True to the Law takes us back to the town of Bitter Springs. We were first introduced to the town and its townspeople in The Last Renegade (which I quite enjoyed). Tru was hired as a schoolteacher by Raine, the heroine of TLR, and has been in town for a few months settling in. Unfortunately for her, Cobb Bridger, a private detective who was hired by the family of her last employer to locate her because of thievery, comes to town and slowly shakes up her quiet world.
Bitter Springs is just as atmospheric as ever. You really get a good feel for the time period and the close nature of the people with the way it’s written. While I appreciated that just as much as I did in the first book, it also drove me nuts. Everyone was constantly up in Tru’s business and running their mouth about how they thought she should behave—with her best interests at heart, of course. Even her best friend in town felt pushy and irritating. On one hand that helped to give the town a claustrophobic social feel to it, which I feel was probably authentic to the time, but on the other hand it left me constantly irritated and made the interaction between the leads much less frequent than I would have preferred. I was shocked by the little mentions here and there about Tru having more freedom as a teacher in Bitter Springs than she would have had elsewhere. Apparently a lot of teachers were required by contract to uphold a certain moral standard, which translates to no drinking and no real interaction with men. I can’t imagine having even less wiggle room to write a romance than there already was here.
Cobb and Tru were both likable characters. I really enjoyed Tru’s interaction with her students, especially the charming boys, Finn and Rabbit, who made such an impression in TLR. Finn was quite adorable. He had a crush on Tru and made me laugh whenever he tried to scheme to spend more time with her. Cobb found himself a victim of gossip when he first arrived. He didn’t even have to trouble himself with coming up with a good cover story since no one in town is capable of not making assumptions about people and not gossiping. When he was cast as a gambler that fact was taken as gospel and spread around town. Everyone liked the idea of testing their luck against a gambler while he drifted through. Unfortunately for Cobb, he spent some time talking to Tru and let slip some details about his past experience with the law and she became determined that he would become the new marshal in town, even though he didn’t want it—I still don’t quite understand why she was so pushy about that. But she got her way and Cobb found himself appointed as marshal and settling into town life with the rest of them.
But of course Cobb’s investigation had to come to light at some point. Tru was not impressed that she had been lied to by him for so long. Things were already…tense in their relationship so finding out that he had followed her to the town and plotted out all those coincidental meetings between the two of them, all while allowing feelings to develop, didn’t endear him to her. This discovery was quite appreciated, though, since it finally compelled the plot to move along. Although I found the book as well written as always from this author I felt it was very slow. I wanted to get to know the characters and appreciate the setting, yes, but things crawled along without any real movement in the plot or any significant development in the relationship. At times it felt more like a clip of frontier living than a Romance.
Tru and Cobb were getting closer, but despite how much time was spent on them before the ramifications of her being located was focused on, nothing really felt like it developed. Things did become physical and I felt like they were becoming a little closer emotionally, but they were both so closed off that it was hard to get a read on them. Usually I like that Goodman makes her relationship development subtle and leaves it to the reader to suss out their attachment, but here it was too subtle. Instead of understated the development felt nonexistent. It’s possible the cold feeling was caused by the propriety and manners of the time period. I don’t know. I just know that it didn’t exactly rivet me to the romance.
Once things got moving I enjoyed the story more. I still felt the romance was too remote but everything finally started to come together. I can’t say that this is a favorite of mine, or even in the top ten, by this author, but it was well written and I don’t regret reading it. Tru and Cobb were both enjoyable characters, I just wish they had been more enjoyable together.
Tru snorted. “Admit it, Mr. Bridger, you wouldn’t know what to do with my heart if you had it.” She anticipated a quick reply, something flippant and of no worth, but Cobb fell unexpectedly silent and his level gaze held hers. His eyes darkened and she couldn’t look away.
“Don’t be so sure, Miss Morrow. I’d know.”