Monday, June 23, 2008

Vows by LaVyrle Spencer ***

Dang it, I'm considering giving Vows 2 stars just because I finished it thinking, is that it? OK, it wasn't bad, it just was not interesting.

The hero is Tom, arriving as a newcomer to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1888, with plans to start a new life as a blacksmith running his own livery. He's left his old life behind because his fiancée jilted him for another man.

Tom goes into the local competition to stable his horses, and mistakes the heroine Emily for a young boy working on a horse's hoof. This sets Emily off - and here is where I started disliking her. After all, she was dressed in boy's clothing, she's young and thin, she's wearing her hair stuffed into a boy's cap and she's dirty - surely this is not the first time anyone thought she was a boy. She's not just set off - she immediately turns into a rude spitfire, which amuses Tom and makes her even madder.

Emily is practically betrothed to Charles, who is a childhood friend that accompanied her family out West. He's always known he would marry Emily, but she's not so sure. She's just not that turned on by him, or even by the thought of any man. It made you think maybe she was more than just a tomboy...

Then there's Emily's father, the long suffering Edwin, and her mother, the dying Josephine. Edwin and Josie were betrothed young but Edwin only had eyes for Josie's cousin Fannie. Because that was how things were done, Edwin and Josie married but moved away because he couldn't stay around Fannie. Fannie, a spitfire like her niece, stayed single but lived the life of an independent woman - she had affairs, she wore pants, she rides bicycles - whoooey!

OK - just hit me on the head right now. First Tom's long-time betrothal to his childhood sweetheart, then Emily, and then the repercussions of the same in Edwin and Josie's marriage. I GET IT - this is the opposite of the First Love story. Tom's girlfriend was brave enough to throw Tom over and break his heart. Edwin and Josie weren't and although they stayed married and had 2 kids, they never did fall in love. Now that Josie is dying of consumption, she calls on Fannie to come help her family - guess what, she did it on purpose because she's known all along about Edwin's true love for Fannie.

Now - throw in some parties with really weird parlor games - I'm going to give Spencer her due and assume she can prove these games were actually played by single 20-somethings in 1888 - and we have the bones of putting Tom and Emily in each other's ways long enough to develop a relationship. Or at least Spencer must hope it's long enough, but I myself wasn't convinced. There was one believable scene that shows the budding of their relationship. Emily's studying by mail to be a veterinarian, and goes to help a farmer with a pig. Tom goes with her because on the return trip she takes him to a ranch to buy horses. There is where their relationship is started, and maybe if there'd been more of that type of interaction I would have found it more interesting. But paying a forfeit by staying in a closet together for 5 minutes where they share their first kiss just didn't do it for me.

And Emily - well, she's young and inexperienced, and she thinks she is required to marry Charles to make her mother happy. Or something. It's like she knows it's not right, but she's stubborn and she'll by gawd make it work with Charles. Even after having a taste of actual passion with Tom, she thinks she can make it work with Charles, from whom she pulls away at every touch. I just didn't get behind her line of thought.

Then there's the HEA - yeah, they finally do what's in their hearts and go for the HEA. But the very last sentiment in the book just ruined it for me. See, Charles - now broken hearted - stays to help his BFF Tom rebuild his burned down business, then leaves town before the wedding, smart fellow that he is. He's like Tom in the beginning - he needs to go start a new life now that he's been thrown over by his girl for his best friend forever. So what do our newlyweds talk about on their wedding night? Whether or not Charles will ever come back, and Tom says yes, with both of us here, he'll be back. Yeah, right, as if Tom plans to go back to his hometown now?? Puh-leeze.

OK 3 stars, just because. But man, that last sentence just ruined it for me, big time.

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