Wicked Wyoming Nights
Let me cut right to the chase. This book is . . . not good. In fact, it’s rather bad. So bad, there were times I laughed out loud (when I wasn’t rolling my eyes). Honestly, I tried to find redeeming qualities in the characters, but they were so dumb, well, no help there. The writing itself is stilted and amateurish with every adverb and adjective known to Miriam Webster tossed into the mix. The plot is just plain silly. I kept wanting to grab these people and shake them and say, “Get over yourself! Wise up! Go away! Argh!”
Set against the backdrop of the Johnson County Wars, the story did have potential, but it was lost amidst the many clichés and stereotypes. Originally published in 1989, this is one of Leigh Greenwood’s first published romances. Some romance authors write their best work early in their careers. Having read some of Greenwood’s later works, I can say Greenwood’s work improved over time. Why Dorchester chose to reissue this particular book remains a mystery, but twelve years after its intial publication, Wicked Wyoming Nights fails the test of time.
Eliza Smallwood is stunningly beautiful. So lovely is Eliza that her uncle buys a partnership in a saloon and makes his niece sing there every night. Her beauty alone makes the cash registers do a fandango. Cord Stedman is the biggest of the Big Ranchers so very much despised in Buffalo, Wyoming (home of the Johnson County Wars where it was Big Ranchers against Little Ranchers and Small Farmers). Cord falls for Eliza the second he sees her, and he makes sure every other man in the County knows it. They can look, but they’d better not touch.
Eliza hates singing in the saloon, but she does it because she’s beholden to her uncle. What she really wants to do is teach school. But Buffalo has no school, no schoolhouse, and no students. Cord takes care of that. In her new schoolhouse with her new students, Eliza is at last happy, except for the part where she still sings at night in her uncle’s saloon. Schoolmarmin’ doesn’t pay all that well, and besides, what would the vile Uncle Ira do without her?
Cord takes Eliza on a picnic where they enjoy the afternoon. Cord asks Eliza to marry him. Marrying Cord would solve all of Eliza’s problems, including the one where she has fallen in love with him but isn’t sure he returns her feelings. But she doesn’t give Cord an answer. I flipped through many pages back and forth to see if I’d missed it, but no, she doesn’t give him an answer, even though she does have uninhibited sex with him soon after. After this life-altering event, she goes back to her uncle’s house and still teaches school and goes to sing at the saloon that night (it’s not so bad now that the men don’t touch her so much). The richest, most handsome man in the state has just proposed, she is in love with him, she has had sex with him, but now she acts like it was just another Sunday in the park.
Okay. Other stuff happens. Johnson County War stuff. Other my-uncle-is-so-mean-but-I-can’t-leave-him stuff. Other sex-with-Cord-but-I-can’t-get-married-now stuff. Cripes. This book is 354 pages in length and offers eeensy-weensy print for a total of about 160,000 words. This is an annoyingly long book and I was thoroughly exasperated with it way before I had even hit the mid-point (but I am in adjective heaven).
While Cord had the potential to be an okay hero, I never hit it off with Eliza. She irritated me every second she was on the page. Then there are the actual quotes:
The image of Cord Stedman rose up unbidden to tempt her mind from the blighting hopelessness of her life . . . No man had ever disturbed her virginal thoughts, and to discover one had taken up abode there, not to be dislodged, was bewildering.
Cord is obviously attractive, but it sounds like he needs to keep a pair of tweezers in his holster:
Cord’s bushy brows almost met in the center of his head, and his eyes sank further behind their barrier, the lids lowered, his look hooded and speculative.
Color me surprised to know that I secretly hate my beautiful friends:
They dislike you intensely, and there’s no more sure sign of beauty than the envy of another woman.
And the love scene, okay, but a little heavy on pyrotechnical elements:
But that was nothing when compared to the erupting rockets of sweet anguish that rippled through her when Cord unbuttoned the top of her dress . . . It was on her lips to deny him, to halt the invasion by his impudent hands . . . Delicious, aching, paralyzing desire traced a fiery path to the nerve centers of her body like sparks from a dynamite fuse . . .
From the pyrotechnic to the pyroclastic:
Eliza flinched at the sharp, unexpected pain of Cord’s entry and her body tensed involuntarily, but her runaway need compelled her to draw him deeper inside her. His mumbled apology went unheeded as she wrapped her arms around his neck and drew his lips down to her. The passionate kisses became an exchange of volcanic lava as Cord penetrated deep with her. Eliza sucked in her breath, and let it out in an outpouring of . . .
Well, you get the picture.
This is a book that should have stayed right where it was, back in 1989. The publishers obviously thought they could capitalize on this author’s current fame and status to make more money. Okay, but they should have chosen a better book. As for you, dear reader, since nowhere on the cover does it say this is a reprint, unless you check the inside page (I always do for this very reason), you’re not going to know that this was one of Greenwood’s “starter” books, written before he’d gained more finesse over plotting and dialogue.