Knowing better than to judge a book by its title (or it’s cover art), I sheepishly admit to choosing this book to review knowing nothing at all about its plot. If that makes me shallow than so be it. But with a title like Donovan’s Bed I really didn’t need much more incentive to commit myself to reading it. I was in the mood for a sexy romp. For a change, I got just what I wanted – and a whole lot more.
Sarah Calhoun is as fascinated as the rest of her nosy neighbors when a huge, beautifully carved bed is rolled through her hometown of Burr and straight to Jack Donovan’s ranch. Jack, a new arrival in Burr, has set the town a-buzz with his lavish purchases for his home. What does a single man need with such luxuries? And, more importantly, what sleazy business must he be involved in to be able to afford them? These questions have been driving the reporter inside of Sarah wild with curiosity. She is certain that he is hiding secrets and she intends to reveal them and publish a story sure to catapult her deceased father’s newspaper to the big time.
Jack has foiled her every attempt to ferret out the truth behind his mysterious wealth but his latest tactic has her seeing red. Desperate to shut her up, he kisses her witless and then abruptly pulls away just when she starts getting into it. He then proceeds to explain that although she’d no doubt be a great roll in the hay, he is looking for a wife and she is not the stuff of which good wives are made. She’s too mouthy and far too hot-tempered, he goes on to explain. Jerk alert, you may be thinking? Wait a minute! These aren’t your typical western cardboard cutouts. See, although Jack doesn’t admit this to anyone but himself, he knows that Sarah is far too smart to give up her career and settle for life on his ranch and he’s frightened of his intense feelings for her. Rather than throwing the stereotypical hissy fit expected of any decent spunky heroine, Sarah holds her tongue and decides to get even. She publishes an article dedicated to “Jack Donovan, Burr’s wealthiest bachelor” and goes into detail about his attributes, his wealth and his quest for a bride. Jack soon can’t make a move without being accosted by a woman hoping to win a place in his great big bed.
Jack initially thinks all of the attention great fun (hey, he’s male) but soon tires of it because he quickly realizes that his sassy Sarah is the only woman for him. Luckily, Jack doesn’t spend the rest of the novel in denial, treating Sarah harshly, but instead commits himself to winning her love. I wanted to hug him for this. Jack is an awesome hero; sexy, funny, and just a little bit dangerous. He’s not all hung up on his rough and tumble past, which was a pleasant surprise. Sarah is the one with the hang-ups. And, who can blame her? Her penchant for bad boys resulted in the murder of her father and left her reputation in tatters. She doesn’t trust herself or her judgment in men and her only fault (which gets to be a rather big one towards the novel’s end) is that she takes forever to realize just how great Jack is. She also seems to forget all about her “scoop” once the story gets going, but it’s pretty easy to understand why her hormones might override her curiosity. Fortunately, she’s highly likable and together they create sizzling chemistry.
Another notable aspect of this western was the way the author handled certain plot twists and secondary characters. When the heroine’s vampy sister returned to town and set her sights on Jack, I groaned in anticipation of a major cliché in the making. Rather than taking the predictable way out, the author did the unexpected and fleshed out the character . This type of thing happened on several different occasions and more than made up for the very end of the book, which did rely a wee bit too heavily on a predictable situation.
Donovan’s Bed proves that a hero doesn’t need to be bitter in order to be a manly western man, and that a heroine doesn’t have to be a virginal, grumpy spinster to find her true love. If more historical writers employed this fresh combination of wit, sensuality and likable characters, I’d always be a happy reader!