Love's Golden Embrace
At about 35,000 words, Love’s Golden Embrace by Charlene Leonard is a rather short story in which you won’t find much detail in either setting or characterization. However, the feeling of nostalgia, comfort and my affection for both leads (especially for hero Luke) make Love’s Golden Embrace a pleasant, quick read.
In 1829 the recent discovery of gold in Ophir, Georgia, attracts lots of new folks to the little town, and with them also a good share of riffraff and tumult. Until Ophir finds a proper lawman to maintain order, blacksmith Luke “Blackie” Campbell has reluctantly agreed to preserve the public peace. One day he is called to yet another commotion at the local saloon and comes upon a disgusting scene: An old drunk has put up a trussed-up young woman as a stake in a current poker game, causing quite a stir among the men frequenting the saloon, who all fall over themselves trying to grope her. Judging from her numerous abrasions, she has had a hard time and also been maltreated by her captor. Luke resolutely puts an end to the spectacle and chases off the bad guys. Realizing there’s no safe place for her in town, he takes her to his home to recover before returning her to her family.
A gang of outlaws kidnapped Susannah Tremaine from her family’s ranch for ransom. Although Susannah firmly believes that her brothers would have saved her sooner or later, she is nevertheless truly grateful to this 6’7″ guardian angel who so unexpectedly came to her rescue. Once at his home, it doesn’t take them long to come to appreciate each other and fall in love. But the kidnappers are still on Susannah’s trail, as are her concerned brothers, one of whom turns out to be a deadly enemy from Luke’s less-than-peaceful past.
As I say, Love’s Golden Embrace is not a deep book, but it is enjoyable. Pretty Susannah is a confident young woman of common sense who takes her ordeals in stride. She’s admittedly rather fond of “stomping her tiny foot” and feels a touch too modern considering the time, but she doesn’t fall in the trap of bouncing feistiness either. Luke is the gentle-giant type, physical invincibility coupled with protectiveness, unabashedly dominant but also considerate. He’s had his share of sorrow in life, and being illiterate adds an endearing vulnerability to his character. No wonder his fellow citizens respect and like him and rely heavily upon him to keep the peace. In short, both Susannah and Luke are the kind of generally well-liked, decent people who would get along with anyone. Their chemistry together is well done, and it’s easy to envision their happily ever after.
Really, there’s hardly anything in Love’s Golden Embrace to get upset about, though to tell the truth, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it either. As an occasional fan of undemanding “western light” a la Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, I finished off Love’s Golden Embrace within a couple of hours and intend to purchase Love’s Golden Caress, the sequel about Susannah’s grumpy, sexy brother.