Nothing pleases me quite like a good Western. I’m not sure what it is: maybe the lure, for this city-dweller, of wide-open spaces, maybe the idea that living in the 19th-century West was not for the faint of heart. More than a few of the books on my keeper shelf are Westerns. Unhappily, Texas Proud will not be joining them there. I found nothing remarkable or memorable in this story, and a number of things positively annoyed me.
Noble Vincente, scion of a distinguished Spanish ranching family, returns to Tascosa Springs two years after the end of the Civil War, only to be met by the usual problems – his father is dead, the ranch is falling apart, blah, blah, blah. On top of everything, everybody in the county believes Noble shot his neighbor, Mr. Rutledge, in the back after the old fellow accused him of ruining his daughter, Delia. Nobody knows about Noble’s honorable service to the Confederacy, plus, somebody wants to kill him – Rutledge’s other daughter, Rachel, has sworn to avenge her father’s death.
Rachel is trying to hang onto her place, too. Her brother-in-law, Whit, wants her to sell out to him, to solidify his political ambitions, but Rachel refuses to give in. She encounters Noble at the river where their lands meet, and this spot becomes a kind of trysting place for them, despite the fact that Rachel keeps telling herself and everybody else that she hates Noble. Right. She hates him so much that she goes skinny-dipping with him, and the only thing that saves her virtue is somebody shooting her in the shoulder seconds before she gives herself over to Noble.
Well, he takes her back to his place, but the doctor’s held up in town, so Noble has to perform the surgery that saves her life. She, of course, thinks he’s trying to kill her when she sees him holding a knife over her, and passes out in fear. During her lengthy recuperation, though, she learns the truth of things, and begins to question her assumption that he’s responsible for her father’s death. She also admits to herself that she might be falling in love with him. But who, apart from her, would want to see Noble dead, and why? Or is the mysterious gunman really trying to kill her? And, again, why?
Oh, who cares? For me, the plot was transparent and the mystery was no mystery at all. The only thing that kept me reading was some of the descriptive passages: I’ll say this for the author, she really does know how to describe a prairie sunset well, and there’s a scene that takes place in a whiteout blizzard that’s pretty good. When Noble rescues Rachel and takes her to hole up in a deserted line shack, however, it isn’t too difficult to figure out how that’s going to end.
I did like Noble, but Rachel came off as a whiny brat who vacillated between hating him and pining for him. And if she couldn’t figure out who was after her, especially in the wake of an attempted rape, she almost rated too-stupid-to-live status. The secondary characters were straight out of Central Casting: the sister trapped in a loveless marriage, the shady politician brother-in-law, the Native American housekeeper with a Big Secret in her past, yada, yada, yada.
The biggest niggle for me had to do with the names of two of the characters: Noble and his sister, Saber. Noble is pretty straightforward, you’d think. But is it pronounced ‘No-bull,’ or ‘No-blay?’ And Saber – it’s the Spanish infinitive for the verb “to know.” Why would anybody name a child that? And is it ‘sah-behr‘ or ‘say-burr?’ This may strike you as genuine nit picking on my part, but if I have to waste time on how to pronounce characters’ names, this does not bode well for the book.
This was an average story, with a few good touches but many flaws. According to the author’s bio on the inside of the back cover, there are over eight million copies of Ms. O’Banyon’s books in print. I surely do hope most of them are better than Texas Proud. So many stories, so few trees.