Brides of Durango: Tessa
Halfway through Tessa, the second book in Bobbi Smith’s Brides of Durango series, I realized I was rooting for the sweet young couple to find happiness in their future together. Unfortunately, that sweet young couple was not the hero and heroine, but a pair of secondary characters. When secondary characters become more important to readers than the characters we’re meant to care most about, that’s a bad sign.
A kind preacher is killed by the man he’s trying to help, setting the stage for the preacher’s son to begin a lifetime of protecting the innocent. As Marshal of Durango, Jared Trent firmly believes in the “path of least resistance,” which is why he gets irritated with Tessa Sinclair, better known as “the angel,” whenever her do-gooder actions get her in trouble. Which, I’m sad to say, it’s quite often.
Tessa doesn’t always go looking for trouble, but it seems to find her quite easily; whether she’s attacked in a robbery trying to defend a friend, or being stalked by the violent man whose wife she’s helped to escape. Some of her actions are confusing, however, and do not point to a person with a fully “sound mind.” Wanting to visit the spot where her brother died in a mine cave-in isn’t very wise, nor is traveling to said mine with only two men for companions. Though she knows she behaved with propriety, Tess ought to have known that young single ladies in the 1800’s do not run around in such a manner.
As the identities of a gang of thieves remains a mystery to the people of Durango, and Jared’s frustration mounts, Tessa is being courted by Will Kenner, the man who now runs her brother’s mine. The attraction between Jared and Tessa, however, grows despite their determination to stay out of each other’s way. The gang is preparing to strike again, and Boyd Wilson, the wife-beater who now finds himself without a punching bag thanks to another of Tessa’s good deeds, is ready to claim his revenge.
The writing style was a bit awkward as well. There were too many scenes with Jared and Tessa think dreamily about each other – at rather inopportune moments. My favorite was when Boyd is about to rape Tessa and Jared is just outside, fully aware of what’s going on:
“She was generous and kind and loving, not to mention beautiful and intelligent.”
Me: Okay, she’s great, enough already, just go in and help her!
“He had to save her . . . now.”
Me: Yes, now, Jared!
Other characters do not help. Tessa’s mother, Maggie, allows her daughter to do as she pleases with hardly any concern for her safety or reputation. She even manages to vanish during one scene while Tessa and Jared argue and smolder at each other, even though she’s supposed to be sitting on the sofa right next to her daughter.
Julie, Tessa’s best friend, and her beloved Steve, do not help either, but it’s because they are a more compelling couple than Tessa and Jared. Steve, the ex-con who believes he can never be good enough for the gently bred Julie, was much more interesting than Jared, who went overboard with his philosophy. I understand Jared’s grief at the death of his father – to say that one should stand back and do nothing might be reasonable during a robbery, but it didn’t ring humane when it concerned a pregnant lady being savagely beaten and abused.
In short, I wish this had been Julie and Steve’s story. Julie is all set to marry her intended, but instead gives her heart to this mysterious man with a secret. Steve is a sweet, tortured hero, and the one who actually holds the key to the villains’ identities. Heck, Julie and Steve were the ones with the hot love scene! I’m glad for the pages I got to spend with them, but as this is Tessa and Jared’s story, it wasn’t enough.