Marrying Miss Marshal
At first I read Western romances primarily because I was tired of light Regencies and these were one of the few alternatives on the market. However, I came to love them in their own right and lately I find myself hunting down a good Western so that I can visit a time and place that intrigues me. As a debut novel, Marrying Miss Marshal has plenty to entertain. However, it still has enough rough spots that I can’t quite recommend it.
The community of Calvin, Wyoming is having some dark times. The sheriff is dead and there are some mysterious doings afoot. Investigating some suspected cattle rustling, Pinkerton detective Chas O’Grady stumbles right into those mysterious goings-on as he gets caught in a cattle stampede. A young woman rescues him and takes him to town, where he learns that not only is she the marshal’s widow, but Danna Carpenter is now marshal in her own right. And based on what they discuss, it’s obvious that there is something very odd about the cattle stampede they narrowly survived.
The longer Chas stays in town, the more it becomes apparent that all is not as it should be. For starters, the locals don’t exactly welcome their sheriff with open arms, she has no real deputies, and she just barely hangs onto her authority at times. Chas needs to stay on the right side of local law enforcement to work his own case, so he’ll need to be working with Danna. Danna initially sees Chas as an annoying city boy who couldn’t take care of himself, but she starts to respect him, and to enjoy his company more as they spend more time together. Chas also unexpectedly finds himself starting to be impressed by and to fall in love with this prickly town marshal.
Readers who wonder about the amount of inspirational content in this book will either be disappointed or pleased, depending upon inclination, to note that while both characters make reference to their faith, there is really very little overtly religious content in this story. The reader’s enjoyment of this book will likely hinge on two main things – one’s opinion of the leads and how much the mystery sucks you in. The mysterious secrets of this little community held my attention and I enjoyed watching the hero and heroine work together to try to get to the bottom of everything. As I read through the various scenes involving local grandees, ranch hands, and townspeople, I found myself trying to figure out where everyone fit into the grand scheme of things. I also liked the dynamic that the leads had together. Chas is basically a decent, bright man and his past provides some extra conflict and interest to the story, and he and Danna do interact well together.
The heroine’s characterization was where I really found myself struggling to stay focused on the book. I suspect that she will be a polarizing character for many readers. While I admired her determination and I actually found her believable as the town marshal (no TSTL heroine needing constant hero rescues here – kudos to the author for that), I also found her frustrating. I could understand why a woman in her situation would need a thick skin, but I found her a little too moody and difficult at times for me to truly enjoy her as a character. Because of this, portions of the book that delved deep into her backstory tended not to hold my attention quite so much. And when we finally got the history of her previous marriage to the late sherriff and her estrangement from her brother, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. If you don’t like plots that depend on characters’ inability to hold a simple, air-clearing conversation, this one just might drive you nuts. In addition, when the plotting veers away from the suspense plot, the writing simply didn’t hold my attention as much. I found myself putting this book down a little bit too often.
While I appreciated that Danna came across as a blunt, hard-working marshal, her character still had some weaknesses that distracted me. In addition, while the suspense plot of the book was generally strong, there were a few places where plot contrivance overwhelmed what was otherwise a good story. However, in spite of this Marrying Miss Marshal is an interesting debut and I’ll be curious to see what this author does in the future. This novel didn’t quite do it for me, but I can see the potential and with polish, I think this author could be one to watch.