Tempting Miss Prissy
Sharon Ihle has written about 80% of a fine romance here; Tempting Miss Prissy is funny, ribald, sexy, and romantic, but there are a couple of holes that prevent this book from being as great a read as The Bride Wore Spurs, her wonderful western of a couple of years back.
There’s an interesting heroine here, Priscilla Stillbottom (yes, you read that right), a woman who married a pig of a man to save the family farm, then ran away from him after a disastrous wedding night. He’s got a political future in mind for himself and sends his simple-minded son after her, his third wife, because to become governor, he’s got to have a “family”.
Priscilla runs smack into gorgeous Payton Cobb, owner of The Fox’s Den, a saloon in the mining town of Central City, Colorado. He knows there’s quite a story behind Miss Prissy’s appearance in his saloon, and should have known better than to hire this tone-deaf beauty as a singer. But he does anyway.
This simple premise provides plenty of space for Sharon Ihle to do her best, which is providing funny and sexy situations, interesting and odd characters, and a slowly developing romance between Miss Prissy and Payton. She does this with her usual panache, including some near-poetic prose to their love scenes, which adds a very nice touch. Her writing in this story is, at times, a bit dissonant. The humor is in the style of Blazing Saddles, but since this is a western, it fits. This reviewer was mostly charmed by the story of Prissy and Payton.
There are two problems here. The author deftly incorporates both points of view so that the reader knows exactly why the leads react as they do. Except that, the reader really doesn’t because there is so little background provided for Payton. We don’t know why he’s never been in love, why he’d never marry, or much beyond the fact that he plays only one song on a lavish piano, which reminds him of his dear, departed mother.
Don’t get me wrong – he’s a great hero, but it’s difficult to accept this type of hero on face value. He’s big on honesty, leading the reader to believe someone must have hurt him terribly with a lie in the past, but who knows? He’s worth knowing too, because he’s handsome, caring, honest, and any many who keeps the oddball friends he does must have a heck of a sense of humor! The other problem with this book is that it ends too abruptly. After the climactic scene near the end, there is a feeble “wrap-up” that brings Prissy and Payton back together. With the heat these two have for each other, and their strong personalities, I expected a bigger, longer, better conclusion.
Was there a word count problem? Whatever the reason, I felt cheated. After having read many average books of late, I was thrilled to finally read one that was as fast-paced and clever as this one. But the author needed to slow things down toward the end, to allow for a slower burn, bigger conflagration, more incendiary finale. Had she done that, and had she provided more history for Payton, I’d shout, “Get on your horse and gallop down to the bookstore!” But as it stands, I’ll simply say, “Next time you mosey on down to the store, pick up this here book and git it.”