In any given month, there are scores of historical romance novels released that are set in England within a decade or two of the Napoleonic Wars. The number of American historical romance novels is dwarfed by those set in Europe, which is surprising considering the vast majority of popular romance writers hail from the good old US of A. Those set in the American West after the Civil War are few and far between and I have to wait MONTHS between books in this category, so it is a very exciting day when one of my favorite authors puts out a new novel. The Historical Western is obviously one of my favorite romance sub-genres of and Kaki Warner is a master in this class. Texas Tall is a good book, and in fact, beats most westerns that are released hands down, but I guess I hold Kaki Warner to a higher standard. I expect every single book she writes to fall right into the A category, and when one doesn’t, I feel slightly let-down. I had to step back from this book before I could review it. Warner writes a unique story about unique people who are entirely believable. I liked both of the main characters but I didn’t love them. Still, I will take a less than stellar novel by her over the best by most authors in the Western genre.
Charlotte Weyland (Lottie) ran away from the family farm after her grandfather died and never looked back. Alone in the world, she could have come to a bad end, but she was fortunate enough to find a job when she was fourteen with the married owners of a general store in a small town called Greenbroke. The childless couple has looked after her for the past four years, acting as surrogate parents. Those four years have been relatively quiet ones, but that all changes one day when the Texas Rangers come to town. A shootout in the middle of the street leaves one of the Rangers injured. Lottie rushes to his aid and stays with him until the doctor can get to him. That initial contact forges a bond that will last.
Tyree Benton joined up with the Texas Rangers after his family was murdered, intent on avenging their deaths. The reality of being a hired killer doesn’t sit well with Ty’s character though. He is at his core a gentleman and a good portion of the Rangers who join up after the ravages of the Civil War do not meet that description. Some are damaged and some are just innately cruel. The leader of Ty’s Ranger group falls into the latter category. With no family left, Ty is just sort of ambling through a life that dissatisfies him with no thought to the future. Then he meets Lottie Weyland and his life changes. For the first time since the death of his family, he begins to envision a future and Lottie is right at the center of it. Unfortunately, there is some mystery surrounding Lottie and her past and that mystery is what places a stumbling block directly in their path.
Lottie is absolutely one of the best characters I have read in a good while. She is smart, ambitious and determined. I can envision her standing proudly between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony while holding her “Votes for Women” sign. What I can also envision is Tyree standing right beside her. We rarely get much of a glimpse of the future with a romance HEA, but I believe that Lottie and Ty will have that coveted egalitarian relationship that will make theirs a happy marriage until they draw their last breaths.
Ty is a good character as well, but slightly overshadowed by the force of Lottie’s personality. He’s pretty aimless until loving Lottie gives him direction and once he decides he wants a future with her, he wastes little time in trying to bring it about. The biggest problem with this romance is well… the romance. Lottie and Ty spend too much time apart and what time they do spend together is more about planning for the future than romantic attraction. I felt like their relationship was a “slow and steady wins the race” romance; and while that probably helps to build a lasting marriage in real life, on paper it is just a tad dull. Warner makes up for the dull somewhat by making the romance sweet, so I am still a little torn about how I feel about that part of the story. I will leave it to those of my compadres out there who relish a good western to figure it out for themselves. Whether you are enthralled with Lottie and Ty or not, the story is a good one that deserves to be read.