Simply put, Lynna Banning’s Western Rose is a charming, heart-warming, tear-wrenching read that will engage the reader from the first to the last.
It’s a re-make of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew with lots of western flair. The hero, Jake Bannister, needs land with access to water to save his drought-parched ranch. He is offered 100 prime acres if he will court Sally Maguire, a red-haired, green-eyed tomboy schoolteacher who, last time he saw her, was flat as a board. When he sees her again, she’s all grown up with a red-hot temper that matches her flaming hair.
This is not a sweet, gentle love story. From the start, there is bickering, fighting and lessons to be learned, both by the schoolteacher and the rancher. The chemistry between them is apparent, but neither can admit there is more than just the physical attraction.
Jake is first to realize their mutual attraction. But Sally, who is still grieving the loss her beloved mother when she was a young girl, hasn’t figured out how to separate love from pain. When she realizes the obvious, will it be too late?
This book is filled with boxed lunches, the one-room schoolhouse, barn dances, horse races and other charming slices of Americana, and the author’s descriptive writing brings to life Oregon in the late 1800s. Not only must Sally go through her own personal voyage to self-discovery, she must also prove to the townsfolk that her modern teaching methods are valid for those in the pioneer belt, many of whom believe the only important learning is of a practical nature.
There is a flaw in this book that proves to be very annoying. Over and over again, the author places Jake and Sally in potentially intimate circumstances, but then pulls back (with the exception of one steamy interlude) at the last minute. We’re all for a little romantic and sexual tension, but the author does this too many times and it grows tiresome.
For a woman of the Victorian era, the heroine is refreshingly (and somewhat unrealistically) unconventional in her attitudes towards sex. This provides an interesting reversal of roles, with the heroine willing to make love out-of-wedlock, and the hero reluctant to consummate the relationship without the commitment of love and marriage.
The tears come when Sally finally realizes the truth of her feelings and tries to communicate her love to Jake, who believes he must put her in his past or be destroyed. He becomes engaged to another woman, and there is a race against the clock as Sally tries to win him back. The final chapters are filled with poignancy as we watch Sally on her quest for lasting love.
Does Sally convince Jake that she was wrong before he walks down the aisle? This is a romance after all, so we know you can figure the answer to that question, but getting to the climax makes for some wonderful reading. One minor point – the book cuts off rather abruptly. This reviewer would gladly have traded a few of the aborted love scenes for a little more at the end.