They say that good things come in small packages and, in the case of Loving Mercy, this came so very close to being true. While this rather charming debut novel is still somewhat better than average, it did have its flaws. The author manages to pack an impressive amount of plot and emotional wrangling into a rather small page count, though, a difficult feat and one that may indicate promise for future books.
Mercy Clarke is a female rancher operating in a very male-dominated world. After her husband’s death, she raised a herd of cattle and brought them to market in Abilene in order to pay off the debt threatening to cost her the ranch. While still in Abilene, Mercy and her sister meet Thad Buchanan, a war veteran willing to pay the two to guide him to Colorado so he can stay with his sister. Mercy is suspicious of Thad, whom she believes to be a gambler, but finds herself compelled to allow him to join in on the journey.
Even though Mercy feels attracted to Thad almost from the very beginning, she keeps her distance since she fears he has a somewhat questionable character. In addition, Mercy is still coping with the loss of her husband and she doesn’t want to get involved with another man. For his part, Thad thinks Mercy is too harsh, but he finds himself ever more drawn to her as their journey continues.
As mentioned above, Loving Mercy is a rather short book. Somehow, though, Bodwell manages to pack in the journey from Kansas to Colorado, Mercy and Thad’s romantic tale, and many adventures along the way without ever making the book feel too rushed. That takes serious talent. From the opening of the story, the author uses vivid language to evoke her settings and introduce her characters. Without using a lot of exposition, Bodwell is able to introduce readers to her characters and set up the backstory relatively quickly. The plotting in this book is generally well-done and the author’s style is very readable.
This book is at its strongest during Mercy’s journey home. The author does a wonderful job of evoking the trip and making readers feel as if they too are traveling across the West with Mercy themselves. Though it is a difficult journey, Bodwell’s depiction of the old West and the Army forts of the time is interesting and the adventures along the way certainly kept me reading.
My only major problem with this book is that I could never really warm up to the heroine. While I understood why Mercy is as hard as she is, there are some inconsistencies in her behavior that can be maddening. The fact that she is torn between distrusting relationships and attraction to Thad is certainly a viable conflict. However, the “I love you, no I hate you” routine does wear a little on the nerves. In addition, Mercy is primarily a rather sensible lady, but at times – especially in the second half of the book- she comes dangerously close to riding off to TSTL-land. This characterization of Mercy, combined with some over-the-top (and rather rushed) plot twists at the end of the story, made this book only a slightly better-than-average read for me. The author does show a lot of promise, though, and I will be curious to try her books in the future.
|Review Date:||December 14, 2004|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||cowboy | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Reconstruction era | road romance | Western|