I know it’s a bad sign when I start looking for reasons to put a book down – and then have to convince myself that yes, I really do need to pick it back up. That was pretty much the case with Explaining Herself, although it did become a little more compelling toward the end.
Ross Laramie has just gotten himself hired on as a range detective at the Garrison ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming. Which is ironic, as rustling and justice figure heavily into Ross’ connections to Sheridan, and his secret reason for being there. He has something of a checkered past, and now has one purpose in life: to find the man who years ago betrayed and abandoned his sister Julije, resulting in her suicide. He has reason to believe that man may be in Sheridan. And after spending more and more time with the boss’ daughter Victoria, he can only hope that that man’s name isn’t Garrison.
Victoria Garrison is, by profession, a typesetter for a newspaper, but what she really wants to be is a reporter – fitting, since she is certainly nosy and persistent enough to be successful at it. As soon as Ross steps onto the Garrison ranch, she smells a story, and follows and pesters him until he lets her in on it. Apparently, he finds this behavior attractive. But her father clearly doesn’t approve of her new friendship with the new range detective, and Ross’ secrets threaten to keep them apart for good.
My main problem is that the hero and heroine both annoyed me. Victoria is a prime example of the I-can-fix-any-problem, so-spunky-you-want-to-smack-her type of heroine. There’s not much more to her, in fact, other than the smothering nobility of character that both she and Ross possess ad nauseum. Ross, on the other hand, is of the self-flagellating sort, and rather simplistic to boot. His thoughts usually run along the lines of “She’s a lady. I can’t have her. I don’t deserve her. I’m bad.” In other words, he frequently sounds like a six-year-old with serious self-esteem issues. And he, too, is so very noble he makes your teeth hurt.
Beyond these issues, both of them – but Victoria in particular – have serious TSTL moments which are very handy to the plot, but make for very predictable storylines. She, for instance, decides she absolutely must – must! – sneak off into a canyon to take photographs of dangerous rustlers at work. Never mind that she’s alone and unarmed. She’s on higher ground than the vicious criminals, and naturally the rustlers would never think to look up, so of course she’ll be safe. Unless, of course, the inevitable occurs, and she gets captured so that our dashing hero can conveniently rescue her. But surely that would never happen.
The one saving grace of the book, if there is one, is the historical setting and detail. It’s fairly obvious that Ms. Jocks has done her homework here, since the descriptions are littered with historical details and characters, such as Lonny Logan, the real-life train robber, or Victoria’s brand-new Folding Pocket Kodak Camera, the latest in turn of the century technology. However, the interesting historical depth did nothing to alleviate the basic shallowness of the characters’ development, or their innately oh-so-noble natures. As someone wise once said, “Sainthood is tolerable only in saints.” And none of the inhabitants of this book qualify.
For AAR‘s reviewers, the Rancher’s Daughters series has proven uneven; the previous book in this series was granted DIK status, and the one before earned a C+. Perhaps the next title in the series will prove more satisfying. As for this one, however, I’d leave it on the shelf unless pretence toward sainthood – or simple masochism – is up your alley. If not, give this one a pass.