I wanted to like Texas Lucky by Maggie James. The cover of the book alone is sublime. Also, it sounded like my kind of story. Cowboy romances are among my favorites, and this one seemed to fit the bill. Set in the Southwest and Texas sometime vaguely after the Civil War, it is about a man and a woman who end-up in jail together, escape from the jail, and somehow, although I don’t know how, find the path to true love.
The story begins with Tess Partridge traveling via stagecoach to Devil’s Eye, Arizona to marry a man to whom her father has sold her. When she arrives, her groom-to-be is nowhere to be found. She finds a hotel to stay in while she figures out what to do, and meets Curt Hammond, the handsome hero wrongfully accused of murder, when she returns to her room after taking a bath.
Initially, he pretends he is her errant fiance. Tess is very attracted to him. What is never really established is Curt’s attraction to her. When she realizes Curt is not really her fiance, she screams, brings the law down on them, and Curt goes to jail. Tess joins him there later after committing various, desperate criminal activities of her own. Far too early, they consummate their relationship. In a way, it seemed like the story should be over.
The story really falls apart after Tess and Curt go their separate ways. There is at least a third of the book during which Tess and Curt have absolutely no contact. It is very noticeable. For me to enjoy a romance even slightly, the hero and heroine need to spend much of their time together. There is also so much focus on Tess’ character development that it sometimes seems like the premise behind the story.
Curt and Tess end-up on neighboring ranches in Texas (how convenient). The rest is history and a few well-placed cliches. One of my favorites is when they finally make love again. For various reasons, they both find themselves watching two horses mating. How many times have I seen this plot device used? In a rush of uncontrolled passion, they do it right then and there on the barn floor. Maybe they had some hay to lie on, I don’t know, but a nice touch was the stallion’s and mare’s own cries of pleasure echoing in the background. After this, they meet frequently in the weeds between their two ranches to slake their mutual, uncontrollable passion.
Curt and Tess eventually profess their true, undying love for each other. I could have cared less. I was so disappointed with this book that I could barely finish reading it. The romance gets lost in Tess’s character development, the time she spends with other men, and Curt’s surly behavior. Tess and Curt’s story has so much potential, but it is never realized. I finished the book thoroughly disenchanted with everthing about it – even the dishy cover. The book was not nearly as good as it looked – so to speak.