26 March 2012

Review: Dawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley

It is 1895 and 29-year-old author Kate Tenney has arrived in the tiny town of Cactus Patch, Arizona, having left her home city of Boston after one of her dime novels was banned for indecency. She has answered an advertisement seeking professional woman to be ‘heiress’ to the Last Chance Ranch, owned by Eleanor Walker. Kate has a lot of baggage in her past, including being abandoned by her father, neglected by her mother, and an upbringing that ignored God and taught her to trust no man.

When the train arrives in the small town, not only is there no one around to meet her, but the entire town appears abandoned. Actually, they are hiding, because Cactus Joe, their local outlaw, has come to town to cause some trouble, and Kate soon finds herself in the middle of it, before being rescued by handsome blacksmith Luke Adams. We also meet Luke's aunts, a pair of offbeat (if naïve) matchmakers, intent on seeing Luke happily settled, and providing an amusing sub-plot.

Kate soon settles in to her new home, although she finds ranch life somewhat different from how she described it in her novels. But she is determined to prove herself, and has no issue with remaining single as Miss Walker demands. To her embarrassment, she finds that not only has most of the town has read her book but some of them want her to read it to them, some want her to write for them, and some are treating it as a how-to manual to experience toe-curling kisses in their own marriages. There is a level of irony here – a romance novel about a writer who has promised never to marry, and who doesn’t trust men, yet one who used to write 'passionate' dime novels.

I have to allow myself a bit of a rant here. I know authors are often told "write what you know". However, I have read enough novels about journalists and novelists. Please, authors, do some research and write something new! Find something and research it so you know something new to write. Admittedly, there could be an element of envy here. After all, what I know is management consulting, and no one wants to read a novel about my job. It's just not exciting. Rant over, and back to Dawn Comes Early (where, to be fair, the heroine did have to learn ranching literally from the ground up. I admire her willingness to work and her tenacity).

The best part about Dawn Comes Early was the minor characters. Each had their own distinct style of speech, to the point where I could almost hear their voices. My favourite was Ruckus, an older ranch hand who befriended Kate and taught her all about ranching, and gave her a glimpse of a God that perhaps might actually care. While this is a Christian novel, the Christian content is very low-key and not at all preachy.

Overall, this was a fun romance with the unique and interesting premise of a heroine promising not to marry. The one lack was around the development of the relationship between Kate and Luke. They simply didn't spend enough time together to make it believable for me. This is the first in a new series, with the following books no doubt introducing more potential heiresses for the Last Chance Ranch.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and BookSneeze® for providing a free ebook for review.

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