This one has a lot going for it. It’s a historical written in much the same vein as the down-home Westerns and Americana that were popular back in the 90s. However, at times the book reads like an impersonal narrative that didn’t touch me on an emotional level. This, combined with word choices that made the book feel lifeless, kept what could have been a very sweet story of second chances from hitting its stride.
The story opens dramatically as a man leading his family’s cattle drive comes across a broken down wagon inhabited by a wary boy and a women in labor. Luke McCutcheon obviously has no idea what he’s doing (though he has birthed calves, of course, like all Western romance heroes). Still, he sticks around and helps Faith Brown deliver her baby daughter. Faith is trapped with a wagon, little food, and no animals, so Luke ends up offering to escort her to safety with the cattle drive.
What follows is actually quite sweet. However, instead of the sort of sweet that makes you sigh contentedly and sink deeper into the story, it’s the type of thing that makes the teeth hurt. We learn that Faith is fleeing a tragic past and an eeevilll villain, the boy with her will worm his way into the affections of the men on the cattle drive, the hero will come from a closeknit and wonderful family, the crusty cook will have a heart of gold, and so on. Faith’s intense wariness upsets Luke on occasion, but he also feels quite drawn to her. This becomes evident along the cattle drive, and deepens as they reach Luke’s home.
Don’t get me wrong – parts of this book really do work. Some of the scenes are quite well-written, including a river rescue that will give readers quite the adrenaline rush. Also, Luke is a prince of a guy, and readers will likely warm to his character. The problem is that much of the book distances the reader from the action. The story has lots of narrative that made it a slow read because it’s hard to connect to a story in which the reader is told how characters feel rather then having it shown. In addition, rather than seeing Faith live out her life and the consequences of things that happened to her in the past, readers have to plow through her internal monologues. These sometimes made it difficult to see Faith as a person independent of her many troubles. Seriously, the woman is a veritable Jobina!
As the book moved into its second half, things did pick up a bit and I found myself enjoying it. I still felt a little frustrated with the plotting, but found the main relationship very endearing and tender. Faith and Luke really do heal each other, and there’s something quite life-affirming about that theme in romance. If the author had simply concentrated on the two of them learning to love and trust one another and to move beyond their pasts, this book would have earned a higher grade. However, she loads her characters with so many trevails and terrible secrets that it just became too much after a while. This is a relatively short novel, and the many threads of plot and tragic past events muddied things up as the author seemed not to have sufficient time to wrap everything up in a convincing manner.
If you truly cannot get enough of Western romance or sweet, Catherine Anderson-style tales, Montana Dawn might work for you. However, while it has its good points, it simply had too many rough spots for me to recommend.