We can make our assumptions, but the author doesn’t reveal his original motivation for deciding to show up in town and help Raine until far into the story. Everything about Kellen is a mystery at first. Later in the book I figured out why his character played his cards so close to his chest, and a lot of things about his character came into better focus. Both the main characters had secrets that necessitated them staying closed off and private, which I both liked and disliked. I enjoy the mystery that Goodman’s characters present, but it was a little too much this time around. I would have appreciated a little more a little sooner so I could have sunk into their connection together better. Raine and Kellen had a great connection together physically, which helped drive the romance, but it would have worked better for me with more communication and plain speaking between the two of them.
Goodman’s books are quieter in tone than some might be used to. At times you’ll read a line, blink, reread it, and realize that the characters have a sly humor that isn’t always readily apparent. The cast of characters is wonderfully full and developed, giving the setting an authentic small town feel. The secondary characters will pull you in and make you love the town of Bitter Springs, especially the irritating, yet adorable little boys Finn and Rabbit. But it’s not just the good guys that Goodman invests you in. Even the bad guys are more than just cardboard evil characters. The author makes them human and at times even twists you into feeling for them—which is awkward since you don’t have any illusions about them being good guys underneath it all.
Kellen plays detective and drives the plot reveals for the reader. The climax at the end where it all came clear was a little dramatic for my tastes, but it was a good read overall. If you’re in the mood for a good Western, or hoping to finally give Goodman a try, check this one out.
”I suspected that your experience was not the equal of your enthusiasm.”
“You had…have…a great deal of enthusiasm.”
“It would be better if you stopped talking now.”