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With heavy sighs I turn the pages,

Reading this is taking ages;

Romance in a cowboy hat

Has kinda fallen sorta flat.

This dance hall gal gets kidnapped by

A handsome stranger with dark eyes;

Who totes her off with carte blanche,

Right to the steps of his own ranch.

But Creepy Dude is no abductor,

From an awful fate he’s plucked her;

So now they fight like cats and dogs,

While page by page begins to slog.

Now I lay me down to finish,

My sanity has been diminished;

If I should end up going bonkers—

Well, at least this book I conquered!

What do a rabid fox, a dance hall, and a letter from a dead person have in common? Well, nothing really. But they are all part of the plot in Maggie Brendan’s new western romance, A Sweet Misfortune.

Beautiful bombshell Rachel Matthews is a favorite dancer at the local saloon. Forced to support herself by any means while she awaits her brother’s return from the gold fields, she instead finds herself “rescued” by a handsome stranger who carries her off to his ranch. As in, literally carries her, right off the stage, during the middle of the can-can. Turns out her brother wrote to Mr. Hot Stuff and begged him to get her out of there.

Independent is Rachel’s middle name. She and Hot Stuff (aka John, the richest rancher in Montana) argue daily about his rude interruption of her life, try to make themselves fall in love with other people so they won’t fall in love with each other (fat chance), and search for answers as they struggle in faith and life.

Pros

– Western!

– Sort of. A romance in boots, at least.

– It’s cool to have an independent female lead who can actually think for herself. Although I hoped to see more of that rather than the weird control John assumed over Rachel’s life.

Cons

– Odd historical anachronisms. John would not have said “let’s get off the wagon and stretch our legs” to a girl he was courting. In that era, in America, the word “leg” was considered profanity especially in mixed company (don’t ask me why).

The story felt slow-moving.

– The dialogue was not very engaging, and somewhat repetitive. Too much “What was that noise, Bob?” “I don’t know what that noise was, Joe. Harry, did you hear that noise?” “Yep, Bob, it was a noise, all right.”

– The matchmaking was too predictable. I was hoping for a more interesting twist.

– It spent too much time on the heroine’s wheat-colored hair, oval fingernails, alabaster skin, naturally arching eyebrows, and full ruby lips. Plus, of COURSE the heroine is a total bombshell, while all the other female characters are homely and/or spiteful. PLEASE SPARE ME. Couldn’t we have a normal-looking heroine?

– I was hoping for better in the writing department overall. There is too much telling (“he looked sick”, “she was rude”), without showing (“he staggered in the door and collapsed”, “she shoved aside an old lady and stomped out, kicking a baby kitten as she went past”). Plus in places it felt kinda clunky. And the he said/she said speech tags . . . dear Lord, deliver me from speech tags. (Sorry . . . can’t turn off my inner editor.)

I was so excited to read this book, as it sounded like a lot of fun. There were enjoyable parts, but it kinda fell flat.

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