7 March 2012

Review: A Texan's Promise/A Texan's Honor by Shelley Gray

Book One in The Heart of a Hero series: A Texan's Promise

After Vanessa is assaulted by her step-father, the foreman on her family ranch, Clayton, comforts her and offers to take her to safety. Knowing that Price will only continue to abuse her, nineteen-year-old Vanessa accepts. While Vanessa suffers from night terrors in the aftermath of Price's attack, Clayton has his own demons to conquer, including his need to keep the promises he has made to God, his father, Vanessa's father, and Vanessa herself. Meanwhile, Price is on their trail, wanting to claim Vanessa for his own, despite his wife. He is accompanied by Miles, Vanessa’s older brother, who has also suffered under Price’s belt.

Vanessa and Clayton marry to protect her reputation, each of them hiding the fact that they have feelings for the other (despite the ten-year age gap). I don't usually like stories where the hero is much older than the heroine, even though I know it was normal at this time. What I particularly liked about A Texan's Promisewas the theme about how age was not the factor. Clayton was a Confederate Captain, and it was the things he had seen and experienced during the war that made him the man he was, a man that Miles would struggle to become at any age. Although young, Vanessa had "lost her innocence at Price's hand", which forced her to grow up too. What we don't know is what Vanessa would have done if it were not for Clayton, although the fact that she fought Price once suggests that she would have continued to do so, which speaks to her character in comparision to that of Miles.

Despite the dark beginning, A Texan's Promisewas an enjoyable read. The author dealt with Vanessa in a sympathetic manner, and wrote a realistic recovery. The book was immediately engaging, and easily held my interest with a likeable hero and heroine and an interesting cast of supporting characters.

Book Two in the Heart of a Hero series: A Texan's Honor

Miss Jamilyn Ellis was taken hostage by the notorious Walton Gang when her train was hijacked for its cargo of silver. While it is apparent that some members of the gang would like nothing more than to do her harm, Will McMillan steps in to protect her, with the permission (but not the approval) of Scout Proffitt, the gang’s second-in-command (and the younger brother of Clayton, from A Texan's Promise). After Will and Jamie escape from the train, Scout is sent to find and silence them, but his search is distracted by Kitty, who has suffered years of abuse from her stepfather.

Similar to the characters in A Texan's Promise, Will is another person who has been deeply affected by the war, someone who perceives that the war and the choices he has made have broken his character. This made me wonder about the current war - how many young men and women of good character are being broken by the things they are seeing, and what affect will this have on their futures? Will appears different to the other gang members, as though he is hiding something. Again, this made me think of the consequences of war, of having lived through a time so difficult and dangerous that making a living as a train robber almost seems like a moral improvement.

Overall, A Texan's Honor is a darker book than A Texan's Promise, as the story focuses on two men who have made bad choices. Call me shallow if you like, but I usually prefer the lighter stories. It is a testament to Shelley Gray’s ability as a writer that I actually found both books equally good, equally enjoyable and equally challenging. I especially liked her sensitive way of dealing with some difficult themes, without sensationalising them or being unnecessarily graphic in her descriptions, but at the same time, not diminishing the abuse or glossing over the damage it caused. She struck an excellent balance between horror and restraint, particularly as these books are (I assume) quite different to her previous books, which were set in the Amish community. Recommended.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for providing free ebooks for review.

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