I tend to be a fan of tough heroines. As the eldest of three sisters, I try to have a low tolerance for complaining. I guess it’s no surprise that I enjoy reading about other women who just deal with what life throws at them without whining. But honestly, Paradise Valley took that classic character to an extreme.
Maggie Tucker has not had an easy life by any means. Just before the book opens she and her husband allowed three passing travelers to share their campfire. This was a major mistake, as those three men then murdered her husband, raped her, and left her to die out in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming. When Sage Lightfoot happens upon the scene Maggie is digging a grave for her husband, exhausted, but still awake enough to point a gun at him in warning.
Sage, being at heart a good man, shows Maggie that her only option is to let him help her out, if she wants to live. Maggie has trouble trusting him, not surprising based on her recent experience, but she perks up some when she realizes he’s trying to chase down the same outlaws who hurt her. After a brief stay at his ranch to recuperate, they’re off on a manhunt.
Up until this point I thought Paradise Valley was a fairly good book. Nothing revolutionary, but alright. Then, a little ways into their trip, Maggie decides she loves Sage.
This wouldn’t be such a big deal to me, except she follows up by asking Sage to make love to her. When he agrees, they enjoy a night of wonderful passion and a minimal amount of awkwardness the next morning. Everyone is happy…except for me, the reader, who’s left wondering how anyone could present Maggie as a realistic character. Yes, she’s a tough-girl, but does that mean that she can go from being raped repeatedly one night to enjoying sex a few weeks later? It’s not like she and Sage were leading up to this moment for a while—they’re just friends until Maggie throws herself at him. And she doesn’t flinch. Not even once.
That’s not tough, that’s unreal. However, no one else seems to notice, so the story continues. Maggie and Sage meet up with some of Sage’s old friends (he used to be an outlaw), and we hear a lot about his ex-wife, Joanna. She was the exact opposite of Maggie—a greedy city girl who hated ranch life and complained all of the time. Nobody can get over how perfect Maggie is for Sage, because she’s the exact opposite of Joanna. Maggie is just meant for ranch life.
But then she’s kidnapped!
As Sage comes to realize how much he loves Maggie, and how awful his life would be without her, I expected his tune to change a little. Everything was always about him—Maggie needed to be tough so she could put up with Sage and his world. She needed to be perfect for his life, for his home. She needed to please him. Never the other way around. Even when Sage confesses his love, it’s for those reasons. Not because they complete each other, but because she’s so tough and perfect for ranch life. I got so sick of hearing about Maggie, her toughness, and her ability to handle ranch life.
Before I finish, I have to clear up one thing. I had two major problems with this book: Maggie’s overblown toughness, and Sage’s unending self-absorption. These are things that bothered me at the end of the book, but not entirely throughout because it is fairly well-written. Two major problems with the story and its characters lowered my grade – that’s all.