Man of the West
I hear readers asking for normal, real life characters all the time – I’m one of them, as a matter of fact. But, when is normal too normal or real too real? In Man of the West, Sadie Callahan introduces the reader to a heroine I felt sorry for instead of feeling compassion toward. For me, she was too much a part of struggling Americana to be completely comfortable within a romance setting.
Pregnant and married by the age of sixteen, Jolie Jensen has known nothing but struggle for the past ten years. Her life changes dramatically when she leaves her ex-husband in the middle of the night, taking nothing but her 10 year-old daughter and the beat up old car on her way to a new life in Willard County, Texas. Hired on as the cook for the Circle C Ranch, she’s more than ready to start over, although she lives with the constant fear that her ex will find her and her daughter. However, she finds security in her job and in the county’s sheriff, Jake Strayhorn.
Jake hasn’t met a woman who’s really interested him in quite some time, but there’s something about Jolie Jensen that stirs up his protective side and has him paying attention despite their age difference. Her sweet innocence combined with a steel backbone appeals to him in a way that makes him think about the future. He’s determined to protect Jolie, her daughter, and his town from the likes of the bad guy ex when he shows up.
Boy, this book makes me a hypocrite. I want real and gritty, but I guess just not too real and gritty. Jolie has it bad from her own beginning with a negligent mother, to a teenage pregnancy and marriage, to dealing with a drug-abusing husband who’s also emotionally abusive, to living from paycheck to paycheck with little security. Too much real life – depressing even. I should have been happy when she makes it good in the end, but all I could think about was her next turn of bad luck. Jake’s character, on the other hand, was fine with me even though he was a total cliché – ex military, turned honorable, small town sheriff and hot too.
Another problem I had with the book was the enormous amount of secondary characters whose relationships were so important they got nearly the same amount of story time as the main couple. While the two other couples were interesting and helped the momentum of the story, they also took away from the focal characters to the point you really don’t see the main characters fall in love, or even why they’d want to. Basically all you get is that she likes him because he protects her and he likes her because he can protect her.
Despite the fact that the reader doesn’t get to experience the main couple falling in love, I did get to know Jolie and understand her motivations. Although I felt sorry for her, I completely understood what motivated her and she was never TSTL. Though I had problems with the book, I will say that it was a page turner and I never struggled to finish it.
Man of the West would have pleased me more if more time were spent on the primary couple. Though I found this installment mediocre, I’m not ready to give up on Callahan quite yet. Plus, I like her covers.