Walker’s Widow is supposed to be a light Western romp, but it just didn’t work for me. I had issues with all three of the main characters’ actions and motivations, and the lack of any grounding for the story was a continuing distraction.
Walker is Clay Walker, a Texas Ranger lured to Purgatory, Texas, by his Aunt Martha to solve a series of mysterious burglaries in an otherwise peaceful town. The widow is Regan Doyle, whose much older husband died two years earlier. Regan still wears black on the outside, but indulges in brightly-colored racy undergarments beneath her widows weeds. She spends her days caring for Martha, her invalid mother-in-law, and the local struggling orphanage. Oh, and she’s also a burglar by night.
Yes, Regan is one of those spunky, feisty heroines. When the orphanage has financial problems and the selfish townspeople wouldn’t donate, well, Regan just uses her light fingers to relieve them of some bauble that approximates the price of what she figures they should have donated in the first place. That makes it okay, right? As you can tell, Regan’s justifications for her actions didn’t wash with me. Perhaps I would have found them more valid if she was donating her own extra money to the orphanage instead of mail-ordering sexy underwear with it, all the while deciding which of life’s little luxuries her neighbors can do without.
The conflict is obvious from the outset, when Clay spots the burglar as he first rides into town, and Regan immediately recognizes her houseguest as the man who pursued and nearly caught her. Clay is one of those fine, upstanding Texas lawman heroes who only bends the law when it comes to his lady love, who after all wasn’t doing anything too awful. That makes it okay, right? Actually, aside from Clay’s really annoying habit of holding conversations with his horse (and the horse answers back), he was the least objectionable. Unlike Regan and Martha, he seemed far more ethically conflicted over what was going on.
And then there is Martha, one of those feisty old women who, despite her increasing weakness, is still a firecracker and has nothing but good intentions when it comes to meddling in the love lives of young ‘uns in her charge. She just knows better than they do what’s good for them. That makes it okay, right? She is supposed to be funny and sympathetic, but her manipulations were self-centered and increasingly annoying as the book wore on.
Yes, it’s one of those groups of characters and contrived situations that only exist in Romance World. But that’s okay because none of the story makes sense in any real time or place, despite its Western setting. It’s a mishmash of horses, sheriffs, padres and saloons mixed up with 21st century attitudes and language, particularly about sex. Clay obsesses with his erections every time Regan comes into range; Regan goes for rolls in the hay with Clay because she deserves something for herself after taking care of everyone else. The possibility of pregnancy, of course, crosses no one’s mind until after the fact.
These types of romances have their appeal to someone seeking a completely fluffy read. Certainly the story moves at a sprightly pace, rushing past inconsistencies and contrivances by piling on more of the same. I think, however, it’s possible to have a light-hearted read and still have a sense of characters and setting as remotely realistic. Escapism does not necessitate a complete shutdown of brain functions, on the part of either the reader or the characters.
And could someone please, please proof-read a little more closely? Having the hero adjust the “course” material at his crotch or worry that the heroine won’t “fair” well is even more distracting than the conversations with the horse.