Cold Night, Warm Stranger
Ever have a date where it seems like everything should click, but somehow it just doesn’t? The person is nice, makes good conversation, makes all the right moves, but for some reason the chemistry just doesn’t work. Cold Night, Warm Stranger was that way for me.
Blessed with a title that seems more appropriate for a softcore, straight-to-video movie, Cold Night, Warm Stranger is a Western romance set in Montana and Wyoming. Quinn Lassiter, a gunfighter, stumbles into the Duncan Hotel in the middle of a blizzard. The only other person there is the proprietess, Maura Reed, who runs the place on the orders of her no-good but scary brothers. Both characters are lonely, in pain, and in need of solace, and they find it with each other that night. The rest of the book works out the results of that one night of passion.
Jill Gregory knows her stuff when it comes to the mechanics of writing romance. Her plot moves smoothly, developing external and internal conflict, character insights, and revelations at a good pace. Her secondary characters are well-handled while staying appropriately out of the limelight. Her dialogue flows well, and there are even some good funny lines. It’s all perfectly. . .competent.
Maybe that is the problem. I never found myself truly involved with the story or the characters. There is nothing new in this book – every element of the story, from childhood trauma to vengeful enemies, sweet secondary romances to love scenes – has been done before, and done and done and done. That in itself is not a problem; some authors can take the most hackneyed plot and make it sing and dance in a whole new way.
But when characters and authors seem to some degree to be simply going through the motions, my attention gets to wandering. “Oh,” I kept thinking, “Here comes the scene where the heroine sticks up for the ‘other woman’ who has been cold to her up til now; here comes the scene where the hero realizes how much the heroine means to him because he’s afraid she might die. . . .” When I’m reading a really excellent book, this anticipation doesn’t really matter. Even if I know that “this is the part where…”, I still am excited to see how this author will handle it. When reading Cold Night, Warm Stranger, however, my reaction was always bland. It never grabbed me and made me see the characters, feel what they were feeling. Ms. Gregory does a very good job of the writing of the story, but some vital emotional aspect isn’t there.
If you are looking for a decent, competent Western, Cold Night, Warm Stranger might be for you. You could certainly do worse. But for me it was rather the equivalent of eating a Lean Cuisine dinner – it gets the job done when you are hungry, but there are many more memorable things to eat.