Luck of the Draw
I keep picking up western romances, hoping I’ll find one as good as those I used to read in the nineties. Since virtually all of them I’ve read in the last five years are terrible, I’m not sure if my behavior is optimistic, or just stupid. Sadly, Luck of the Draw is yet another of the terrible ones. I probably should have been warned off by the hideous cover, which features a shirtless, vested man about to ravish the heroine in a meadow – with a disinterested horse looking on blankly. As the book wore on, I found myself more and more in sympathy with the horse.
Abby Butler is a banking heiress on the run from her scheming, nasty parents. They wanted her to marry some big jerk, so she bolted and has been running ever since, mostly working as a teacher. When she sees a wanted poster with her face on it in Denver, she leaves her job there and takes a position as a teacher in Heaven’s Grace, Montana. On the stage, she meets Beau McMasters, a handsome gambler originally from New Orleans. Beau won a ranch in a card game, and with other funds purchased various other properties in the town, including a saloon. Since they are the two most attractive single people in town, they fall for each other.
There really is no plot to speak of, mostly because all the interesting parts of the story occurred in the past. To keep the reader slogging through the incredibly boring present, the author occasionally drops hints about Beau’s and Abby’s former lives. Hint to author: if the more interesting parts of the story happened five years ago, start the book then. Whether all these secrets are even interesting is debatable. As it is, we get to read about completely mundane events and endless mental lusting. You would think we’d occasionally see Abby in the classroom, since she’s supposed to be a teacher. You would be wrong. Instead we see her thinking about learning to cook, and teaching two prostitutes (with whom she quickly becomes friends). Few townspeople seem to find this unacceptable. Beau, on the other hand, spends his time nursing his resentment for his paternal grandfather and fixing up his properties. In between, he thinks about how he’d like to sleep with Abby. He doesn’t particularly worry about whether he should marry her.
The problems with this book are legion. First of all, I never could grasp when the story was supposed to take place, and I don’t think the author knew either. It was definitely after the Civil War, and apparently very soon since many people were still nursing grudges against Southerners. So at first I thought maybe late 1860s, or early 1870s. Then one middle aged character mentioned that she’d lived in the town nearly all her life. I figured her to be at least 40 and likely closer to 50. But this wouldn’t fit well with Montana history. The oldest continuous white settlement was founded in 1847, and the state still didn’t have many settlers until gold was discovered in the early 1860s. The bottom line is that the timeline doesn’t make sense, and the author was sloppy. It takes about five seconds to do an internet search on Montana history.
The book is further hindered by the abundant purple prose, an unwelcome blast from the past. The love scenes are laughable. My personal favorite line was, “No girlish fantasy could match the tempest-tossed magic of his mouth working his wonderment on her,” but that was only one silly line of many.
But what bothered me more than these problems was the skanky villain sex, described in minute detail. If you actually like skanky villain sex, then this is the book for you. We are treating to such gems as Abby’s father raping a maid (anally and vaginally), and a different crazy evil guy masturbating – while he watches Beau work his tempest-tossed magic, and while he watches his own daughter dressing. Niiiiiice. And it doesn’t end there. When I read about the sheriff’s detective work while he discovered the “evidence” the voyeur left behind, I nearly lost my lunch. Meanwhile, the villains use fairly graphic language in both thought and action, which is one of the reasons for the “hot” rating.
All in all, it’s a complete flop. If, like me, you’ve been hoping for something of a Western Renaissance, this book is bound to disappoint. It’s probably bound to disgust you too. Frankly, I’d stay well away.