To Kiss a Texan
To Kiss a Texan is the kind of pleasant surprise I just love. I tried a book by Jodi Thomas a couple of years ago and found it to be merely average, and when I read the back of this one, it didn’t sound all that interesting either. So my expectations were fairly low. But once I started reading, I was drawn in by the inventive plot and special characters. “Inventive” is a word that rarely describes Westerns, but it suits this book.
When Wes McLain loses his entire herd of cattle in a stampede, he is left almost penniless. His fiance dumps him, and when he goes to town to talk to her about it she won’t even speak to him. Instead she has her father’s thugs beat him up. As they leave him, Wes notices a young woman in a cage. The woman is completely filthy, and she doesn’t speak, but she seems to feel sorry for him. Wes finds out that she is the “entertainment” at a religious revival meeting. Her captor, who pretends to be a preacher, beats her in front of a crowd under the pretense of releasing her spirit from the devil.
Wes feels sorry for the woman and frees her, but he is shot trying to escape. Before he loses consciousness, he tells her to take him to his brother Adam, who is a doctor living in Fort Worth. The woman takes him there, but she acts very strangely. She still won’t talk, and she grabs all the knives they give her to cut her food. Adam and his wife Nichole are tolerant of her while Wes is healing, so she stays for a while, even though her instincts tell her to bolt. One night she finally whispers to Wes that her name is Allie, so at least he knows what to call her.
Circumstances force Wes and Allie to marry, but neither intends for the marriage to last. Wes is intent on finding a treasure lost during Texas’ war for independence, so all he wants to do is find Allie’s family. Allie just wants to return to living in the wild as she had before she was captured. But as they travel together to find Allie’s family, she begins talking more about herself. She becomes less wild, and also falls for Wes. But she is very scarred by her past. She believes no one really wants her, and she’s terrified of becoming close to anyone. Wes is attracted to Allie, but he doesn’t know how to overcome her fears. Then they do find Allie’s family, and their problems get worse. Several of her newfound family want her dead, and the couple must protect themselves against constant threat. Can Wes keep Allie safe and overcome her fears of intimacy?
If you like wounded heroines, look no further than To Kiss a Texan, because Allie is without a doubt the most wounded heroine I’ve ever seen. She’s been kidnaped by Indians, and seen her family killed. She’s been mistreated by her Indian captors and told she was a person of no value, and lived in the wild for five years. As if that weren’t enough, she’s been raped, beaten, and kept in a cage. Not every writer could carry off this type of character, but Thomas does a wonderful job. Allie is completely believable. Her recovery is slow, but convincing. And Wes is a hero to match. Thomas resists the temptation to make him perfect; he has fears to overcome just like Allie. The result is a very special story.
Another thing I liked about this book is that there is a lot of action. Wes and Allie aren’t off alone in a cabin somewhere learning how to trust each other – they are constantly on the move, and having to deal with all sorts of problems at once. There is never a dull moment here, and just when the situation seems to be settling down, the author throws in yet another surprise. There are some instances during the end of the book which detract from the story in a very minor way; one of the secondary characters does something that is a little hard to believe. But this is a very minor flaw.
Too frequently Westerns seem to center around a range war, or a ditsy heroine who wants to be a saloon singer but can’t carry a tune in a bucket. If you’ve been avoiding Westerns because they were all starting to sound the same, give this one a try. I would particularly recommend it to fans of Maggie Osborne and Lorraine Heath, who write in a similar style.