Friday, April 08, 2011

#Fridayreads - reviews and ongoing


There are reasons why I write western romance, and reasons why I love reading them too. Jennie Marsland's McShannon's Chance demonstrates a lot of those reasons - she's got likeable, hardworking characters facing the challenge of making a life on the frontier, she's got wonderful, complex secondary characters, a gorgeous setting of Colorado, and a close-knit town.

Beth and Trey are well-matched, and it's clear that they heal each other and that together they are far stronger than alone. Beth, while not a country girl, finds herself rather suited to the wild, independent life there, probably because she's a very independent woman to begin with. Trey is carrying around lots of old wounds, and Beth helps him get past them. I liked how an old "neighbour" Nate was a part of the story and that for a long time we're not quite sure whether we should trust him or not, and I really liked how that was all resolved in the end. The secondary cast was so strong that several times I thought...hmmm, I wonder if she's going to write THAT story????

Marsland's choice of genre and writing style blend together for a great comfy read - a little like settling into your favourite rocking chair on a warm summer afternoon.

I've got Marsland's next book, McShannon's Heart, on my TBR.

REVIEW: A MCKASLIN HOMECOMING by Jillian Hart (Pink Heart Picks Review, March 30)

This is the first book of Jillian's I've read, and the first Love Inspired I've read in a while. I really enjoy the Love Inspired books when they are inspirational but not preachy. In this case, the family is a good living family, go to church, believe in God, pray. When inspy works best for me, it's when faith is intrinsically part of the characters' lives, rather than feeling "pushy". Hart does a great job of this! For that reason alone, I'd read another of her books in a heart beat. I love how the faith element is interwoven so seamlessly into their every day life.

Caleb is a GREAT hero. You kind of forget he's a cop because throughout most of the story he's a cowboy. And the extended family is great, very individual and memorable. It was a really enjoyable read, and can totally stand alone even though it's part of a really big series. That being said - Hart also does a great job with the other characters. She gives just enough insight to make the reader wonder about THEIR stories. That balance can be really tricky to achieve when you're writing a family/town series so major kudos to Hart for doing such a great job of it, at least in my opinion!

If I have one gripe at all, it's about conflict. And this is something I come across in many of the inspies I've read so I don't think it's limited to Hart's writing at all. The characters are so GOOD. Which I know makes sense in an inspirational romance, and of course you don't want to have characters who are unlikeable or unsympathetic. There are certain dos and don'ts I'm sure, having to do with the promise to the reader, etc. But when I looked at Lauren's family, everyone, with the exception of Spence, welcomed her with open arms. I kept waiting for something to be awkward, painful, tense, but it didn't happen. There are hugs and PJ parties and clothes sharing, which is all great but each time Lauren met a new member of her family I was waiting for it to be difficult. It was hard to see their flaws, although I know they must have had some somewhere. And I think for me, as a writer, I was probably more sensitive to this than maybe readers are. I tend to let my characters show the good, bad and ugly, so I did find it harder to buy into because everyone was so perfect.

But on the whole...that's a teensy issue for a heartwarming, memorable story. Have any of you read it or read other books in Hart's McKaslin series?

What am I reading now? MAPS AND LEGENDS: READING AND WRITING ALONG THE BORDERLANDS by Michael Chabon. Newest additions to the TBR? THE COLOR OF HEAVEN by EV Mitchell and TO MARRY A MATCHMAKER by Michelle Styles.

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