Finding a husband for a girl living on a remote ranch in the late 1800s was difficult when the only men she saw with any regularity were crusty ranch hands or those already married. For three sisters in their early 20s, there just weren’t enough possible beaus to go around. Thomas cleverly tackles this problem in Texas Blue.
Texas Ranger and Austin lawyer Duncan McMurry realizes his nieces will probably become old maids living on the remote Whispering Mountains horse ranch if he doesn’t do anything to help them. Before he leaves with the Rangers to capture and return some rustled cattle held across the border in Mexico, he arranges through contacts in the East for three eligible bachelors from good families to visit the ranch for a week in order to court the girls.
When Duncan’s friend Lewt Paterson suggests that he go along with the potential husbands, Duncan tells him that gamblers like Lewt need not apply. Incensed, Lewt looks over the men as they come into town and decides to swap places with the one who slaps a saloon working girl. Getting the man drunk, he commandeers his luggage and takes his place with the others going to the ranch.
Lewt, who grew up on the streets and was raised by women working in a saloon, has always dreamed of being respectable and living in a real family. He sees his chance to fulfill his dream in courting and winning one of the McMurry women. He isn’t choosy about which one and promises himself he’ll love and respect whichever one accepts him.
Thomas makes what would seem a sleezy, unsympathetic gambler into a man who knows his strengths and weaknesses, and adeptly plays to them. Under her capable hands, Lewt emerges as completely proactive, doggedly pursuing his dream.
At the ranch, the eldest daughter Emily, who runs the ranch when her father is away as he is now and who dresses and acts like one of the hands, resents the fact that Duncan is sending suitors their way. In order to get out of the madness of forced courtship, she persuades a town friend to pretend to be her. Fortunately, Emily’s sisters as well as the ranch hands agree to the charade.
Prickly Emily is another masterpiece of a character. Her past has taught her well to be wary of men. Thomas balances this prickliness with enough kindness to make Emily a wonderfully flawed heroine.
When Lewt and the two suitors, one with his mother, show up, Lewt immediately realizes he’s way out of his depth. Although he knows which cutlery to use at the dinner table, Lewt has no idea how to make small talk with respectable women. Hiding out, he meets Em and offers to shadow her on her rounds across the ranch because he recognizes that if one of the women does accept him, he needs to know about ranching.
Em grudgingly agrees, amused at what a greenhorn Lewt is. She teaches him to ride a horse and pushes him to help her as she fixes fences and performs other chores. At night, he’s so exhausted and sore, he rethinks his dream, but comes to the realization he wants to become a part of the McMurry family and the ranch more than ever. Em’s unrelenting testing of Lewt goes on a little too long, however, given the length of the book. Instead of being convinced Lewt was falling in love with Em, often I felt his dream of becoming respectable overshadowed his feelings for her – particularly when she pushed him away so consistently.
Meanwhile, in Mexico Duncan is wounded and captured by a woman who plans to get him well enough so she can auction him off to the outlaws who drink and play cards in her bar. When his horse comes back without him, the leader of the expedition calls on the McMurrys and asks for help in rescuing their relative. Em, Lewt, and the oldest of the ranch hands respond.
In true Thomas fashion, Texas Blue captures the excitement and challenges of living in the Lone Star state while it was wild and wooly. Lewt’s awakening Em to love and romance is juxtaposed with Duncan’s daring rescue. And the secondary characters from the other suitors and Em’s sisters to the outlaws and the money-grubbing woman’s other captives make the book a joy to read.
|Review Date:||March 21, 2011|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Texas | Western romance|