It seemed to take me forever to read Forever, and I don’t mean that in a good way. This is one of those westerns with a hackneyed plot and stereotypical characters galore. The hero and heroine aren’t really that bad, but their charms are more than swallowed up by all the flaws in this book. Steve McKean is in jail for killing a man, but he was framed for the crime. The warden has it in for him, and even his three best friends (Mikah, Carlos, and Apach) seem helpless to save him – until a U.S. Marshal makes him an offer he can’t refuse. The Marshal promises Steve a full pardon if he can find out who is forcing small ranchers out of Montana. Steve agrees to help, with the condition that his trusted friends be freed also. The Marshal consents, and the four go off to Montana.
Once there, all four take positions as ranch hands. Steve and Mikah work for Carter Walker, one of the most prosperous ranchers in the state. Carter’s beautiful, independent daughter Rachel is his right arm on the ranch, and it’s not long before sparks start to fly between she and Steve. Rachel quickly falls for Steve, but he isn’t sure how her father would feel about her taking up with a ranch hand. He’s also afraid that her father may be the one scaring small land-owners away. He doesn’t want to tell Rachel his suspicions, which he hopes aren’t true. Meanwhile, the villains are becoming suspicious of Steve and his friends, and their lives may be in danger. Steve’s one hope is to catch expose the villains, and clear his own name in the process.
The plot is a familiar one, used time and again in western romance. Forever adds nothing new to the tale. A lot of its problems stem from Sommerfield’s writing style. I am not a reader who pays a lot of attention to point of view, but the switches here are frequent and jarring. The story was also heavy on dialogue, most of which was stilted, unnatural, and repetitive. Conversations nearly always sounded contrived and melodramatic. And the characters had the same conversations again and again. We saw a lot of Rachel and Steve arguing about the future of their relationship. Rachel would say she cared about him, and Steve would reply that he was a drifting man who was just going to leave. Then Rachel would run to her friend Yvonne and complain that Steve had pushed her away, and Yvonne would convince her that Steve was a complicated man who was afraid to show his love. After reading the same conversations four times or so, I started to skip them since I already knew what everyone was going to say.
Steve and Rachel were not bad characters, and they did have some depth to them. I wish I could say the same for the others. Steve’s friends were a black man, a Mexican man, and an Indian man. Their carefully chosen diversity reminded me of a stereotypical Hollywood World War II unit, and I wondered if maybe an Italian guy from Brooklyn would show up to complete the cast. The villains were even worse – completely flat and cartoonishly evil.
Though there is the occasional nice moment between the main characters, the rest of the book is awkward, repetitive, and stereotypical. I like a good western now and then, but I can’t recommend this one. It’s just been done too many times before, and far, far better.