Trying to romance a woman when all you’ve offered her is lies from the beginning is just not a recommended method by anyone’s thinking, but nevertheless that is just what happens in this enjoyable Historical Western Romance.
Alice has been widowed for five years after leaving her home in Chicago to marry a Western saloon owner as a result of an arrangement her mother made for her. When he died, her husband left her his saloon and a tract of land with a possible coal deposit. Alice carefully does what she can to build up the profits of the saloon, but the little theater next door where she hosts her famous burlesque variety show is her real passion.
Rupert Llewelyn comes to the small town of Freewill, Wyoming on a mission for the large coal mining company he works for. The company wants to buy up all the land claims around the town because of the hint of the large coal deposit deep in the ground. Many sell, but there is one owner in particular, Mrs. Alice Reynolds, who holds a very coveted property deed. Rupert has a Welsh charm about him that has worked in his stead much of his life so he decides to act the charming idiot and coax the lovely widow into selling her property.
Much of the story is a light duel between Alice and Rupert as she tries to figure him out and he tries to achieve his goal. They are both surprised when genuine feelings start interfering with matters. Rupert now has the task of walking the edge of the blade between the confidential clause his employers insisted on and telling the truth to Alice before it all blows up in his face. Alice has been independent for some time and guarded her heart well, but now she must choose to take a chance and maybe find happiness with a man she knows is keeping something from her.
The plot is light as Westerns go- no violent ‘shoot em ups’ and though passion is present, its not explicit. The strength of the plot is in the tension that is created by Rupert’s lies and wondering, as the two become more entangled in their feelings, when it will all blow up in his face.
The pace was pretty steady until near the end when it all sort of rushed to arrive and then returned to taking its time in the epilogue.
Rupert is one of those characters that could sell anything to anybody. He’s a bit of a rogue, but beneath that shallow surface he has a conscience and a heart. Alice is a person of parts. She’s tough because she’s had to be, but she’s lonely and vulnerable too. I enjoy how both characters’ backgrounds were less than pristine, yet they made something of themselves. Rupert started out a bastard son grubbing in the Welsh coal mines and worked his way into a good position with a tidy nest egg. Alice started as a burlesque dancer who now owns her own profitable saloon and theater. I thought the secondary characters of Smith and Pearl were good sidekicks for Rupert and Alice.
Just on a side note, I have to say that I found Alice’s little lingerie fetish pretty cute. I want one of her corsets (though what I’d do with it when I got it I’m not sure since wearing something that constricting wouldn’t happen).
While it didn’t knock my socks off, it was still a fun novella for a lazy weekend afternoon read. I would recommend this one for those who like lighter Western Romance.